This week has more tips from Deidre, a London UK based photographer specialising in maternity, newborn, and baby photography as well as travel photography.
When I take portraits of a newborn, a pregnant mother, or a toddler, my pictures are about that person. Add another person to the mix, and the pictures become portraits of their relationship with each other. Created well, they capture golden moments that families cherish. But pinpointing that moment isn’t always easy – especially when several small children are involved – so I thought I’d write a share some of my tips and tricks for taking a great family shot.
1. Set the scene ahead of time
My studio is designed for shots like these, but if you’re planning your own group picture, it helps to prep ahead of time so that you and your camera are ready for fast action when you’ve got your group in front of you.
Scope out a good background – if you’re outside, you might use a canopy of trees to add filtered lighting, or an interesting brick wall to add a little texture to the shot. If you’re inside, try adding texture and colour here too – pose kids in front of wooden panelling, solid coloured walls, or even a backdrop of a quilt draped over a chair. Add just enough contrast so that they don’t blend in to the background. But remember, simplify your background and have your kids step slightly away from it; this helps your kids come into focus, not your setting.
Test your lighting before you click – I love natural lighting, but shooting with a window or the sun behind your kids will blow out your images. Try setting up your shoot so that your brightest light falls from the side, softened by light from other angles to avoid shadows. Think about timing and quantity: if you’re taking an inside shot, figure out when you get your best light in the room you’ve selected; remember, the more people you add to a picture, the more light you’ll need to keep everyone in focus. If you’re outside, avoid high noon and favour morning or afternoon shots. Look for filtered light to help minimise shadows and even out the light.
Check your camera settings – Kids in groups wiggle more than the giant squid in The Little Mermaid. If you can, set your camera to “continuous shooting” and keep your finger on the trigger once you’ve zoomed in to a good shot; it helps compensate for eye blinks. And if you can adjust your aperture, set your f-stop to a high number. Now is not the time to play with bokeh, and you want everyone to be in focus.
2. Coordinate clothes, but don’t clone outfits
When I do a group shot with families, I recommend that they dress in solid coloured clothes they’re comfortable wearing, and avoid identical outfits for a shot. For your family picture, dress your kids in clothes they’re happy in and choose rich tones, earthy colours, or classic white if you’ve set up a darker background. If you’d like to coordinate, try using an accent colour – light blue in a shirt for one child and in a sweater for another. And don’t fret if your colours come out muddy: try your snaps in black and white for a fast and elegant fix.
3. Create a focal point
Standing your kids in a row and taking a picture might seem the easiest way to make sure everyone gets in your shot, but to add liveliness to an image try setting up a focal point. Is it your older daughter’s birthday? Have her stand to one side of your scene and ask her a question – the other kids in the shot will invariably glance towards her to watch for an answer. If your kids are small, give the centre of attention a toy to grab the other kids’ notice. Snap fast though, before someone decides it’s their turn with the treat!
4. Only connect
Eyes follow light and gesture through a photograph. Set up the flow by keeping kids close to each other, linked by holding hands, somehow touching or leaning towards each other. As you’re snapping squint a little and see how your eyes move across the scene – is there a break somewhere or does the light, and your kids’ glances and physical gestures, keep your eyes tracking through the picture?
5. Zoom in, zoom out, move around
Don’t be afraid to zoom in on your kids, cutting out most of the background. Not only will you get rid of background clutter, but you’ll also help keep your pictures focused and crisp. Then, once you’ve zoomed in and shot a bunch, zoom out. You can always crop later if you need to, and having a variety of images to choose from helps ensure you find a few you’re happy with.
Try taking pictures from a few angles – get down low and grab some shots from knee level. Stand on a chair and snap away from above. Standing on a table is a sure way to get everyone’s attention, at least for a minute or two. Get your kids to move around as well, it keeps them engaged and adds a few minutes to your shoot.
6. Keep your shoot short
Kids have a short attention span. You’ll find most of your best pictures at the beginning of your shoot, so get snap happy and take as many pictures as you can in the first ten minutes. If you haven’t snapped anything you like after that, take a break and try again later.
About the author:
Deidre is a London UK based photographer specialising in maternity, newborn, and baby photography as well as travel photography. With a background in fashion modelling, business strategy, and photography, she brings a unique perspective to both portraiture and documentary work. Her portrait studio in Central London sees both local and international clients who seek out her natural and timeless photographs. Her travel images have appeared in magazines, books, galleries and museums around the world. She is a full member of the Association of Photographers and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.