One of the most challenging tasks a photographer can take on is photographing their own family, especially if children are involved.
Doing a photo shoot with a dozen baby monkeys in the snow would probably be easier than photographing your family, so if you find it tricky, you are not alone. Most photographers, hobbyist or professional, find capturing their loved ones digitally is not so easy.
The Little Ones
Let's start with children. They are moody little creatures and will sometimes object or refuse to do a range of requests, including laundry, cleaning their rooms and homework. Posing for photos often comes under the category of a chore for them, and you can expect silly faces, awkward poses and varying levels of cooperation.
So how do you motivate them to give you at least a chance to document their gorgeous faces?
Start with bribery, and we are not kidding. Offering a reward can inspire some children to join you on a walk around the garden, neighborhood, or beach for some candid family photos. If it works, why not? Setting a time well in advance with reminders about the upcoming photoshoot can also help. For little fashionistas, a new outfit can also be an incentive.
Don't put too much pressure on them to perform. If the shoot is turning out to be a flop, then let it go and try again another day. The magic is these tiny people are not your clients, so you can snap them any time you want.
During the photoshoot, be relaxed and easy-going. When you photograph other people's children, whether it's family friends or paying clients, the children react differently than they would to their parents. That is because they are curious and also see you as a person of authority. You have a window where they will listen to you, engage with your silly tactics to make them laugh, and even follow your instructions. What angels! Often by the end of the photoshoot, you will feel that magic fade as they become familiar with you and start to push the boundaries. By then, the parents are amazing at how you can get those photos of their kids because they can never even get them to smile normally at the camera for a minute. If only they saw how it was when you were photographing your own little ones!
Next, let's talk about the senior members of your family. Often the older generation, including grandparents, will be reluctant to be photographed. They might feel uncomfortable and suggest you focus on the kids. You should tell them they are beautiful and you want to take nice photos of them to remember the happy family times together. Promise them a short shoot and get everyone together to interact, so it feels like fun. Sneak in the individual portraits when the moment is right and get a great collection of photos of grandma and grandpa that the whole family will treasure.
Getting Everyone Together
If your extended family is gathered, someone is bound to suggest a group photo. While those big group photos of everyone lined up aren't very creative, they are still nice as a record of family history. Find a space that will fit everyone that has a nice background that isn't cluttered and is in even light. Outdoors areas in shadow are nice because if you put everyone in direct sunlight, some will be squinting. Decide who will be in the middle and place them in the spot you want them. Then tell everyone else to gather around them after removing hats and sunglasses. Take the photo on burst mode or continuous shutter so you can select the perfect one during editing. High five yourself because the big family photo also isn't the most straightforward shot to get.
Candid Lifestyle Images
Documenting everyday family life is a way to photograph your family without giving them any notice. It's the candid moments that happen at home and during regular family outings on the weekends. The hair might be messy, clothes not perfectly matched. There will be crying, laughing, meltdowns, messiness and beautiful chaos.
Sometimes you might use your DSLR camera or even just your phone camera. The main point is to capture your family life. It might be dad napping on the sofa, your son cleaning his teeth, your daughter cooking dinner, or a family game of cards. It's a beautiful life that is what it is, and photographing your family in their natural environment in an authentic way should be part of your weekly or even daily routine.
Don't Forget To Include Yourself
Now and then, get creative and put yourself in your images. You can use a self-timer with a tripod (or rest your camera on something stable). These impulsive shots often turn out quite natural looking because, with a timer set, nobody has time to worry about their pose, hair, or other details.
This technique can also come in handy if you love family photos celebrating the holidays. Getting dressed up for Easter, Halloween, and Christmas is a family tradition that photographers always love. Matching outfits and big smiles from everyone wrapped up in a holiday theme is great to post on social media and share with family and friends.
The Furry Family Members
Your pet is part of your family and probably the most difficult one to photograph of them all. All the tricks and techniques we discussed won't really work on Ginger or Fido because they are always going to be more interested in the next meal rather than your camera.
Set a fast shutter speed and shoot a lot to capture your pet cat, dog or any other creature you may have living under your roof. If you can master this final challenging family member, we are super impressed.
Good luck with photographing your family. Shoot often with a flexible and easy-going attitude, and remember it isn't always easy, but it is rewarding and meaningful to photograph your beautiful family, so keep with it!