If, as I’d advise, you’ve chosen your portrait photographer based on examples of their work and/or recommendation.
Then now is the time to put your trust in them as an artist and professional to produce the goods in you family photo-shoot.
However, that doesn’t mean that you should’t get involved and put some thought and energy into the planning of the shoot. In fact, your photographer should encourage it and hopefully encourage you to share ideas with them prior to the session.
Portrait photographers LOVE it when their customers arrive excited for the shoot and have clearly put thought and effort into planning for their family photo-shoot. It shows a level of commitment, that you’ve ‘bought’ into the idea of shoot.
And by that, I don’t mean that you’ve bought into spending hundreds & hundreds of pounds with them, more that you’re commitment to the experience, you value their skills and you want them to produce the best work they can for you.
However, although enthusiasm and ideas should be welcomed by your photographer, once you’ve communicated your input to them, you should leave it up to them to put their interpretation on your ideas as they bring them to life during your portrait shoot.
If you’ve selected a good photographer, they should take your ideas and enhance them – they have the skills and experience, so put your trust in them to produce some knock out images!
Variety is the key to …. a good family photo-shoot.
It’s better to take too many options of outfits than not enough, with some thought behind it of course, rather then just scooping your entire wardrobe into a suitcase!
Why not take one or two casual outfits and one or two more ‘dressed-up’, smart outfits.
Think about how the style of your clothing will add to the overall feeling of the finished images, wear clothing that reflects who you are and shows an aspect of your personality.
Try not to worry too much about what you may have heard about spots, or stripes and what colours are flattening or not. Take what you like to wear and what shows your personality, then…trust your photographer to use these to show you in your best light and show off your personality in your final photographs.
Hats, scarfs, headbands, jewellery, sunglasses….
…or anything else you may usually add to your outfit can really add life to the photo-shoot and an extra dimension to the finished photographs.
From posing directly with accessory to using them to subtlety add an element to your outfit, accessories are a great way to add variety to your shots without having to do a full outfit change.
Colour is so, so powerful in images..
…and a little consideration can make a BIG difference to your finished family portraits.
Colours that are combined well together will enhance each other and the subject they are on or around.
There are actually some rules around how colours match together and a little understanding of how colours fit together can be very powerful for artists of any genre, with family photographers being no exception.
There are a number of ‘colour systems’ that show how colours match together, which are all based on the fairly well known colour wheel.
Here are some examples of the main colour systems and how they can be used together to enhance family portraits.
As you can see above, complimentary colours are two colours that are opposite each other on the colour wheel, that, well, compliment each other.
The wheel above shows one of my favourite complimentary colour pairings with blue and orange, below is an example using red & green as complimentary colours, taken from a recent family photo-shoot.
The triad system, as you may expect uses three colours. I use this less frequently in shoots as it generally takes more planning, however I do sometimes use a splash of a third colour to give more pop to a two coloured image where the two colours are not complimentary colours.
In the example below, I digitally added a little yellow to the girl’s sunglasses to make a Triad colour system with the blue and pink.
The amount of each colour within the image is something your photographer may also consider and play around with to achieve maximum impact from your portraits.
Another very effective colour system to use in portraiture is different shades of the same colour.
I particularly like shooting on yellow, orange & brown coloured backgrounds. I’ve actually had one particular orangey-brown backdrop up in the studio for the last few years constantly while I rotate the others fairly frequently, as it works perfectly to match in with skin tones and cream/beige clothing.
Please don’t get to stressed about the colours and different systems, that is for your photographer to worry about!
My advice is to take a variety of colours with you in terms of outfits and accessories. If you want to consider how the colours will match together, then do, it can certainly be a help for your photographer.
However, remember that they will also be able to add colour to your photos through the background they use and also with the use of coloured lighting and image processing.
Note – If your photographer isn’t considering colour, then consider finding another one!
Textures can be almost as important as colours within a portrait.
I like rough, course textures for close up children’s portraits, they can add so much depth to an image and can be very effective, especially within black and white portraiture.
The world of props in studio family portraits has in a way gone full circle.
From stiff posing on old chairs holding teddy bears going out of trend to be replaced with more personalised, ‘cool’ props, we’re now seeing a huge wave of ‘fine art portraiture’ that again incorporates more old style props in a classic setting and style.
For me, I think both can work well and it depends on what you want from the finished photographs. I love to shoot both styles, with the more traditional style I create, really being a blend of the two worlds.
I also love working with props in family photo-shoots, they can add so much to a shoot in terms of the energy, enjoyment and atmosphere of the experience.
They can also add so much to the finished images in terms of personality, character and expression.
When your photographer manages to get you into a relaxed space is when the magic happens in portrait photography.
This is when the real connections between subject and viewer are captured.
This is 100% the photographers job to relaxed and involve you in the shoot, so you find the experience enjoyable and are captured in a relaxed state.
However, aiming to attend the photo-shoot with an open mind and trusting that your photographer will bring out the best in you, may help you relaxed and allow you to express yourself fully during the shoot.
The best portrait photographers are ones that communicate easily with their subjects….
…and again this is a point that is mainly your photographers role. However you can communicate your own ideas and thoughts before and during the shoot to get what you want from your family photo-shoot.
Also, having a chat is the best way to get into the relaxed state, mentioned in number 7..! 🙂
I’m not sure if I’d mentioned this one, 😉 so here it is again!
Trust that the photographer you’ve selected is the right one to create the images you’re looking for.
Consider the above points, buy into the experience, show them you want to create something special for you and your family by involving yourself in the planning of the shoot.
Then pass over responsibility 100% to the photographer, try and enjoy the experience as much as possible and trust that they will respond to your enthusiasm by producing the best work they can.