What takes a family photo from an ordinary snapshot to a “real” Family Portrait?
Let’s face it, everyone takes pictures of their families on their phones. Some people even own some pretty fancy cameras. But rarely do those photos translate to a real treasure that you will want to display on the walls of your home forever. And sadly, some of the professional family portraits I have seen are not really much better. But why? The answer is both simple and complex, and it all boils down to a lot of little details go into making a really beautiful family portrait.
As a professional Family Portrait Photographer, I have two goals. One goal is to take the best photographs of you that you have ever had made. The second goal is to provide you with images that you have printed and display in your home. I really want your family portraits to be heirlooms that you treasure. So before we make even one exposure, I make sure that we talk about a few things first.
Where do you want to display your portraits? This is really an important item to discuss. If you want to put your family portrait on the wall–say over your couch–I need to make sure I am at least shooting horizontal images for a good fit. Maybe you want to create an album. If so, I need to make sure I have a pretty large variety of images so we can create a beautiful book.
Clothing Options: People are probably sick of me talking about things like Color Harmony. But guess what? Color is really, really important. It helps convey mood. Also, if you want to hang your portraits in your home, we need to make sure it complements your existing or future decor. We also need to discuss how casual or formal you want your family portrait to look.
Posing: Posing is super important. Many times I see photos that are poorly posed–big mistake. One thing I have noticed is that if there is a group photo and a person feels they don’t look good in it, they automatically think it is a “bad” picture. So I have studied over the years how to pose all body types to flatter. Another pet peeve of mine is when things look too much like a “line up.” If there are any more than four people, I really prefer to have heads at different levels. It just looks so much better.
Lighting: You can spend your entire life studying lighting. Lighting conveys mood, as well as enhances the subject. In portrait photography, lighting must by definition be flattering. Again, everyone in a portrait needs to look good. You don’t want distracting harsh shadows or burned out highlights–that is horrid and no one looks great in that kind of light. That is why many portrait photographers prefer to work during the Golden Hour–light is generally soft and beautiful. While I do prefer this time of day as well, it is not always possible. So I have spent time going to seminars to learn how to light portraits in all kinds of conditions. I also have the right lights in case I need them.
Composition: Carefully placing your subjects in the frame to form a pleasing composition is critical. Again, I have spent a lot of time working on this.
Connection: Have you ever looked at a photo and everyone is literally all over the place–people looking in different directions, no body connection etc.? Isn’t that really disconcerting? That is why connection is so important. People need to either be looking at the camera or interacting with each other to create a connection for the viewer to engage.
Expression: Finally, we come to expression. This is really the most important thing for me. If you don’t have expression, you don’t have anything. Sometimes as a Portrait Photographer you have to wait for the expression and sometimes you need to elicit it. It can be a fine line.
Post Production: Even if you get a great image in camera, you still need to do some post production. This is minor exposure and color correction. While I believe in getting it right in camera, some very minor tweaks are always needed because I photograph low contrast/saturation. This allows me to better control the final print. Post Production also includes retouching, which is a whole topic in and of itself. Read more a bout Retouching here.
As you can see, there is quite a bit to consider when making family portraits. but anything worth doing needs to be done well. Don’t you agree?
Are you ready to schedule your own Family Portrait Session? Please call (518) 584-4237 or use our Contact Form to get in touch.
Be sure to check out some of our Baby and Family Photography.