Help preparing for first family photo shoot

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by thenextpage, Jul 11, 2016.

  1. thenextpage

    thenextpage Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 13, 2014
    Hello friends,

    I've agreed to shoot a family of 3 with a 1 year old child, and I'd like any advice on how to prepare for this. I'm doing this at no charge to the family, for the sake of my experience and growth as an amateur photographer who would someday like to do side jobs like this as an additional source of income.

    I've browsed through some photos online that are in line with what the family is asking for, so I have some ideas for reference, but could definitely use more ideas/inspiration. What I really need is a checklist/tasklist of what I should prepare in advance in terms of ideas and equipment; as well as what I should communicate to the family in terms of any preparation they'll want to do.

    I have the following gear:
    E-M1 body
    E-M5ii body
    E-M5 body
    Oly 12mm f2
    Pany 25mm f1.4
    Oly 45mm f1.8
    Oly 60mm f2.8 macro
    Oly 75mm f1.8
    Oly 7-14mm f2.8
    Oly 12-40mm f2.8
    Oly 40-150mm f2.8
    Nissin i40 flash
    Oly FL-300R flash

    I'd greatly appreciate if you would take a minute to share your thoughts with me in regards to:
    - sources of inspiration for pose/photo ideas
    - steps of preparation for the shoot (for both myself and the family)
    - gear to use (I'm thinking to have all 3 bodies each with a lens on hand)
    - anything else you feel may be pertinent to this project.

    The idea of doing this is really exciting to me and I'm nervous because I want to deliver great results. I've done well taking candid photos during travel, etc for my own interest, but doing something this important for someone else changes the game!

    Thank you in advance for your help.

  2. tkbslc

    tkbslc Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    I really can't imagine you'd need more than the 12-40 and 40-150mm combo. You can't really use super narrow DOF with groups because someone will invariably be out of focus.

    Just pick a nice location, shoot around dusk for best light and be patient because 1 year old kids don't cooperate well. Be ready to keep the little one interested and entertained and roll with whatever he wants to do.
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  3. PakkyT

    PakkyT Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 20, 2015
    New England
    My very first thought it you will be dealing with a 1 year old. So the most important thing is the shoot should be set up for a time slot that the child is normally awake, active and HAPPY. Also you might talk to them about a reserve time later on in case the first shoot doesn't go well or the baby gets cranky early on and you don't get as many shots as you like. Having a second date set up in advance just in case is nice.

    Probably my biggest concern with your equipment are your flashes. For outdoors in sunlight the Nissin will probably work fine as fill flash. And be sure to use the flash for your outdoor shots even if sunny. It will provide fill to get rid of shadows on faces and give a little "catch light" in the eyes. But if indoors (and even outdoors) I wonder if you would benefit from an off camera flash setup, maybe a very simple single umbrella on a stand with your Nissin fired with a radio trigger. The classic setup of the umbrella to one side or the other at about a 45° angle and a tad higher than your subject does wonders for these types of shots.
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  4. thenextpage

    thenextpage Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 13, 2014
    Thank you for your reply tkbslc. early morning seems to work best for the family so we have that covered. I was thinking of asking the family to bring a few toys/whatever that the child particularly likes to keep him happy and to add interest to the photos.
  5. thenextpage

    thenextpage Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 13, 2014
    Thank you PakkyT, that's a great point you make. Unfortunately we have only one weekend that our schedules will allow to do it, so we'll have to get it right in one shot. But that's a great idea for future shoots.
  6. shermanshen

    shermanshen Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 28, 2014
    When I started doing family portraits, I used to stress out quite a lot about getting everything perfect to legitimize my role as the "professional photographer". I've since realized that most people don't need the super creative shots that you see in some people's portfolios and it's a lot simpler than you might think.

    The gear I use on a family shoot is an em5ii with a 35-100 f2.8 and yongnuo 560 iv. I scout out my location in advance and choose on three or four spots to shoot. I like to have my families sitting, standing, and maybe walking. In terms of posing a family of three, try to keep a triangle going; should be easy with a baby. Have everyone look at you, have the parents look at each other, have them both looking at the baby, etc. Get shots of all individuals, as well as all possible pair combinations (mom and baby, dad and baby, mom and dad if possible). My tip for getting a good shot of the baby is to have the parents freeze a smile at the camera, make high pitched silly noises/call the baby's name, and go rapid fire like crazy.

    In terms of background I like to step back and zoom in for compression (unless you are in a particularly picturesque location). Just make sure there aren't distractions like trash cans, park benches, cars, etc that show up and you should be golden. Lastly, candids are great. Keep shooting between poses and locations, let the kid play with toys and shoot a bunch, make a joke and shoot them while they laugh. Stuff like that tends to be some favorites of clients of mine.

    Good luck!
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  7. QualityBuiltIn

    QualityBuiltIn Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 1, 2011
    Edinburgh, Scotland
    Let me quote WC Fields, "Never work with CHILDREN or animals". 'Nuf said.

    Best of luck
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  8. thenextpage

    thenextpage Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 13, 2014
    Hey shermanshen; thank you for the encouraging reply! What you shared definitely gives some better perspective on expectations going into this. I'm thinking that the 12-40 & 40-150 will be more than sufficient in terms of gear. If you don't mind explaining, how are you using the flash during these types of family shoots? I greatly appreciate your thoughts on poses and technique.
  9. ionian

    ionian Mu-43 Veteran

    May 20, 2016
    Kent, UK
    Real Name:
    Ask the family to send you some photos of the sort of thing they like - don't be ashamed to recreate these shots.
    Shoot to crop - give yourself space at the edges to get the right aspect ratio for printing in post.
    Shoot raw, especially if outdoors, so you can adjust wb to changing light
    Don't go too shallow on depth of field - you'll regret it if your best shots have out of focus faces
    Similarly, pose your group shots so that faces are all on the same plane of focus
    Off camera flash with a brolly is best, but bounce flash could also work if you don't have modifiers

    Note little or none of the above worries about gear - a flexible camera and lens that you are 100% comfortable with is all you need to worry about. Know your shots, be confident, and get the images you need in camera as much as possible. But give skin a clear up in post, and sparkle those eyes a little!
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  10. shermanshen

    shermanshen Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 28, 2014
    Glad that I could help, I think you're right, the zooms will be enough; although to be honest, the 25 may be a better choice for your "wide" shots. It'll give better background separation and should be wide enough for a family of three.

    I use the flash primarily for fill. I generally shoot manual and set the flash to near the lowest or second lowest setting, just enough to get a catch light in the eyes and add a little light to the faces. I've only recently begun using flash on my photo shoots though as I've become more comfortable with it, so if you're shooting during golden hour it really isn't a must. I don't use flash modifiers out doors like the lightsphere or flashbender (although I own both) because I don't find them to be necessary.

    I forgot to mention a couple tips in my previous post just in case you haven't already come across them. Suggest your family to wear coordinated colors as opposed to matching outfits. Solid colors or simple patterns also look better then anything really ornate. Big distracting jewelry also should be avoided. Lastly, bubble gun. Shoot that thing off camera behind you, in front of the kid, etc. and see what you get. If you can get some bubbles in the shot, that looks good too. In any case, I'm sure you're going to do great. Post pictures if the family is ok with it!
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  11. thenextpage

    thenextpage Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 13, 2014
    Hi ionian; thanks much for sharing your thoughts & experience. I've never really used flash much so the idea of using it off-camera with a brolly for this shoot makes me nervous. I'm wondering how I would keep it positioned in an effective way to the family, especially when bodies/faces are moving. But I appreciate your tips, thank you so much for sharing.
  12. thenextpage

    thenextpage Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 13, 2014
    Thanks again shermanshen. I have a third body so I could put the 25 on that one for the appropriate shots. If you have a sec to explain, is the flash you use on or off camera? I'm very inexperienced using flash but have a good idea how to and have some time to practice before the date. And I love the idea of using the bubble gun - thats exactly the type of tool that can introduce some fun and creativity into this. Thanks for the tips on clothing and jewelry much appreciated.
  13. AlanU

    AlanU Mu-43 Veteran

    May 2, 2012
    I'm going to suggest keeping thing very simple. Forget off camera flash or light modifiers. Simply put the flash on the hotshoe and feather the flash so that it fills shadows. Putting emphasis on gear while you shoot will create a rift between caputuring human emotions vs. technicalities of gear usage.

    Your flash probably has 60 watt seconds +/- ???? of power so it'll fill and possibly be enough to fight sun a close distances.

    Concentrate on yourself and your eye. Gear is just gear that separates skill levels from photographer to photographer. Get to know your clients and capture posed (boring shots) and photojournalistic non scripted photos. If you worry too much on gear you'll lose sight of the most important part about being a "pro" photographer. Your style will get effected with your way you communicate with the "humans" if you think gear, gear, gear!! :)

    I have a jingle bell wrist strap to keep the young ones looking at the camera. As far as kids go "IT IS WHAT IT IS" you car not a miracle worker. If the kid doesn't look that's too bad. Start putting your shots towards interactive shots with the parents. No preparation in the world will make a stubborn kid look in the lens. As the family to bring a favourite toy and preferably a noisy toy. Bring a bunch of toys that the kid likes.

    shoot direct flash outdoors since the external small flash is already struggling in guide numbers. If you own a LS please throw away the lightsphere as it probably kills 2/3 to a 1 stop of flash power and it does not do much for softening light since the size of the light source softens light. Learn to bounce flash indoors and use direct flash outdoors to fill and give a sparkle in the eyes.

    As you mentioned your getting into this photography stuff. You have A LOT to learn regarding body posing and this also applies to seasoned experienced shooters. Your personality also must jive with your clients. Just like anything things works as long as you get along with your clients. I've decline photo shoots due to my gut feel of how I read a person. No bridezilla's or pompous arrogant folks for me since I know I'll personally struggle.

    Use two bodies. One body that covers wide/mid telephoto and the other a long telephoto. I often find I use the wide angle shots more than the long distance shots. However you should try to incorporate long telephoto with shallow dof. Everybody has a smart phone so they cannot get those type of background blur....this is what separates your photos over mom's iphone.......

    Even after all this said......have fun!!! That's easy to say but if your good at making things interesting and fun it'll be seen in your photographs.

    I never ask my clients to wear coordinating clothes. I ask them to do a trial fitting of clothes that blend together with basic colours with no stripes.

    Once you find the groove and become confident in your style.....everything falls into place.....

    Again...please do not use modifiers like softboxes or umbrella's for family shoots outdoors unless you have an assistant. Your going to make the family feel conscious of a camera in their face. If your in a studio setting this is a different game. Outdoor stuff fine open shade and if you must fight the sun with a flash as the sung is behind your subjects head (rim light and flash for fill). This type of flash photography is hard with speedlites but it's something that you must do sometimes if you do not have shade in the perfect background.
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  14. thenextpage

    thenextpage Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 13, 2014
    Hi AlanU, thank you for sharing all this great info! I totally agree that keeping the operation simple and focusing on the family is the best way to make this work well. I want to have everything practiced and prepared in advance so that I can perform professionally and feel confident in doing so. I have no idea what watt second my flash is, but I'll practice with it in advance so that I know how to control it more or less.

    I really like the idea of a bell that I can use to direct the child's attention to the camera - such a great tip. I appreciate your tips on using the flash; it gives me good material to build upon.

    Overall I feel comfortable now with the necessary gear and and criteria for the family to prepare. What I've identified that I need from the responses on this thread is how to set the scene for "interactive" shots, and how to pose people nicely and naturally. I've taken lots of candid street photos that are great, but guiding someone through a shoot remains an unknown and scary thing. But I'm hoping that we'll find a rhythm and will get some good shots out of it!

    Thanks again for your generosity in sharing your time.

  15. AlanU

    AlanU Mu-43 Veteran

    May 2, 2012

    We all start somewhere in photography and I'll say it's not simple journey......

    Family shoots are not easy when it comes to young kids. You have to roll with and go with the flow. You must be confident and sometimes firm but with a contagious smile.

    Interactive photojournalistic approach is sometimes a good way to supplement the shoot. Posed shots can be very artificial.

    All this talk and I'm booked for a large extended family (11 people) shoot with a 1 and 5 yrs old this evening. I would lie if I didn't admit that I'm hoping for cooperative children.
  16. AlanU

    AlanU Mu-43 Veteran

    May 2, 2012

    Please discuss with the parents to try to make sure the children get in a nap before the photo shoot. Even tell the parents to bring treats for the 3yrs old ( gummy bears etc) so you can reward the 3yrs old when he smiles and looks at the camera.

    If you do not use flash in bright lights you may have some issues with shadows in the face. If there's harsh sun you have to fill in the high contrast shadows.

    Try your best and absorb knowledge as you shoot this freebie photo shoot.
  17. Duncan

    Duncan Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 31, 2013