Not long ago I was asked if I could take some family photos in South Petherton, Somerset. A friend of the family, and an photography enthusiast, had dropped out last minute, so they needed a family photographer to take photos one weekend when everyone was together.
I asked Jon who booked me where and when the family photos would need to be taken, and then put it in my diary.
When you are dealing with this number of people, there usually isn’t much flexibility with the date if the weather is bad. Unfortunately the weather WAS very bad that day.
Additionally, when you have several generations of the family all together, it tends to mean some creative options are not always possible as the more elderly are less able. So whilst I had lots of ideas about how I could use the light and foliage of the garden to create some candid off the cuff photos, the weather didn’t really lend itself to it. Even if the weather was great, I don’t think going on a walk in the country would have worked because of limited time, and limited walking ability of the most elderly family members.
As I knew I would be predominantly working inside on this family shoot, I looked around a bit for the best spots I could find that would accommodate everyone comfortably and the light most easy to manage. There were a lot of family members on the day.
Juggling tasks in your head
As a family photographer it can be a real challenge, as you have to think about a lot of things all at once. Firstly, you are an ambassador for you own business, so impressions count. I try my best to say hello to everyone and give them all a smile; make them all feel comfortable and instil confidence in me. If you can gain the confidence of your clients they make for better subjects, as they are more relaxed. More relaxed clients means better photos; and let’s face it a more fun experience for everyone, including me!
As well as being a bit of a social butterfly you have to use your photography brain to suss out where the photos will be taken, which photos to get first and any pitfalls there might be along the way. Pitfalls such as as obstructions, distracting objects/lights, lack of space, differing ability levels of the people etc. This while operating all the photography gear to get the shots. This can be tricky, as you balance chatting with the clients whilst adjusting camera and light settings. This is where you really have to have a great understanding of your kit.
In the shot above, on the face of it, it just looks like a standard photo, but the light in the room was a mixture of daylight and quite yellow light bulbs. Added to this the light from the front window dropped off in intensity half way up the people in the photo which would have meant a very unbalanced photo.
As it was raining that day, I had come prepared and brought some lighting along with me. Often I don’t need to use it, but to overpower the yellow lightbulbs and balance the daylight I set up the lights as we chatted so I could vastly improve the result. A few test shots and then I got people into place and fired off some shots.
Once I had got the largest family group photos done, it allowed me to be slightly less restricted by location. The conservatory, even on such a rainy miserable day seemed a good spot for smaller groups and my lighting would give a much brighter feel to the photos. The problem of course is that I was basically surrounded by glass that reflected flash! I knew what to do to avoid this, but when you have a light on a stand and a big diffusion panel in front of it, it’s not easy to just tuck it out of the way. I did manage to put it in the corner though with a little moving of furniture.
That’s another thing you have to be very careful of when taking photos like this. You are in someone’s home, and if you had visitors to your home, you’d want people to respect it and be careful where they tread and what they touch. So anything I moved during the family photo shoot, I did so with care.
I thought it best to get Nan and Grandad in place before they got too tired, and I thought of how they might look if they were relaxing in the conservatory. So out with a couple magazines and a crossword along with their glasses. It gave them something to focus on other than me the whole time and something for their hands to hold.
Now that the grandparents were photographed I could then switch out to other little groups. As they had been watching the photos of Nan and Grandad, they could see what they would look like and with smaller numbers it was quite quick.
Once the most important photos were in the bag, I thought we could go outside and get some photos despite the rain. This was of course if people were game.
You can imagine how well the idea would have gone down if at the beginning of the family photos I had suggested we go outside first, they probably would have thought I was mad!
After gaining some trust though, all those able on their feet were happy to step outside. Now the first group photos had been taken, it didn’t matter if hair or clothes got a little wet.
The above photo was really just a bit of a joke. We had already used the umbrella for some photos, but reading people’s faces and listening to them, I thought it would be funny to briefly whip the umbrella away and capture the reaction of those under it.
A handful of bigger family group photos in the rain, then we headed inside to dry off.
Time for a cuppa and I loved this interaction between the youngest and the oldest.
We had the addition of a little puppy on the day which made for some very cute photos. I think there was a cuteness competition between the toddler and the puppy!
Another photo I really wanted to get. I had to be patient as the little girl was not always interested in the book. I really wanted to get mum, her daughter and Nan in the shot together in this scene, as seeing multiple generations together is such a precious memory. Trying to do that though and get everyone smiling and engaged can be challenging at times.
Are you looking for a family photographer? Do you have plans to bring family together for a special occasion and you feel you’d like to remember it well in great photos?