Family Picture Question

Discussion in 'Help and Feedback' started by Zanner, Aug 12, 2014.

  1. Zanner

    Zanner TalkEmount Veteran Subscribing Member

    Aug 19, 2013
    Wisconsin, USA
    So a friend of mine asked if I would take a picture of her family to hang on her wall. She said she just wanted a casual shot outdoors of them. So I said yes. I've never really taken a family portrait for anyone outside of my family members, so now I'm nervous.

    Out of the lenses I have in my signature, I was thinking of the Minolta 50mm or the Pentax 50mm. Would I be good using one of those? I don't want to mess this up too bad. ;) Should I bring the kit lens as backup? I prefer using MF lenses, but should I have an AF on hand too?

    What should my settings be? My photog friend told me to go out two hours before sunset and do them.
  2. José De Bardi

    José De Bardi Assistant in Virtue Subscribing Member

    Aug 31, 2013
    Dorset, UK
    I did this for a 3 friends families in the last year as practise before shooting a friends wedding. I used my OM 50mm almost exclusively so I think you are on the right track.
    I ended up doing some indoor ones of the kids playing while they got used to the camera being there and looking natural, then got them to do a few poses, lying on the floor leaning on their hands on elbows is nice (some were keener that others!), then some family portraits, I also got my extension tubes out and let the kids take some macro shots of their favourite jewellery/small toys which they thought was fun using the IR remote.
    Also, if you have a non-smiler, turn on the auto shutter smile detect and tell them it's a magic camera that only takes pics when you smile, worked a treat on the one I had!
    I used my SB700 flash (bouncing it) for all the indoor stuff.

    Then as your tog friend suggested, we went out to the local park and did whatever, on the swings, coming down slides, whatever families do at parks!

    For most stuff you can pre focus and go for as they come down the slide or whatever. I did find the kit SELP1650 combined with the lightning AF on the A6000 handy for a few action shots (one friend, his 2 girls had mini scooters so I sat down and they scooted towards me and went either side as he and his Wife walked behind, up the low sun lit path - note sunset as another good suggestion you already got).

    Hopefully a few tips to go on, but as I say, I think you have the right idea and some good tips from your friend already. Difference for me was it was an easy relaxed way to practise for the seriously nerve wracking wedding shoot! All my friends loved the results (I gave them ~25 JPGs and a fancy video slideshow of them all) - and the wedding went well too!
    • Like Like x 1
  3. Poki

    Poki TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Aug 30, 2011
    I'm sure you will do just fine technically. With a 50mm lens and at golden hour you can't go wrong. But please don't forget the one thing that separates "just one more family portrait" from "wow that's an amazing family portrait!" - and that's the background. Pretty much anybody who owns a modern camera can take a family portrait with the people well exposed, but you hardly see a carefully composed one. So here's my three step guide to awesome family portraits (although I didn't shoot too many, so please comment if anybody has something to add):

    Step 1: Location scouting. Head out at golden hour a few days or weeks before the actual shooting and look for places with interesting backgrounds. Interesting can be many things - some leading lines or lines in the background, interesting colors or just a beautiful vista. In rare cases you even get the chance to get some foreground items to add depth to the portrait, like some leafs hanging in.

    Also, look for how the light looks at these places, because sprinkled light for example can totally kill a portrait. If you found a place you like, take a snapshot of it - and remember where it is. When back at home, look through your snapshots and pick the one you like most. Then, look at the colors in the background. Color matching can be very effective, so figure out which colors can complement the background, and tell the family to wear something of this color. Even if it's just a necklace, for example, it can make a distinct difference.

    Step 2: Think of a concept. What does the family want? Just a standard family portrait with all members standing beneath each other? Well, you can give them that anytime. But why not do something creative? Maybe you feel inspired and think of an interesting pose - or even better a little story you can tell through the photo. I'm sure the family would be happy to have a storytelling photo hanging on their wall.

    Step 3: Post processing. Don't do anything funky like HDR - it simply doesn't look good on people's skin. That said you still can get a little creative, but I'm sure you'll add your signature style to it which always is awesome. Do NOT put a watermark on it. If somebody sees the photo and thinks it's amazing, he'll ask the family who shot it - no need for an ugly brand on there. And, most importantly, YOU decide which photos are good, not the family. This may sound a little selfish, but ultimately, you are the artist, and you have developed a sense of what makes a great image over the years. If you let them decide, they'll pick one they like now, but at a later point they might regret that they've printed this and not another one. Also, when you let them pick, you don't have the most honest representation of your style hanging on their wall. If you shoot a standard and some more creative portraits, you can give 'em two, of course.

    Finally, don't let the gear questions bog you too much. The gear is the least important part of the equation. Just expose for the highlights, i.e. don't blow any out, and shoot RAW. Technically, your photos will be fine. The amount of depth of field you want of course gets dictated by the background, just make sure all faces are in sharp focus.
    • Like Like x 7
  4. Hawkman

    Hawkman TalkEmount All-Pro

    Sep 10, 2013
    Virginia, USA
    Poki, those are some absolutely great tips! Now... if only I could remember them when I shoot family shots.
    • Like Like x 1
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