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10 Tips for a successful Large Family Portrait Session : Bay Area Family Photographers

Thursday, February 13, 2020

With over 10 years of photographing families of all sizes, I thought I would share some of my learned secrets for working with large groups!  Whether you are photographing a particularly large family or an extended family.

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tips for photographing large families

1. Be playful!


While we will get the traditional looking at the camera shot.  When I am on location, and the terrain allows me, I love to incorporate running and fun!  I typically start with a traditional group shot, then from there follow my pattern of play, pose, play pose.  This does two things.  It keeps the little one's attention better and helps adjust the right idea of "fun" to picture time, instead of a "chore", and 2. I keeps a fun energy in the setting.

tips for photographing large families

Ideas for ways to be playful.  Play a game of red rover. Remind the ultra-competitive enthusiasts to take it easy so no one gets hurt.  Line up and have a dance party.  Bonus if you bring a portable speaker and have tunes ready to go.  Have a twirling contest, betcha grandma and grandpa haven't done that for a while and it will take them back.  All smiles.  Let the kids run ahead and the parents/ grandparents be the "hug monsters" trying to catch them! Play train ride complete with the chugga chugga choo choo sound effects.

Whatever activity you choose, consider your group and if they are the right age for the activity.

tips for photographing large families

2. Choose the proper setting given terrain, weather, temperature, and your age group.

An 8-year-old can tolerate a little chill for a few minutes.  A baby cannot! Be realistic and smart about the location for your extended family pictures, especially during those cold winter holiday sessions.

If the location will require hiking up a hill, make sure the group is aware of this and have them bring a pair of shoes to change.  Twisted ankles are no joke!


tips for photographing large families

3. Work with levels

Everyone in your party should have their own head and shoulder space, and be evenly spaced.  Depending on the width of space you have to work with, levels are often required.  Stairs, chairs, boxes, stools, tree trunks, a slope on a hill.  There are many opportunities for working with levels.  It just takes a bit of pre-planning.  Tip: visualize your party before placing furniture, then pre place it before you have them fill in.  This might involve symmetry, like this picture above.

tips for photographing large families
 

tips for photographing large families

4. Prepare the terrain or setting.

These two examples involved snow!  Either have some willing adults in your group help pre stomp the snow across etc or pre-stomp yourself, so it is much easier when you bring the whole crew in and they are getting stuck and making up planned snow angels.

tips for photographing large families

tips for photographing large families

5. Use eye-catchers

The larger the group, the large number of wandering eyes of little ones especially need to be refocused.  Bright and colorful objects to direct their eyesight back to the camera are necessary. I made a short video of some of the funny things I might use here.

tips for photographing large families

6.  Think: Convenience 

The larger the headcount, the bigger the stress of getting them all somewhere. Consider your party, how far, realistically they will be able to park/ transport to the background desired.

Here are a few examples.

Below is a family shot on a cruise.  Originally we planned the beach.  That would have been too much.  Transporting the whole group in nice attire and sticking together via the ferry etc... I mean our hair might get ruined on the way haha. From the cruise ship to the island.... was not ideal for our group.  Not to mention too of use were not feeling great that morning... so we cleared a corner of the deck and made the best of that beautiful water and sky vista.

tips for photographing large families
Here is another example of working with convenience.  Parks with a very little walking and right next to parking lots!  Especially when it is chilly! When we diverge into various group shots, babies can warm up in the car for a few minutes if needed.

tips for photographing large families


tips for photographing large families

tips for photographing large families



tips for photographing large families

tips for photographing large families

7. Capture a variety of relationships.


While we focus mainly on doing the large group shot looking at the camera, there are so many other treasured shots to grab, like all the girls together being playful, or the guys together in their suave nature.  Here is a list I mentally follow:

Full group shot - Formal
Full groups shots - playful and candid
Grandma and Grandpa with the grandbabies
All the girls
All the boys
Siblings together
Siblings with parents
Siblings with spouses
Full group shot with a different backdrop
Teenager shots
All the wee ones
The older girls
Full group shot
Couples shots
Individual families

This list changes on the spot if say, a toddler is having a toddler moment, we might switch to another family for a minute and try again with them. Ideally, I work with all the little ones first for smiles, then as they start to get the wiggles, do fun or less structured moments give them a break from the structured and they last a little longer.


tips for photographing large families

8.  Cluster your groups


While some group shots, I don't group the families perfectly together... for example, the young ones may all be sitting in the front together with their cousins, instead of next to their families.  I always try to aim for at least one cluster shot that groups the growing family units together.

tips for photographing large families

9. Make it fun for the adults too!


Keep the energy up throughout the whole age group with something fun and different!

I typically mix it up by presenting a surprise element that the group would enjoy toward the end!

A unique prop, a leave fight, a snowball fight.  Consider your age range and make it fun! This is a fun way to end the session.

tips for photographing large families

10. Positivity is key!Above all, your attitude as a parent, as the photographer as a participant in family photos is key!  And consider that is it contagious. A mundane, "let's get this done," attitude shows and sends that message and the vibe will repeat itself.  So be excited about pictures and the vibe will spread!Be sure to follow us on Instagram @effervescentmediaworks and @ourphotographerscircle  for future tips and tricks!




3 Responses to “10 Tips for a successful Large Family Portrait Session : Bay Area Family Photographers”

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