Family Portrait Photoshoot at Home and on the beach in Worthing West Sussex
This family photoshoot in the coastal town of Worthing in West Sussex was a wonderful, unexpected surprise. And one I must thank my friend and fellow photographer Jayne Sacco for. I knew something was going on when Jayne mentioned that I was known to our client Shelley - the mother in the lovely family we photographed that day. And Jayne was right - on arrival I was reunited with an old school friend, after nearly three decades. In the hours which followed memories came flooding back – memories which might never have been shared had our paths not crossed again – memories both poigniant and heart-warming, all the things which have helped to shape us. This shoot took place a few years ago and I still smile when I think of it.
After all those years it felt very special to photograph Shelley and her gorgeous family at their super-stylish home in West Sussex, followed by an outing to the beach with Pogo the Cockerpoo. An afternoon of laughter and fun, which is exactly what a family portrait session should be about. And Jayne and I are very sorry about the seaweed (we were expecting sand).
Tips for Family Photo Shoots:
Obvious as it sounds, have a game plan. This simply means being organised. Before taking any kind of booking have a good chat with the client so you know exactly what they’re looking for in terms of the style of the photographs, and what sort of final product they’re after. It’s no good just turning up on the day and hoping the work you normally do aligns with what the customer wants
Make sure you write down the brief. For this photo shoot the client was looking for relaxed family photography with a happy feel. She wanted us to capture their personalities, even if that meant a little bit of silliness (I’m always up for some silliness). The family dog Pogo was (of course) included in the proceedings. The end result would be a 10 inch bespoke family album of heirloom quality. This was simple black corded tulle, with dark charcoal backing pages and dark charcoal overlay mounts. There was also a less formal hardback coffee table storybook with rigid pages, for showing to family and guests. The aim was to provide between 30 and 40 photographs for the albums and a selection of unframed prints for sharing.
I work on location so I’m going to my clients’ homes or we might be meeting as a place of interest. In other words, I won’t have seen the location before I arrive. Therefore I need to arrive with plenty of time for some reconnaissance, some clothing decisions, and the all important cup of tea. This is a really important part of the session - we re-cap on what we’ve decided to do and we decide where and how we’re going to do it.
Take a shot list, and refer to it. It doesn’t matter how long we’ve been taking pictures, a shot list is almost always helpful. You don’t want to be distracted and then forget some key images which your client was hoping you’d capture. Then there are the times when we just go blank - that’s pretty common because we have so much to think about all at once. We’re looking for the best light, we’re guiding our clients, we’re changing our settings, we’re thinking of how those pictures will look in the album. It’s easy to get a bit gridlocked. A quick look at your list can put your brain back on track.
Not everybody likes having their picture taken, but when photographing families we need to make sure everyone is included (even briefly). We can’t always do that equally, and it’s quite normal that some participants are in more photographs than others. Some children are extremely extroverted for the camera and others are a little more reserved. What we don’t do is tell the reserved ones to be extroverted (or vice versa). The whole point of the photo shoot is to capture their own personalities rather than impose somebody else’s. This means that balancing the photographs will happen at the album design stage rather than trying to do it during the photography session. And don’t forget the family dog!
There’s nothing worse than an album full of photographs where everybody is looking at the camera and smiling. We do need pictures like that, but more natural expressions are important as well (as are the silly faces). Albums are about telling stories, after all.
Before commencing the shoot, when you’re in the planning stage, did you remember to ask the client if they had any specific requests? Whilst it’s important to include a paragraph in your Terms of Business that not all special requests can be accommodated, it’s thoughtful to ask the client if they have anything specific in mind. Time and time again, in my experience, customers will appreciate a photo of themselves with their pet.
DON’T FORGET TO INCLUDE THE DOG
Family pets are just that - they’re members of the family. Providing the pet is well enough behaved it’s thoughtful to include him or her in the photoshoot
It’s tempting to concentrate on portraits but don’t forget some relaxed pictures. Again, the whole point of the family album is about capturing ‘life’. Let children be children, I think that the pictures of youngsters running around or simply having fun are usually the most enchanting additions to any storybook.