Saturday, November 7, 2009

Women and children first

Commentary Lets start by setting the scene. It is Saturday morning and mom has been up since 7:00am - two hours earlier than normal because it is family picture day. The kids are dressed ... again ... and she is now in the process of getting her makeup on as dad chases the two year-old down the hall to retrieve her cherry scented lipstick before it is eaten or fed to the dog. The five year old tries to help dad but ends up running into the kitchen island, face first, instead. Dad finally nabs the two year old and both kids are now crying. One in pain and the other is just plain upset.

45 minutes later the family is at the studio and it's "All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up." time. So who goes first?

When it comes to family portrait sessions, and as the photographer, I have two general rules. One: work quickly and TWO: shoot the kids (youngest to oldest first) and then mom. The reasoning behind this is a simple one. Most children under the age of four, have a very short attention span, thus making the chance of getting viable images drastically decrease, every minute they are in front of the lens. At most, you will have about 8-10 minutes to get 'the' shot. After that, you will have better luck herding a pack of blind cats.

Once they are done, get mom in there. The longer she sits and waits or tries to keep the kids in check, the more likely her makeup and demeanor will start to fail - especially if her day started off like the above. Once her shots are done, shoot dad, put them all together, get that shot and then you're golden.

Since they are the most difficult, here are a few quick tips to remember when shooting those families with younger children.
  • Have the rest of the family stay out of eye site except one chosen parent. Wee ones have a hard time focusing on one thing, so remove all the distractions you can.

  • If you want them to look at the camera, have that parent stand behind you and talk to them over your shoulder. This works wonders.

  • Bring one of their favorite toys to the shoot. If you're having issues getting them to sit still and keep focused, tell them that you want to take a picture of the toy and that you need them to hold it on their lap for you. When they do, just can come in and shoot a head-shot or capture the entire scene if that toy does contribute to the shot.

  • Smile. It is contagious, as we all know and will make them fell more comfortable with you.
Hopefully, this information will help the shoot to go more smoothly as well as creating some great images that the family will cherish for years to come. Good luck and happy shooting!