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creative tips/website info for family portraits?

jeff bogle , Jul 29, 2010; 10:08 p.m.

Does anyone know of a good website that talks about creative techniques of taking family portraits? Not your typical "everyone wear the same clothing/let's all hold hands type" portraits but something that really catches the creative eye? I have a shoot this weekend, and even though I feel confident in my creativity, it sometimes gets monotonous. I want to spice it up a little bit. I don't want to disappoint this client. I'm shooting with a canon 30D with a 24-70mm L series lens as well as a 50mm 1.4 prime. I would appreciate any input in the matter. Thanks! Jeff


Matthew Tyler , Aug 07, 2010; 07:02 p.m.

I think this is a great question that you ask! All to often, do we see the typical family in sweaters against a canvas backdrop. Of course, these types of photographs serve a purpose - sometimes, for historical reasons (family history). Future generations will value photographs (regardless of their style) that display families together alongside different members.
So, back to your question - I believe you are asking how to move away from the traditional family portrait. The answer is, do so by capturing the unique personality of the family in either an environment that is native to them, or in situation that brings out their interactive personalities.
Sometimes as photographers, our role in the photograph extends beyond the camera. Wait!? Beyond the camera? The skill or ability to lead a group of people is definitely an art form within itself that requires a variety of different skills and tactics. Try observing their behavior, and asking leading questions. There is no standard set of rules for this style of approach, however, I suggest having your exposure and lighting set before you embark upon this - so you don't miss the moment. It's truly no more difficult than being alone in a crowd and instigating conversation.
If it were myself, photographing a family, I'm assuming that there are one or two parents (or more), plus one or more kids, and maybe a dog. After soft introductions are made, I would try to discover what interests and hobbies each family member has. I would perhaps ask the children what they like to do together. During the leading questions, I would try to consider how the family is interacting with each other. The happy gentle father, the worried mother, the combative daughter, and the son that instigates.
So, perhaps the question could be ..... how do you draw the personality out of the family?

Matthew Tyler , Aug 07, 2010; 07:05 p.m.

ps .... for this journalistic approach, I would suggest shooting at a small f/stop for depth of field, wider angle to capture the entire scene and to add a sense of exaggeration. Perhaps with the camera on a tripod, alongside a shutter release, so you can capture them by surprise =)

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