Experiences: Family Portraiture

As a photographer, I’ve always considered myself more of a hobbyist rather than a professional. I don’t plan on, and will never plan to, make photography my life career. However, paid photography-work is something I’ve always wanted to attempt. Mainly because I’m a college student, and money at this point in life is relevant, but also because I want to spread my photographs across a more personal basis. Sure it’s nice to get views, comments, and favorites on flickr, but it’s more personal to directly deal with someone hiring your skills and hear their feedback face-to-face. The proceeding article will deal with my first ever experience professionally photographing a family of four — a mom, dad, and their two little girls.

family portrait, bw, mom, dad, two girls

One of the many pictures I took for the family.

Before the Photoshoot:

I was first contacted by the mom, who, for the sake of privacy, I’ll call ‘Joanne’. When I received Joanne’s email I was excited. After all, this would be my first paid photography job. However, immediately after the initial excitement resided, I began to feel nervous — which was to be expected. In order to feel more prepared and confident, everyday I would take a little bit of time and think about what kind of shots I could take for this family, and how to make them unique. As a photographer you always want to stand out, so besides taking the typical, everyone-stand-together-and-smile-pictures, it’s also important to take a few oddball pictures as well. Joanne had previously tried another photographer, who apparently didn’t make a lasting impression because she chose to go with someone else — me. It’s important to make the pictures fun to take for the family. You will definitely notice the difference in facial expressions between the standard photographs and the slightly quirky ones. The expressions in your ‘fun’ photographs will feel more candid — look below for an example.


  • Prepare for your photoshoots by planning ahead. If it helps, draw little sketches of any unique compositional ideas you have. When Joanne saw me pull out my sketchbook, she later told me that she appreciated my preparation, and that the previous photographer she hired didn’t seem to care as much as I did.
Having Fun

For this picture I told Joanne and her husband to stand back-to-back, and to lightly toss the girls into the air. This made everyone smile. :)

On the Day:

On the day of the photoshoot, it’s important that you arrive on the scene early — unless you’re photographing the family at the family’s home. Once you arrive at the location, give it a quick look-over and see if there are any particularly photogenic scenes, or scenes that will provide a nice composition. That way, once the family arrives, you won’t feel the need to rush around looking for scenes in which to place the family.


  • Arrive at your location early and scout for areas you might want to potentially use.

During the Photoshoot:

Up until this point I’ve been stressing the importance of planning ahead, but here is where I am going to stress the importance of flexibility. When the family arrives on the location, go and talk to them — I would hope that you knew that already. Introduce yourself to everyone, try to make the kids laugh, and bring everyone to your first location. If you’re not great with kids, just introduce yourself to them in a friendly manner. Once you arrive at the first location, state what your plans are for the photoshoot and ask for input! This is absolutely critical! You need to ask the family if they have any particular pictures in mind. If they say yes, then listen carefully and make sure you get their ideas accomplished. Once they give you their ideas, tell them about any ideas you’ve planned ahead of time, and ask them if they would like to try them out. After that, start taking pictures!

Here are some generalized tips:

  • Greet the family when they arrive, and introduce yourself to everyone. You’re trying to make everyone as comfortable with you as possible. That way, when you’re taking pictures, they’re more likely to let their candid expressions show.
  • Ask them what they hope to get accomplished during the photoshoot! It’s important to come prepared, but it’s even more important to keep the family involved in the whole process! This includes any ideas the kids have as well.
  • If the kids start growing weary of taking pictures, let the parents do what they do best and let them handle their own kids.
  • Remember that if you’re working with a large quantity of people, it might take many tries to capture everyone with a perfect expression. Check your image previews every so often to make sure you have at least one good photograph. If not, then keep taking more pictures.
  • Sometimes, when working with kids, you might not be able to get everyone looking at the camera. If that’s the case, take the best picture you can find and work with it.


I was very fortunate to have had ‘Joanne’ and her family as my first paid photography job. She knew what I was and wasn’t capable of, her two little girls were happy and very cooperative, and everyone ended up working together to get some very cool family pictures.

– Roman


Although not everyone’s attention is on the camera, the picture is still a great family portrait. In this case, I think it actually adds an interesting depth to the photograph.


2 responses to “Experiences: Family Portraiture

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