Natural Light Photography – Part 2
Fall is approaching and this might be a good time to talk about how to handle an outdoor family session. This is a good tutorial for those with a limited amount of equipment. All you really need is a fairly good camera. It would also be nice if you have a couple of different, fast lenses at your disposal. Depending on where you live, you might even be able to rent those lenses at a surprisingly low day rate.
I’ll be adding a resource page soon, so keep an eye out.
I’ll be using a single family session I did last fall to illustrate some of my ideas.
A family is a complex and shifting dynamic. You’re dealing with individuals and the ‘group mind’ at the same time. Photographing families requires several key components on the part of the photographer:
- Keen observational skills
- Fast reflexes
- Good people skills
Did I mention it takes patience?
The bigger the family, the more of all the above will be required of you. Why bother? Because it’s fun, you’ll get some GREAT shots for your portfolio, you’ll meet some wonderful people and get to hang out with some super duper kids.
There are all sorts of places to photograph people outdoors. For this particular session, we chose Piedmont Park, right here in the heart of Midtown, Atlanta. I advise going on a pre-shoot, scouting excursion to any location you’re considering. You can figure out where the best angles and lighting are, and make note of anything to be avoided. You can also start to formulate a ‘game plan’, which is never a bad idea for a busy family.
On an earlier scouting expedition, I made note of the beautiful, old stonework at Piedmont Park and decided that would be a good place to start, before moving on to a fantastic old playground.
Kids will always be kids, so I just follow them around as they do their thing. I talk to them and listen to what they have to say. At first, most kids are a tad stilted, often stopping to ‘pose’ for me. However, they usually put it together fairly fast that I’m not really about the pose. That’s not to say I never make suggestions or help people arrange themselves into comfortable groups. But for the most part, with kids, I just like to let them go.
I always make suggestions for clothing before a shoot. This wonderful family came prepared with loads of clothing, hats, hoodies and accessories galore. Before we even got started, I couldn’t resist getting a shot of one of the boys. We weren’t even out of the parking lot yet and there were cars in the background. Who cares? This is that flexibility, fast reflexes and creativity I was just talking about. I simply post processed it to look a little dirty and gritty and voila! I’ll talk more about post processing in another post.
This family included mom, dad, grandmom and three children. That’s a big dynamic to work with. Lots of relationships going every which way. I always ask what the highest priority is, then shoot that first. If it’s a family shot, that’s usually a little more structured. Afterward, you can loosen it up and start breaking the family out into smaller groups and individuals. It’s much harder to rein everybody back in, than it is to start more formal and loosen it up as you go. When you’re dealing with multiple generations, remember to be sensitive to the physical limitations of those who are older.
Cooler weather is great to shoot in. All those great layered clothes and rosy cheeks.
Ask the kids if they have any ideas for the shoot. This often results in some of the most dynamic and funny shots in a session. All of the images below were suggestions of the children.
This family session was done on a bright, overcast day. I’ve stated before that it is really perfect lighting for skin tones.
If you would like to read more, check out these articles: