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Taking a family portrait

From: Family and Group Portraiture

Video: Taking a family portrait

I've shown you how to pose singles and how to pose couples. But now we're going to do the most common kind of group portrait; the family portrait. So we've come to their house and found a great location in the backyard, and I think I hear them now. So let's get going. Natalie Fobes: So basically what we're going to do is I'm going to pose you two first always, and then we'll bring the kids in, because they have such a limited attention span at that age. I don't know if you've noticed that.

Taking a family portrait

I've shown you how to pose singles and how to pose couples. But now we're going to do the most common kind of group portrait; the family portrait. So we've come to their house and found a great location in the backyard, and I think I hear them now. So let's get going. Natalie Fobes: So basically what we're going to do is I'm going to pose you two first always, and then we'll bring the kids in, because they have such a limited attention span at that age. I don't know if you've noticed that.

Nicky: No no not at all. Natalie Fobes: (laughs) Not at all. So we'll do that, and then usually the portrait sessions last as long as the kids last. And if they are done in five minutes, as you know, there's no way of convincing them that they need to be there for ten. So we just work around their schedules. Nicky: Okay. Natalie Fobes: So are you guys ready? Matt: Oh yeah! Natalie Fobes: All right! Excellent! Okay, so I'm going to pose you first, because I think that moms always should have the special attention. Nicky: I like you. Natalie Fobes: (laughs) So go ahead and sit down on one hip.

It's called the mermaid position and so you can kind of figure out how that works. So Matt, now I'm going to have you come over and I'd like you to be behind her like this, kind of just down like this on this side. Once I have the parents set up and posed, they pretty much stayed in position and then I could concentrate only on the children. The children are really, they're the unknown in any family portrait situation, in that they move around, their attention span maybe a little shorter than I'd like or the parents would like.

You've just got to work with them. By setting the parents first and bringing the children in at the very end, then you're able to keep them engaged and with you in the portrait, as opposed to putting them in position first and hoping that they're going to have the patience to stay there while the parents have been posed. Natalie Fobes: And I'm going to put Logan standing right there. Is he still good at -- if you have your arm with him? Yeah.

So go ahead and have him turn towards you. In a family portrait situation with small children, it's really nice to have another set of hands or maybe even two so that they can control the children while you're getting the parents in position. You're getting them ready to go. I'm going to fuss with your hair a little bit, and Riley I want you to have your hand right here on your dad's, right there. There you go! And just -- I'm going to pull your hair back a little bit. There you go! Perfect! Okay so -- here you go! I'm going to do a one, two, three so you kind of know.

One, two, three! Okay now, Nicky, go ahead and tilt your head a little bit this way. Nicky: Okay Natalie Fobes: Yeah. And then smooth your hair back. There you go! Okay. One, two, three! Oops! I think we're going to do a little rearranging here. I think what I'll do is have, let's have him sit right on your lap, and with his legs off that way.

So often when you're photographing family portraits, you don't have the time to do the really nuanced posing. You may have noticed that once I sat Nicky and Matt in position, I pretty much left them alone and spent most of my energy on trying to get the kids in a position that was of a pleasing composition. Now Riley I'd like you to come and sit on your dad's leg right here. Do you see that? That's a special place for you. All right! Okay.

There you go! Okay. Matt: Should my head be on this side or -- Natalie Fobes: On that side, yeah. And I'm going to, if you don't mind, just pull this over. I worked with the triangles and I worked with staggering the heads so that the eyes were not on the same line. That creates a very static composition, and instead by staggering the faces up and down, then your eye starts traveling through the frame a little bit better.

All right! Now there you go! One, two, three! One, two, three! Riley! Nice! Okay, and one more. One, two, three! Okay, let's let the kids get up and play around a little bit right now. So will you guys come back in a bit? No matter if you're photographing adults or children, everybody likes having a little break.

Now with kids especially, they need a lot of breaks. They need to be able to go away and become kids and play and then come back in. Often if you just give them a couple minutes to be kids, you can bring them back in and get another a few poses out of them. Natalie Fobes: All right! Very nice! And then just lean back into him. Yeah, perfect! Exactly! So this is just a photograph for the two of you.

Another benefit for sending the children away so they could relax a little bit is that that gave me an opportunity to work just with Nicky and Matt. I always like to give my clients more than what they expect out of me. I want them to come away amazed at the additional photographs that I was able to create for them. So by working on different combinations, Matt and Nicky, and then Nicky and Logan, and then Matt and Riley, I was able to give them a lot of variety in the photographs that they'll be able to see when I get them up.

Natalie Fobes: So go ahead and tuck in as close as you possibly can. There you go! Nice! Okay. Are you ready, Riley? The other thing is that I always have a second camera off tripod, and if I see something happening, I can pick this camera up and head around to where I want to be. It's a lot easier to just take the camera as opposed to lifting up the tripod and moving it around.

In this case, I think it really worked to go to the back and photograph Logan from the back. He was obviously interested in something that was going on back there. So rather than fight that, I just went around and worked with it and I think that shot is going to work out pretty well. Natalie Fobes: There you go! Okay. So Matt, I'm going to have you here and I'm going to have you facing Nicky. Nicky: And should I grab -- Natalie Fobes: And I think Logan would be a good on your lap, yeah.

Now one thing that I think would look really great, Riley, is if I could have you stand over by your mom. Riley: No. Matt: No? Natalie Fobes: No? Nicky: Yes, you can. Matt: Just for the picture, and then you can come back on my lap. It was important to give myself as much flexibility as possible, because any time you work with a family with small children you don't know what is going to happen. In this case, we had children that were done with us, before I really wanted them to be done, but they held in there. Natalie Fobes: Riley, I don't see you.

I don't see you. There you are. Okay, go ahead and look this way. One, two, three! Riley! Oh, Dillon, can you come here and help me? Can you come over here? I know you guys are really good friends. Right here, come here. I need you to hold this for me. Yeah? I'm going to put it around your head first and then, and I want you right here so that Riley can see you right here. Yeah, that's it, and there's a little button that you push.

Okay, one, two, three! So Riley was being a little bit distracted by all of the activity around her. Her friend Dillon was here. And so she kept looking at Dillon and I noticed that. So I had Dillon come and stand right by my tripod so that she would look at least toward me instead of out of the frame. And that really helps a lot when you have something that you can get the kid to look at you. You might have noticed that I like to make hooting and hollering sounds.

Well, that's just a way of getting their attention. Any kind of sharp noise, kids will look towards you. I often use a little dog squeaky toy to squeeze so that at the very end of the portrait session I'll pull this thing out when I know the child is right on the edge, I'll pull this out and squeak it to get their attention. That works for about two pictures, but then it's on to the next thing to try to get their attention. I mean, it's all just thinking on your feet, dancing, yelling, screaming, jumping up and down, whatever it is to keep the attention of that child.

Natalie Fobes: Okay! One, two, three! Nice! Okay, Riley can you turn toward your dad and put both your hands on his leg? Riley: I will. Natalie Fobes: Yeah, and the other one too. There you go! Perfect! There we go! Nice, nice, nice! Excellent! Okay, Riley are you looking right at me? There you go! Normally after a photo shoot, I spend a few days editing and adjusting the photographs, and then I invite the couple back into my studio so that we can go over the photographs together.

This is great because then I can show them what it looks like in black and white or in sepia. I can do crops on the photographs, I can enlarge them, and really give them an idea of all of the possibilities in whatever print they would like. In this case, because they're so far away from Seattle, I'll put a web gallery online so that then they could go and look at the gallery and make their selections. After that, then I'll be able to do a little bit of retouching and then send them the finished prints.

Natalie Fobes: He is cute. Nicky: Thank you! He is yummy! Natalie Fobes: Well they did a great job, you guys, thank you! Matt: Yeah it went pretty well. Natalie Fobes: That was awesome! Nicky: Thank you very much! Natalie Fobes: Oh, you're welcome! You're welcome! This was a really fun family to shoot and I think we've got some nice pictures. From the start to finish. I mean by the time they walked out, I started taking pictures, I think it was about 20 minutes. That's very typical. If you have 20 minutes with kids that age, you're a very lucky photographer.

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Family and Group Portraiture

17 video lessons · 15663 viewers

Natalie Fobes
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