I don't use a studio for my family portrait sessions. Really, how often do you find yourself as a family in an artificial setting, artificially posing with forced smiles? Probably not that often and I'm guessing if you ever do, it's not that comfortable or fun. While there is a time, place and purpose for studio photography, I much prefer photographing families in a place they feel comfortable and with a minimum of forced posing.
Firstly, I give the choice of location to the family and step through some simple questions to help them decide. Do you prefer built form backgrounds, or nature? Is there a spot that you visit as a family often for fun? Do you have a theme in mind for your photos? What activities do you do as a family? It may turn out to be the local park, a museum, a farm, a local landmark or even the family home.
Next is to make sure the family and me as the photographer, are well prepared for the photo shoot. I'll send out a pre-session checklist and have a good chat with the client. The checklist covers what preference the client has for types of poses, style of photo, post processing, backgrounds, colors etc. as well as covering some key hints and tips for the photo shoot itself. With this information, I can get straight to the important 'must have' photos and clients will be prepared and hopefully, at ease!
During the session itself, my job is to encourage connection between the family members and myself as the photographer, then capture the wonderful moments that naturally ensue. There are a few set shots (these are normally done straight up if there are little ones involved!), but I find the best photos are the ones where I give a general theme and family just relaxes and gets into play mode! There are countless variations of 'un-posed' photographs. My aim is to choose the ones that work best for each individual family and mix them in with some more traditional portrait poses.
Here are some of my favourites from a couple of recent family portrait sessions: