So, you’ve decided to do a family shoot and you’ve been looking through the trawls of beautiful images on the web and you can’t quite decide on whether to do an outdoor location shoot or a studio shoot. In reality, both types of shoots have their own style and so I guess the answer to this comes down to what you’re hoping to get out of the images - are you wanting wall art, an album, gifts for the grandparents - it could be a newborn shoot or a shoot with your young children. There will be a few deciding factors you’ll need to consider before you make the decision. Because I am a natural light photographer primarily, I have 8 years of experience shooting on location, this is what I know best. I don’t have my own studio and so location shoots work really well for me because I love being outdoors and think that there’s nothing better than documenting a family having fun with each other against an epic background. That said, the unreliable weather in the UK sometimes makes it difficult for me and there is a lot of rescheduling shoots due to rain. I do hope to have my own studio by the end of 2018 so that I can focus more on newborns and portraits in a controlled environment.
How soon do I want the shoot?
How soon do I need the images. It could be a last minute decision to get some pre-Christmas portraits of your little ones which would make incredible gifts for the family. Depending on the age of your little ones, November/December is generally cold and an outdoor location shoot might not be the best idea if your little ones are very young. Newborn shoots are always done indoors or in a studio so that the environment can be kept warm! This is sometimes the better option for young children too.
The bitter cold weather usually leaves little fingers and little noses quite exposed and red (which don’t get me wrong, is incredibly cute!) but this generally only gives you a good 20-30 minutes outdoors before the little ones are no longer happy with being out in the cold. I have been fortunate enough to have young families out in the cold with me for up to an hour but this is never guaranteed and so, if you have little ones and you’re wanting a shoot in the colder months - you’ll probably be better off with a family shoot at your house, or a studio shoot. It’s always best to plan ahead for family photos as this will also give you a larger choice of which photographer you’ll be able to book, and the availability he/she might have.
What location do I choose?
The trend right now, which i’ve seen all over Instagram is ‘home shoots’. You and your partner, or your family doing the day-to-day in the comfort of your home whilst a photographer takes candid, documentary style photos whilst you go through your usual routine. You could be baking, reading a story together on the sofa or even having a bath (this is usually very tastefully done, and usually at the request of the client only).
Depending on where you live, other options for location shoots could be your favourite coffee shop, those cliffs over at the beach where your partner proposed to you all those years ago, it could be a place sentimental to your family or even the local park. When considering a location for a family shoot, it’s always worthwhile thinking ‘’what will the kids have to do whilst we’re there’’. I always ask my clients to bring a few activities with, buckets and spades for the beach, bubbles for the forest etc. A playground is also good as children aren’t really interested in sitting or standing still and smiling - why should they be? Children are also always photographed best when they’re doing what they do best - being children and having fun! I love capturing my families interacting with each other, having fun with each other. I try not to pose too much (of course we’ll do the obligatory group shots) but I see the trend moving further away from this and the emphasis really being more on documenting the real, raw moments.
The ‘Golden Hour’
What time is best to have my shoot if we’ve decided on an outdoor location? This is a good question! The hour before sunset is the most magical time for an outdoor shoot because the sun is lowest in the sky, there’ll be no harsh shadows causing you to squint and the light is golden and really magical. In the spring, this is easy because sunset is usually around 5:30/5:45 or even up to 6pm (this is easy for families). During the summer, it is warmer of course but the sun sets late - up to 10pm - and for families with young children this might not be an option. If this is the case, often the forest works well or somewhere with a bit of shade. I’ve never really liked the look of flash photography and so I don’t tend to use flash at all on location shoots. Always be sure to discuss the time of day with your photographer to make sure that they’re confident shooting at the time of day that works best for you.
What should we wear?
I love this question! I also love helping my clients customise their session by assisting them with the styling. Some clients know exactly what they want from their session, e.g wall art for the living room, they know where they want to hang the images from the shoot and what sort of colours will go well in that particular room. This is how you should dress. Don’t forget that you also need to be comfortable, and should there be a chance of rain don’t forget to bring wellies and raincoats! Always try to choose a colour scheme with a variation of 3 or 4 colours and stick within that (for larger groups). I love pastels for ‘mommy & me’ sessions, nautical colours for families or little boys and neutral tones like beige, cream and tan for forests or locations where there is a lot of greenery. Pastels always work beautifully for the beach! Try steer clear of busy prints or bold logos, if you can help it!
Katherine is a lifestyle photographer based in Devon and Dorset, specialising in children, families and weddings - her work can be seen here: www.katherinenewmanphotography.com