1. The most important preparation step is to thoroughly check your camera before arriving at the session site. Make sure the battery is fully charged, adjust your settings, and remove dust and dirt from lenses. Portrait camera settings typically call for a low ISO setting so the image has minimal grain (noise). Improving technology and post-processing software enables a photographer to push to higher ISO settings, if necessary, but most photographers will strive for the lowest ISO setting possible.
The aperture setting needs to be sufficient to keep the entire group in focus, however, it may not be appropriate to have the background in focus. If you are shooting in natural light or day time conditions, you may need a faster than typical shutter speed if there are “active” children in the family. In a studio setting, the speed of the strobe lights will typically be faster than your shutter speed, so the lights will control exposure duration. Visiting the shooting location and meeting the family ahead of time helps to make these decisions prior to the shoot, thereby reducing stress the day of the session.
2. Many clients want direction from a photographer on what clothes to wear. A simple handout with tips from the photographer is a great way of efficiently providing guidance. Be sure to talk about the most important points.
3. Think triangles. When posing groups, it is generally pleasing to arrange people into smaller sub-groups, with each smaller group placed so the heads form a visual triangle. This is done by having some people sit, others stand, and sometimes everything in between.
4. Let the group know you are in control, but be open to suggestions from family members. Get the shot the way you want it, but try an alternative version the way they request. The client may only want to buy the prints posed they way they wanted. Alternatively, they may see why it is best to have a professional take the lead in family portrait posing.
5. Include a few crazy, fun shots. Let them make faces, pile up on the ground, jump up and down, etc. Candid moments are sometimes the best sellers.
For more information about the photography of Rod Arroyo and Portraits by Rod, visit http://www.portraitsbyrod.com or become a fan of our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/PortraitsByRod. Rod is a portrait photographer in Birmingham, Michigan, and he serves the greater Detroit area as well as southern Michigan and northern Ohio.