How to pose large families

I love photographing large families! It is really amazing to see how the whole family can come together and spend some time getting their portraits taken.

It can also seem like a real challenge posing big families. But I have the best trick for you that you can apply to any family or group posing, not just large families. I use this all the time and don’t eve realize I do it anymore.

It’s called…

Triangle posing

Okay, so what the heck is triangle posing? It is using the shape of a triangle, either upright or upside down, elongated or short, doesn’t matter, as long as the heads of your clients form a triangle.

This triangle ensures that everyone in the photo can be seen, which is especially important for large families and groups.

It also means that when you’re posing children, you can pose them in front to create both layers and triangles so they’re not hidden or have to be lined up with the rest of the family.

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Creating these layers are great when you do have to line up the group so that there is more interesting depth to the photo, and not just a straight line of people. Which is what bridal party photos tend to look like, ha!

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This simple and easy way to pose large families will make it so the photo has some depth, interesting highs and lows among the people in the portrait.

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Grouping smaller families together

In large families, there tends to be the main people who gave way to such a beautiful and large family! Usually grandpa or grandpa, mama and daddy.

I like to place them in the middle so that they are the focal point and obviously the whole reason for this family to even exist in the first place!

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From there I try and group the individual families together on either side. Spouses and children stick together so that each individual family is together and forms part of the larger family portrait.

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Sometimes, it’s fun to just have everyone mixed in however they want, but try and keep in mind to group each family together for the formal portrait.

Natural posing

You’ll hear me talk a lot about Natural Posing. I’m not sure if this is an actual official term, I’d like to think I made it up! But either way it means just that: natural.

Natural posing can mean allowing your clients to just enjoy their time at the beach, park, or where ever you have chosen the location of your session.

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It can mean giving them a task like holding hands and walking while enjoying the sand between their toes. Or building sand castles together. Or perhaps a cute hug sesh between all members.

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Then, you the photographer, move a little further from the scene to document how it unfolds. Get experimental, get close, choose a different lens, and if you need to, ask your clients to hold the pose or do the same task again until you feel you got the shot.

This type of posing is really good for relaxing nerves, both for you and your clients. Trust me, even after 10 years of photograph people, I still get nervous.

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Natural posing let’s the session feel a little more relaxed and light rather than pose, pose, pose, and more posing. Which let’s be real, can get a little stiff and boring after a while, especially for little ones.

Shoot the individual families too

Even if my client only wanted a large family portrait, I always take a few of the smaller family units so that they too can have their own individual portrait.

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You don’t have to do a full on session for each family, just take a few group shots and then perhaps a couple of the children alone.

This also adds variety for your clients and can help you get some more orders in for individual prints, gift prints, holiday cards, etc. Instead of only giving grandma and grandpa a large portrait only of everyone.

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Plus, who doesn’t love photos of the children as well!

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Ok! That wraps up todays installment of Photographer Friday! A little short but I hope it was helpful and don’t forget to use the triangle post for interesting layering and making sure everyone is in the shot!

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Tips on focusing and how to take sharp images

Happy Friday friends!

Got a request to talk about how I focus my photos and I’ll breakdown my own version of how I do that. Not all photographers are the same an I’d love to hear different techniques to how you focus your photos. This isn’t a tutorial per-se but just about how I do things.

Alright, let’s get into it!


Here the center AF point is in her right eye. From there I focus and recompose.

Here the center AF point is in her right eye. From there I focus and recompose.

AUTO FOCUS

I use autofocus for all of my focusing. All of my lenses are on auto focus and it just is fast and easy. When I feel like my lens isn’t focusing as fast, I’ll switch it to manual.

But it’s super rare. I’d do it only if I can for sure get the focus right. It’s hard to make sure through the viewfinder.

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Also, I might put it in manual if I’m using the LCD screen to shoot something, but that’s hardly ever the case. I just use the viewfinder because I’m old school and habits are hard to break lol. Plus, I think it’s faster because the LCD screen shooting takes for ever, anyone got tips on how to make that focus faster?

METERING

I might get some gripe about metering but I mostly just leave it how the camera had it from the start. It’s in evaluative metering, mostly because I want to make sure that the metering is assessing the scene.

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Plus, since I shoot 90% in manual, I have full control of what I want to be lit, how I want it to be lit, and adjust my settings accordingly and so I don’t need the camera to meter for me.

Perhaps if I was doing more landscape or wildlife or nighttime photography I could see how other types of metering might come in handy.

AF POINT

I started on Canon back in 2006. Digital was still pretty new, however, focusing hasn’t always been the best feature on Canons, ha! Anyone who shoots with Canon can attest to that for sure, however, I learned pretty early on, with only 9 points, that the center AF point was the best for Canon.

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Rarely do I ever shift the focal point or move it away from center. Only if my camera is on tripod and I have an aperture like f/8 or higher and can be sure that my scene will have lots of depth of field in focus do I change the AF point.

Here I most likely put the center AF point on the mom’s left eye. From there, the focus is distributed.

Here I most likely put the center AF point on the mom’s left eye. From there, the focus is distributed.

I am pretty certain that even though I upgraded to the 6D, the center AF point continues to be the sharpest focal point.

FOCUS ON THE EYES

I photograph lots of portraits. Some are individuals, groups, large families, small families, wiggly children, any and all people!

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In order to get the best focus, I focus on the inside eye of the person in the center. Sometimes I’ll alternate on the eye just to make sure I have enough if I wanted to stack the focusing in post later.

When it’s just one person, focusing on the eye closet to the camera tends to work the best. I make sure to get a few frames of the same pose and same eye before switching the pose or focus onto another part of the body.

APERTURE

You can not talk about focusing without talking about aperture. Because aperture effects depth of field, you have to make sure that you’re using the correct aperture to begin with.

Aperture for this image is f/9.0.

Aperture for this image is f/9.0.

Might surprise many but I hardly ever shoot wide open. Unless it’s a detail shot, or for a specific reason. Most of my portraits are at f/2.8 or more. And very rarely are they at f/2.8 to begin with.

Aperture for this image is f/10.

Aperture for this image is f/10.

This is because I want to make sure that I have the face in focus. For that to happen, either the face has to be square to the camera, which isn’t a flattering pose for many people, or I have to have an aperture at at least f/4.0.

Aperture for this image is f/4.0.

Aperture for this image is f/4.0.

I’ve also learned, higher F numbers are sweet spots too. More in focus means more detail. Especially when we’re dealing with large families or wiggly children.

Aperture for this image is f/6.3.

Aperture for this image is f/6.3.

You get more in focus and this helps to get more people in focus both in depth and from the center out. When i have shot more open, I’ve regretted it because I can see that I get less in focus and it’s so disheartening when this happens, especially with big groups.

FOCUS AND RECOMPOSE

Okay, this might sound weird and super old school, but it’s how I do things and it’s usually the best way I’ve gotten my focusing down.

I focus on her eye with the center AF point and then recompose the composition so that their faces are in the upper right hand corner of the frame, not center. All while keeping my finger half way down on the shutter button. Takes practice to get it right each time and sometimes it’s off, which is why it’s good to get a few frames of each pose/expression.

I focus on her eye with the center AF point and then recompose the composition so that their faces are in the upper right hand corner of the frame, not center. All while keeping my finger half way down on the shutter button. Takes practice to get it right each time and sometimes it’s off, which is why it’s good to get a few frames of each pose/expression.

I am really selective when photographing anything or anyone. I make sure to take the photo after being certain that’s what I want. Which means, I never shoot in burst mode. I don’t shoot 50 photos of the same thing. Too much time in editing and finding the final images in 50 identical images, no thank you.

Which means, I don’t shoot as much in terms of frames. I average about 150 images per hour, which isn’t a lot especially for weddings. But I make sure that each photo I take, it’s what I want to take. And then I’ll take about 5-10 until I feel sure I have the shot.

You can see how many of each pose I shoot before changing it up or moving on. I’m super selective and therefore I take my time focusing, choosing my settings, and making sure I can get the shot. I also allow for natural posing after I get my sure shots.

You can see how many of each pose I shoot before changing it up or moving on. I’m super selective and therefore I take my time focusing, choosing my settings, and making sure I can get the shot. I also allow for natural posing after I get my sure shots.

So what is compose, focus, and recompose? It is where I compose the shot, make sure to focus with the center af point on say, the eyes, and then recompose the composition of the photo to how I want it to look in terms of rule of thirds without letting go of the focus.

For these you might wonder how I focus quickly. I don’t. I have my clients walk slow and enjoy the walk! Or sometimes I’ll have them take two or three steps and then freeze. Looks like they’re moving, but they’re not. Wind also helps create this effect on beaches ;).

For these you might wonder how I focus quickly. I don’t. I have my clients walk slow and enjoy the walk! Or sometimes I’ll have them take two or three steps and then freeze. Looks like they’re moving, but they’re not. Wind also helps create this effect on beaches ;).

I am careful to move only in the x and y axis of my focus. Which means that once I focus, I can only move directly up or down, or side to side. If I move forward or backward, I’d have to refocus and recompose because the original focus would be off.

Seems like a lot of work and it’s really not. It’s just because I got used to Canon having the center AF point being the strongest and sharpest, I had to do it this way. Since my Rebel days.

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I have tried back button focusing, which locks focus so you don’t have to keep your finger on the shutter to hold the focus, but i feel like I don’t have full control over the focus. So I stopped doing that.

I may refocus more than most photographers just to make sure but this is what works for me.

AI SERVO / AI FOCUS

Given some circumstances, I’ll use those two focusing modes but only if there is a lot of movement or I’m moving a lot.

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I don’t normally like using these because it can throw my composition off and I like having my photos as close to the final image that I can and so composition is so second hand to me that if I were to use these, leave my focus in the center, most of the compositions would be centered.

And truthfully? I haven’t mastered these metering modes to work for me and so I do what I know and focus how it’s worked for me in the past.

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Because I tend to direct and pose a lot in my photography, I don’t need these all too much. Perhaps for walking down the aisle they work best.

Or children who move too much. Personally, refocusing and recomposing has worked for me. However, I should practice these two just to get them down in case I need them.


That’s it friends! That’s how I focus and what I use and just like any other photographer out there, I’m constantly learning too! Even after 12 years because there are always new things to learn. That’s what makes photography so interesting!

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Photographing Teens

It’s not a surprise that teens are a the forefront of most selfies. They are getting an understanding of who they are as a somewhat adult but still child.

Self awareness is huge for teens and most already know what they like and don’t dislike and unlike my generation, are more forward in telling you exactly what that is unapologetically.

Teens are also one of the most self aware clients and therefore can sometimes feel a bit self conscious and uncomfortable in front of a stranger that mom and dad paid to photograph them.

So here are my tips for having a great experience with teens!


PRE CONSULTATIONS

I can not stress how important it is for you to have a conversation with your client before any type of session actually takes place. This can be via email, FaceTime, or better yet, in person!

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Ask them what the session is for, why they wanted to hire you, what they need after the session or if the session is with other teens or family.

Also, if you can, get some time with the teen alone, always with mom or dad near by, and talk to them about THEM. Ask them if they’ve had professional photos taken before, what do they want out of the session. If the teen goes mute, which can sometimes happen if they’re around say 14 years old, just keep asking the questions in a light hearted manner.

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Don’t dwell or force them to answer anything they’re unsure of. Teens are unsure of many things. If you can spark up a conversation about you like or perhaps ask them to create a vision board and text it to you.

Giving the teen some say about their own session gives them the authority to dictate what they like, what they don’t and be the creative directors of their own shoot.

Trust me, having their input will help you create images that they’ll love and ultimately get bought, shared, and even mom will enjoy that you got them onboard.

PLAYLISTS / MUSIC

Have music playing. If it’s in studio, on location, or anywhere, create a playlist and even offer the teen to add songs to it if they wish during the session.

You can also bring a small portable speaker and have them connect their phone to it so that their favorite music is playing.

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Music can create an experience unique to the teen and help them feel more comfortable in front of your lens and during the whole session as well.

Music also fills in awkward silent gaps because let’s face it, we’re focused on creating amazing images for them and sometimes, the convo can get a little stale. Music helps to fill in that blank and keep the momentum going even when you’re not talking about anything in particular.

WARDROBE AND STYLING

Teens have some really great style, however sometimes they can use a little help in that department, and we’re not talking about mom or dad.

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Have an add on your packages for styling services with a local hair and makeup person, or you can do a quick inspiration board before the session with all the looks that the teen likes from pinterest or social media.

Creating a cohesive look and getting the wardrobe and styling down before the session can also bring confidence levels up. When you feel and look good, it shows! And teens will like having this confidence boost.

DON’T FORCE IT

Okay, we’ve all been there. Photographing someone and most likely it’s mom who’s begging the children to smile, say cheese, have fun, or otherwise force the child/teen to do something they want.

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It’s best to give the parent a little pep talk, sans teen, and reassure them that the teen is gonna knock this out of the park and that having them just enjoy the experience is much more important.

Let them also know that it’s a rule that if the teen doesn’t smile, we’re not gonna force it. Because sometimes they don’t want to. Sometimes, you’ll get a huge authentic chuckle after the nerves have calmed down.

You might even get them to dance to the music they put on. Just give them some space and time and their personality will shine. There is no need to force it.

GIVE HOVERING PARENTS A JOB

And if the parent is hovering, give them a job to do! I’m a mom, I would totally hover and make sure the session I’m paying for goes how I want. Because I know my kid and I know their real smile versus their fake one, I know what gets them happy and I can always hear their laugh in my head.

But let’s get real, as photographers, that’s super annoying and keeps us from doing our job. And it’ll make the teen never want another session again because of mom or dad.

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My solution to this is to give the parent something to do, hold, or find. This gives them something to do rather than just watch the session. They are actively participating and busy hands don’t have time to hover over the busy photographer.

Even better if the parent is comfortable with going for a quick coffee run or lunch run. That gets them totally out of the room and lets the teen just relax.


What are your tips for sessions with teens? These tips are here to help you at your next session because we want our clients to have the BEST EXPERIENCE POSSIBLE which will let you create amazing photos for them, their parents, family, and everyone!

Until next Friday friends! Oh, and let me know what you’d like to see for future posts!


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