Why Every Pro Photographer Should Consider Family Portraits

Every year, between November and the end of January, our mailbox is stuffed with dozens of cards sent from people we may or may not know. You probably get them too. Usually a 4×6 inch glossy postcard with a family portrait with some sort of seasonal greeting plastered across it. All of these cards effectively have the same family portrait on them and the quality varies a lot. Some are taken at arms length in selfie-mode, others had a timer set up in front of the couch or fireplace, maybe one family figured out how to run their family portrait photograph through VSCO

What was interesting to notice is how after most of these families saw the one card with the family portrait photography that was shot by a professional, the next year it is obvious how many other families make the jump to hiring a professional portrait photographer – some of them even using the same photographer! It goes to show that with the right amount of planning and forethought, taking on family portrait photography as a line of business can be lucrative for you for decades.

Keep it pro and be amazing, these networks are endless.

Developing an eye for family portraiture can be a personally, and lucratively, rewarding experience if you are willing to put the right kind of effort into your craft. Getting connected to the right communities could mean an endless list of client leads. Parent-Teacher associations, church groups, school fairs, neighborhood meetings and parenting groups are all full of people who would potentially want great looking portrait photos of their families to show off to their friends and families.

Imagine having a new shoot with your entire client book every single year. Or for each of the kid’s birthdays. Or whenever extended family moves in and out of the picture, graduations, or the eventual weddings. Not many industries these days offer that kind of reliable clientele. If you’re developing your photography practice for the long-haul, it would be worth your while to start building a client book around shooting family portraits.

Family selfie

However, the jump can be difficult if you are coming from another discipline. Used to shooting just food or products? Now you have to deal with personalities. Just coming from shooting models or doing individual portrait photography? Now you have three, four, or ten models and all of their corresponding personalities to deal with at once.

Here’s a few things to keep in mind when approaching your first potential families.

  1. Managing Expectations

The best way to create tension with a client is to deliver something completely different than what the client had in their mind. Solution? Simply take the time to have the conversation of what they would like their portraits to look like. Ask more questions than you think could ever be necessary. How many prints are they ultimately looking to have? Do they want any individual portraits of their family? Is this portrait shoot for any particular reason – like a holiday card or something to send to extended family? The more information you are able to arm yourself with up front the better you can prepare for the actual photo shoot. You will appear more professional and put together, they will be more excited and give off a great energy for you to capture, and a happy client is more likely to speak positively.

  1. Learn to Work With Everyone.

The late, great comic Mitch Hedberg had this observation “we’ve all seen the family photo on top of the VCR where everyone is looking slightly to the left. The camera is right in front of you. But something happened slightly to the left that made everyone happy! The only one looking right at the camera is that one aunt with the lazy eye. She was right on!”

Point being: when shooting with groups or families, your job is to essentially take numerous individual portraits and blend them into a hybrid group shot that is the family portrait. Listen to what the individuals are telling you – with words or body language – and work that into the shoot. It may take a while to get to a place where everyone is comfortable.

  1. Be amazing with kids of all ages.

When it comes to kids, you’re the new adult. In most cases children are more open to instruction from other adults than they might be with their parents. After all, why would they suddenly start saying “yes’ to the parents they first learned to say “no” to long ago.

When it comes to family portraits, the children in them can make or break the mood and energy. We have all likely seen the big group portrait hanging on a wall somewhere where the whole family is present but it is the children’s faces that are directing all of the attitude in the photo. Mom will never hate these kinds of pictures. Go for those.

  1. Think in themes.

This goes back to managing those expectations. Is this a family portrait for the holiday season? Are these going out as mailers to friends and family? Will this hang up in someone’s office or main entryway to their home?

Family cooking together in the morning

What did their family portrait look like last year? Is there a complimentary color pallet you can strive for or a different pattern in the clothing? Same location? Same idea of the location in a different place? As it was mentioned in the first point, this is a great opportunity to develop a consistent base of business within the family

Any small business owner can easily get stuck in the mindset of focusing on what is in front of them right then and there. But in order to ensure success with developing a family portrait business it is essential to think years down the road with whomever happens to be in front of your camera right then and there.

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6 Landscape Photography Tips to Instantly Improve Your Photos

Whether you’re an amateur photographer wanting to up their travel photo skills or an aspiring landscape photographer, for everyone wishing to take their landscape photos to the next level: these tips are for you.

Starry night

  1. Shoot at the right time

The right conditions to make a perfect environment for a great shot don’t occur all the time. Make sure you plan the time you go out, preferably sticking to early morning and late afternoon, to catch the sun at the best places and see your landscapes bathed in that golden light. Avoid the middle of the day, as the sun will be high in the sky giving your landscapes a harsh, flat look. However, on rainy or cloudy days you’re in luck: you can now stay out shooting the entire day, as the sun is not there to make any changes in your light! So arm yourself with a good jacket and umbrella, and look for those weather conditions that seem far from ideal at first sight but are actually perfect for landscape photography.

Alberta wilderness near Banff

  1. Find the right light

This goes a bit further than being in the right place at the right time. If you’re there in the early hours of the morning, your tripod all set up ready to start shooting away as soon as the sun rises, chances are you’ll run out of storage space and/or battery before the sun is even fully on the horizon. Don’t just klick away blindly as soon as the sun makes the mountains look nice. Instead, find more interesting ways to show that beautiful morning sunlight hitting your landscape. Wait for a single ray of sun to hit one particular mountain through a hole in the clouds, or capture the contrast between the dark night sky and subtle colors starting to occur on the horizon. Be creative, find the light, and work with it.

misty forest

  1. Use long exposure modes and low ISO’s

Assuming we´ve all moved past the automated landscape setting that is available on some cameras, let´s have a look at the ideal settings for landscape photography. First and foremost, do not put your ISO up. Since you´ll be using a tripod 99% of the time you´re shooting landscape, you can easily use a longer exposure time in low-light conditions to correctly expose your image.  Using higher ISO’s will cost you in dynamic range, meaning you’ll lose the details in your shadows and highlights, and make your image noisier and less suitable for large prints. Another reason landscape photographers use long exposures, is to get that silky water and stretched clouds effect. Since a longer exposure will mean your camera’s shutter curtains will be open for a longer period of time, the camera will capture the cloud in the first position, then a little bit to the right, then a little bit more, etc. This gives your image that dreamy, fairy tale-like effect and really transport anyone looking at the picture to the feeling you had when standing out there in the real thing.

Goðafoss waterfall in summer River Skjálfandafljót, Iceland, long exposure

  1. Take your time

When you go out to shoot, make sure you take your time. Not only to enjoy being out in nature doing what you love, but also to learn. You can learn an awful lot just by sticking around and seeing how the light changes, for example. Even if you’ve already managed to get the shot you wanted, see what happens when you take the shot an hour later under different conditions. Or change your angle a few times to see what that does to your composition, maybe walk to a different vantage point to see the place from a new perspective. There’s an infinite amount of photo’s out there, try to find as many as possible.

Misty summer mountain hills landscape.

  1. Learn to see

Before gluing your eye to the viewfinder, look around at what’s in front of (and behind) you. Pay attention to little details, like a reflection in the water or an oddly shaped tree, or take a step further back than you normally would and soak up the whole scene. Train you eye to see the picture, then get behind the camera and shoot it. This will be a lot more helpful to improving your skill than just blindly clicking away, and it will save you a lot of time sorting to the hundreds of pictures later…

Vermilion Lakes Mount Rundle

  1. Practice

People don’t expect to learn how to play a violin within a week, yet people are frustrated when their pictures aren’t amazing after the first week of shooting…

Professional on cliff. Nature photographer takes photos with mirror camera

Take your time to learn this new skill, and then when you think you know everything, learn some more. Keep looking around at other landscape photographers, stay open to feedback, and above all: keep practicing. After a while you’ll get some good shots in there, and after years of practice you’ll be able to shoot consistently great landscape images.  Be patient, all your efforts will pay off in the end!

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Newborn Photography Tricks That You Wish You Knew Sooner

Every type of photography has its own value but newborn photography stands in a league of its own. It’s no mystery to anyone why certain personal photographs become priceless as time passes and newborn photography takes the cake in this sense. After all, you might not be a parent yet and fully understand what it means to have professional baby portraits of your newborn, but your mom certainly remembers yours, much to your embarrassment when she shows them off in public.

Newborn sleeping in blanket

Regardless if it’s a skill you want to develop for personal reasons or if you want to grow a small business, newborn photography has its set of unique challenges, but this checklist is something to bookmark for future reference because it will be of great help when doing baby photo shoots. So here are 7 awesome tips that will greatly improve your newborn photography portfolio.

Use natural light

While not all photography genres work well with natural lighting, newborn photography certainly does. There are several reasons why you should use natural light, but we’ll just name three of them. The look of baby photos has to be natural. Authenticity is what you should be going for instead of the “commercial”, studio lighting look that will probably be replaced a few years down the road. The second reason is that flash can startle the little ones and that’s the last thing you want during your baby photo shoot. Lastly, it can take away the spontaneity of the moment when you’re photographing the entire family. Again, remember authenticity.

Be patient

If patience is not on your virtue list, perhaps newborn photography isn’t for you. Unlike any other type of models, with the admitted exception of pets, babies will have you working on their terms, not yours. They really don’t care how much you charge or that the light is slowly fading. If it’s feeding time, it’s the end of the story, at least temporarily. Have lots of patience and schedule the photo-shoot wisely.

Do it in the first 14 days

Infants sleep a lot during their first two weeks in the world and it’s a lot easier to pose them because they don’t really care about what’s going on around. Their skin is also cleaner during this time, as many tend to develop newborn acne, which can be a pain to remove in post.

Go for the details

Many aspiring photographers tend to focus solely on facial expressions. While it’s obvious those shots are the core of the work, newborn photography is also a lot about the details.

Newborn Baby Holding Mothers Hand

The tiny hands and feet, the crying, the yawning, everything will look so cute for a very limited period of time.

Home vs. studio

If you have a studio for your newborn photography business, that’s great. But how about some variety? For environmental baby portraits, not to mention business overall, variety is your best friend. Each home is different so try to plan at least some of your baby photo shoots at the client’s home.

Mother and daughter hugging

Create a slideshow

This can be a great way to boost sales and get the name of your newborn photography business out there. After completing the shoot and the final images, create a slideshow with a funny baby music soundtrack. The parents will love it, especially because it will be much easier to share with loved ones.

Be vigilant

As mentioned earlier, infants are mostly unpredictable. It’s impossible to anticipate what will shift their mood from totally cooperative to crying like they’re out to make you def. Never let your guard down with the little guys and always be prepared for a mood swing that can bring you that once in a lifetime shot.

Be sure to return to this checklist every now and then, or better yet try to memorize it. It’s easy to feel like you’re completely out of control when you’re less used to doing baby photo shoots, but if you apply these tricks, everything will be much easier.
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