Saturday, April 13, 2013

Hanging the Family Photo

Anyone who has gone through the ordeal of family photos with little kids knows what a chaotic event that can be. They want to run around, throw rocks, pick on their siblings, untuck their shirt, look anywhere but the camera, etc. For the most part they just don't do "sit and look at the camera". Then that gets mom stressed out because she wants nice pictures. Dad gets grumpy because he doesn't want to be there anyway and this is now taking longer. Then the kids pick up on the rising tension and they get more goofy, and the cycle spirals on and on. Unfortunately, I think that can be a common experience for families.  

Luckily, photography styles and fads these days are making it a little easier on everyone during family photos. Getting out of the studio, just relaxing, and getting "lifestyle" portraits has really come into photography vogue. More and more people are going for the "this is us" photo rather than the uber posed photo with cheesy smiles. One such photo that has taken Pinterest by storm is this one:

The Original Pin
The kids are happy, Dad gets to kiss his pretty wife, and Mom gets a fun family photo. Win-win-win! I've seen this replicated in a number of ways with varying degrees of success. I've had clients show this to me and ask to try it, and I've had varying degrees of success. This week we had a family send us in their Photo Fiasco based off of the above photo. Here was their outcome:

The Pinstrosity

Bahahaha, I love it.  It's not what they had in mind, but it's still funny. 

A few things can be done when trying to mimic the original to help have a higher rate of success. 

1. First things first, the picture will work way better if the orientation is portrait and not landscape. Even if the child's head wasn't cut off, there is still a lot of background space distracting from the family. As this is a busy pose anyway, you want to focus in on the family and have fewer distractions in the background/setting. 
2. Don't tell the kids what you're doing before hand. You'll get much better smiles/squeals if you flip them upside down at the last minute. 
3. Know your children. If being held upside down will freak them out...don't do it (unless you want the terrified eyes or the crying face in your photo). 
4. In the original photo you'll notice that the girl, the older of the two children, is not being held upside down by her legs, the mom is holding the girl on her hip and leaning her over backwards. This is much easier for those older children who are just growing too much for mom or dad to be able to hold them upside down for long. And this means that the kids' heads will be closer to the same level. 
5. Mom and Dad don't often know what to do in photos. This pose is very dynamic and fun for the kids, but parents often don't know what to do once the kids are upside down. Kiss. Laugh. Tickle the kids. Look at each other. It'll make it less awkward and the family interaction will really help seal the photo. 
6. If it doesn't work, don't freak out. Not every pose fits every family. There are some families that this just doesn't fit. Parents, just play with your kids. You'll loosen up and enjoy the shoot more. Your kids will be much happier and more cooperative, and the photos will come out looking like your family and not the family that already came in the frame.  If you kid likes to be spun rather than flipped upside down, do that. Play ring around the rosy. Hold hands and skip. Hide and seek. Have a race. Throw rocks in the water. There are a lot of ways to liven up a shoot and to get personality in it. Photographers, don't stop shooting just because it's not an official pose. Grab some of those moments where the family is interacting.  Each family will be different...some are more reserved and others are all out...but get a family interacting and things will generally be more smooth during the shoot. 

I do photography as a hobby (I am by no means a professional and I don't have any plans to go big time with photography) and I try to use these tips when I am working with families. I love to see them enjoying their time together and just being happy. I know some of my favorite photos from family sessions are the ones where the family is playing and interacting and just being themselves. They may not be the most technically correct photos, but they show the family as they really are. Perhaps that's just my style and preferences, but there's my take on it.


  1. It takes a special eye to be a photographer and the ones you took are perfect. I love the one of the dad holding hid daughers hands while it looks as though he is playing some game with them. Beautiful! You don't even need to see the dad's face

  2. Is it just me? I don't mind the idea of this, but in my head, a family portrait should not contain jeans. Slacks, a suit, skirts/ dresses... If you're worried about a panty flash as your little one flies around in circles, you should have rhumba pants for her. I'm too young to be this much of an old fart.

    1. I guess it all just depends on personal taste. For some families slacks/suits/skirts just would look way way way out of place. For some it fits really well. Some families want less of a formal portrait and more of a shot of what their life is really like. It all depends on your preferences, your decorating style, and your lifestyle I suppose.

  3. I really like your philosophy on pictures. My neighbor does photography for a hobby, looking to perhaps go professional. She did portraits for my boys recently, and she had a really hard time letting go and taking candid shots. She has an idea in her head of what picture she wants, and gets frustrated if it doesn't work out.

  4. I love your pictures, Marquette, but have you thought of leveling the horizons? I find them distracting in all 4 of the ones you posted.

    1. I try to level my horizons now and pay attention to that. At the time of this post in April I thought tilting the horizon was "cool", but I've grown out of that phase more now.


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