Photographers are expensive. This is true! A good one is expensive for a reason…they are good. A bad one is cheap for a reason…they are bad, your end product won’t be what you saw on their website, or they are brand new to the business. Now the last one isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is something you need to be prepared for. So if you come across a “cheapo” ask them why their prices are so much lower. If they scramble around your answer or the answer isn’t clear, there’s your answer.
That is not to say that an expensive photographer is great either. Make sure their “work” is actually their work. Ask for references. This is a great way to talk to former clients to see if they were satisfied & make sure you also ask for at least 1 professional reference from either another photographer or a legitimate business, especially if you are dropping major change for the pictures. One more step, ask them what mode they shoot in. If they say Auto, you might want to do some investigating or find another photographer all together. Not that auto is bad, but to me that means they don’t know their gear well enough or don’t have enough knowledge to know how to 100% control their camera. I would really recommend photographers who shoot 100% in manual mode.
Most people (myself included) can’t afford to have professional pictures taken on a whim. For my family, once a year will have to suffice. So what do you do in the meantime? Take your own. “But what if I want really good pictures?”. It is entirely possible to take good pictures of your family & even yourself with a little work & a few spare moments.
Infants, Toddlers, & Children (even animals):
It is possible to take good pictures of your children for those times in-between professional pictures. Make sure that your background is simple (this picture was taken in the front yard, with a little green space in the background) but don’t use a sheet, blanket, or any kind of unnatural backdrop because it will look forced & you risk it looking “portrait studio” gone wrong. Get in close to the subject, don’t let objects or things become the focus of the picture.
**Safety tip: At this point Elizabeth was 3 months old, she couldn’t sit up by herself, so what you can’t see is her parents are holding her upright just outside of the frame. Get in close so you can keep the baby safe but without sacrificing the integrity of the picture. She is also sitting on a blanket, on the grass, so that if she were to topple she would do so on a soft surface.
The two pictures below are great examples of how to take a good family shot yourself (although both of these were taken by me).
In the first picture, Sam & Jennifer are laying on their stomachs & Elizabeth is sitting up, supported by her mom. They are facing their light source (the sun had just gone down so I faced them into the sun, but you have to work VERY quickly once the sun sets). This made their faces bright, but without overexposing them or making them squint.
If they were taking this picture themselves, the best thing to do would be to get Jennifer & Elizabeth in place & Sam could get the camera settings right, set the timer, Focus, click & run into place. The great thing about pictures where no one is focused on the camera is it doesn’t matter if the baby/child/animal doesn’t focus on the camera either. Interaction is a lot easier than posing when it involves kids & you are doing it yourself. Sam gave Elizabeth a kiss & Jennifer is actually talking to her.
This picture is similar to the last in that you set, timer, focus, click, & run. Sam could do all those things & then sit down behind Jennifer. Jennifer is actually using her face as a brace to direct the placement of Elizabeth’s face.
**Safety tip: Make sure that the child is being held by ONE person, not jostled around between parents while trying to get in position. Due to how few seconds you have to get in place it could result in the child being hurt, dropped, or mishandled in the rush.
Family Photos- Posed:
The posed pictures like the two below are a good example of when to use a professional. While it is possible to get a really good “christmas card” (that’s what I like to call these type of pictures) picture yourself, be prepared to get a little frustrated & to have to take a lot of shots. But should you try, use the tips from the last two pictures & don’t expect a perfect result.
Also remember, the quality of the photos depends on the quality & capabilities of your camera & your capability to control it. That’s another reason professionals are expensive…they know their gear & how to make it do what they want it to do.
Doing all of these things will not insure professional quality pictures, but it will aid you in getting nicer family pictures. Remember there are a lot of tips, tricks, techniques, equipment, & in some cases software that help professionals achieve their standard.
**Session notes: this session was done at 4:30 pm, that gave us about an hour of light & 15 minutes of after sunset light. I took the majority of pictures outside because in my opinion, natural light is much more flattering than indoor or created light. After the photos were taken I use Lightroom to edit. My general editing flow is up the exposure or brightness -some pictures need a little of both, some don’t need either, lighten the shadows, up the blacks & contrast, & switch to black & white if necessary.