To My Fellow Family Photographers - You Are Not Missing Out
by Adrianne Shelton, Beatific Visions Photography - October 2020
I’ve been doing professional family photography for 5 years now, and I’ve gone through all the stages of finding my style –
And finally – Intention.
I didn’t set out to make these all start with “I,” but it was a happy coincidence. So let me explain-
In fall 2015 I put my first vulnerable social media post out there: “Who would be interested in fall mini sessions for $75?” Now I had been dabbling in portrait photography for years, with my camera on my hip and photographing every major event that came through my life- kids’ milestones, seasonal festivities, and even a nonprofit that I volunteered with that offered mentorships for teen mothers. So the majority of my friends knew that I had a decent eye for photography, and I got about 3 takers on my offer for fall mini sessions.
I was still using my kit Nikon with 2 kit zoom lenses, and I got some decent shots. My posing was a bit stiff, and my automatic settings left my images a bit grainier than I expected due to a high ISO setting, but I was pretty happy with the results overall. Looking back on it, the main errors I made were pretty easy to correct with a couple of small changes, the biggest being the quality of the equipment, and the second biggest being the knowledge of what technical elements affect the outcome of an image.
Which leads me to this stage- inadequacy. So once you get decent equipment, what then? My images were sharper and my posing was a little bit better over the next year, but I could not, for the life of me, get the sharp details with the bokeh I wanted. Not to mention no matter how much I played with Lightroom, I felt like my images were either too dark or overexposed and I just could not find the balance. I scrolled through thousands of Instagram posts from photographers I admired, made notes, and just kept trying. I was feeling pretty inadequate at this point, but I learned about aperture, shutter speed, ISO, lighting, and every single element that I could control beyond the image subject itself.
A couple of years in, I started second shooting weddings with a phenomenal photographer that taught me a lot about posing, OCF, and working with harsh light during all hours of the day. Per usual, she took my memory cards at the end of the night to edit them along with the rest of her images, and every time I saw the final product I was stunned. My first thought was- I should shoot weddings. Clearly, that was the reason I couldn’t get the look I wanted. I mean weddings have it all, right? The elegant details, the flowers, the emotion, and the dresses! That white dress and those flowy bridesmaid dresses that just made everything look ethereal. So I started following wedding photographers on Instagram, once again taking note of all the elements that made for a fantastic image. But here’s the thing- I really don’t enjoy wedding photography. For me, it’s exhausting. It’s a long day filled with loads of pressure, a million different lighting scenarios, and hours upon hours of post editing.
So I had a choice to make- photograph the subjects that I love and figure out how to love the final result, start taking on weddings and get burnt out on the thing I love to do most, or give up. I think we all know which one I chose. So I compiled all my notes from the first few years, dissected the elements that really made me love photography, and I set out to bring them all together. How could I bring those wedding details: the flowers, the wardrobe, the emotion over to my work with families? Well, I did just that- I literally brought it all.
I started spending a lot more time talking to clients before the session ever started. I found a few great clothing brands that just make my heart sing, and I followed those brands on Poshmark. I started small with a client wardrobe of styles that would be flattering on most body types, and threw in some staple items for children– all in light neutrals. Suddenly, my images had the look I always dreamed of without being overexposed! I spent time thinking through all of the things that I thought I couldn’t control with family sessions, and I found a way to communicate that to my clients. I created a session planning guide with tips on wardrobe, posing, and most importantly- how to prepare your children for a family session. I happened to find a local flower farm at the farmer’s market over this past summer, and began purchasing her weekly seasonal bouquets of the most gorgeous flowers you’ve ever seen. I ended up forming a relationship with her, and her bouquets have been featured in many of my sessions this year. Somehow, I accidentally became known for my hats, and while I bring an extensive collection of fabulous hats to my sessions, most of my clients show up with their own these days!
So the bottom line here is- There are no rules keeping us from creating what we want to create. For you photographers who find yourself drawn to family portraiture, you are not missing out. You can have every bit of elegance, style, and detail that you long for, and you get to be the ones helping your families make true memories.
Find your style, and don’t be shy about it.