by Kelli Seeley
So you booked a family session with a family who has a lot of little ones. Are you nervous? Excited? Wondering if chaos will ensue with so many kids?
Having a big family myself, and having photographed many large families over the last 10 years, I’ve learned a few things that I hope will help you have confidence the next time you photograph a big family. But before we jump into a list of tips, first and foremost I want to say, kick any intimidation about photographing big families to the curb! In my experience, photographing a family of 7 isn’t much different than photographing a family of 4. And the best thing? Your family session will be filled to the brim with opportunities to document emotion, special relationships, and lots of love! Sure, the session may be filled with a little more organized chaos than normal, but that just means lots of moments to capture the laughter, silliness and love found between siblings and parents. There will be no dull moments!
Here are my 5 Tips for Capturing Big Families: 1.) Expectations & Pre-planning session
Whether I’m photographing a family with one child, or seven, the start to a successful photoshoot happens before the actual session. After a family books, the first thing I do is send a short, simple questionnaire. I ask mom questions about her vision for the session and if there is anything she wants me to know about her family. What are a few of her favorite aspects of motherhood? Once I read her responses, it helps me to feel more confident about our time together. I learn what is important to this family and what exactly mom wants to remember forever. I also use the time before a session to chat about expectations. I let her know that typically with big families, I like to begin the photoshoot with the more posed, everyone look at the camera type shots because that’s when the attention spans of the kids are best (of course, occasionally this isn’t always the case and I adjust) and then we can move to the playful, more natural types of shots.
I also use the pre-session planning time to remind her that our time together may feel a little like organized chaos, but that it’s ok because that is just the nature of photographing many children. Which leads me to my next tip… 2.) Reassure The Parents (especially mom)
Getting a lot of kids ready for photoshoot day is naturally a lot of work, and chances are she may be feeling a little stressed and nervous, hoping that her kids will be in good moods. So before you start your session, it’s a good idea to take a few minutes to tell the parents how excited you are to be photographing their family, and to assure them you welcome all the fun energy of photographing lots of kids.
3.) Capturing Unique Relationships
One of the best things about big families are the relationships between siblings. Often times the older kids will have a strong relationship with the younger kids and it makes for some really special photographs. Some of my most personal treasured photographs are of my older kids caring for the new baby. Everyone loves to show the baby of the family lots of love.
4.) Posed Photos
As I mentioned above, I aim to do posed photos in the beginning of the shoot when attention spans of the kids are usually best. I do a few posed photos throughout our time together, but when we're just getting started is usually when the kids are most receptive to light direction. I also love finding time during the session to do a quick portrait of each child individually because I think it helps them to feel special and it’s nice to get a little individualized attention. When you’re part of a big family, you’re use to doing everything as a group and the family may not have a lot of individual portraits of each child. I’ve found that the parents are always grateful for these individual photos.
5.) Movement, Candids, and Playfulness
Incorporating movement is a great thing for all family sessions, but especially with lots of little ones. Walking, dancing, skipping, jumping all help create interesting elements and natural emotions into the photos (as well as helps channel the energy that often comes with a lot of kids). One good way to do this is while the family is all together for the posed photos, have them get close for a family hug (some kids will love it, some may not and that's part of what makes it fun) and during this time, I like to get up close and capture the kids reactions to a family group hug. The playful factor is one of the best aspects of families with lots of little ones and is what leads to joy-filled photos! Embrace the playfulness! I hope this was helpful and the next time you photograph a big family, you're able to approach the session with more confidence and have fun!