Over the many years I’ve worked as a professional portrait photographer in Montreal, I’ve gone through an evolution in my approach to taking natural candid portraits. When I first started out I think I felt like a lot of just-starting-out photographers feel. I worried about the inadequacy of my gear, about controlling lighting, about f-stops and shutter speeds. I worried my technical skills were not up to snuff. But over time I realized that my true talent, and the real key to taking great portraits, especially of families, is having a genuine connection and rapport with your subject. And since I’ve always been very lucky and able to make quick connections with people, I started to relax. And unsurprisingly, so did my subjects. Suddenly, the Portrait Session became as fun, easy and natural as snapping photos of my own (now 3 1/2 year old) daughter. I realized good family portraits are done when and where the family feels comfortable doing them.
Invariably this often means taking the family portrait at the family home (or a favourite outdoor location like a park or backyard) near where the family lives. Not only does this allow an instantly more comfortable session for the subjects (who don’t have to travel anywhere) but it also allows for more intuitive, natural shots of people being who they really are with the people they really love. And if a portrait does not capture who a person really is, in my opinion, it has failed as a portrait.
If you are looking to have a family portrait done, here are a few tips to make the process easier for you:
- Consider hiring a photographer to take the shots when you already have the family gathered (around holidays, or a planned family reunion)
- Scout out a few areas that are meaningful to you and your family (a favourite tree, a nearby park)
- If you want the photos done in your home do a quick cleanup in the room where you’d like the shots taken
- Schedule the shoot for the time of day when everyone is up and refreshed (so if you have young children who need naps, the best time is AFTER the nap)
I love taking portraits and as a proud father, I especially love portraits of children. Many professional photographers turn their noses up at doing family portraits and treat it like a necessary evil, an attitude I don’t understand. One of the reasons I chose a career as a full time professional photographer is because I love photographing people in all their varied and beautiful forms, and doing what you love is another surefire way to getting the best result in whatever it is you choose to do.
Check out this slide show or visit my portfolio site for a few sample family portraits.