During the shoot
Keep it relaxed
“It’s important to make sure everyone’s feeling comfortable before the shoot starts. I make a point of memorising everyone’s names beforehand, and I’ll show the family a style book, showing various posed shots, so they can get a good idea of how they want the shoot to go.
“It’s best to deal with any issues of shyness or reluctance before getting started, and teasing the kids a bit is a great way to get them in the right mood. The aim is to encourage families to express themselves, to ‘capture their spirit’, especially the most positive aspects of family dynamics. Fun, togetherness, love and laughter is what needs to be caught by the camera,” says Neill.
Set up a home studio
Not everyone has access to a purpose-built studio, but you can get started making your own home photo studio with a simple lighting setup for surprisingly little outlay. There are plenty of kits that offer a pair of studio lights, stands, and shoot-through umbrellas or softboxes (umbrellas are easier to set up, but softboxes give more diffused light).
We particularly like the Elinchrom D-Lit 4 it Studio To Go (£550), but budget options are available from as little as £200. A backdrop is also useful for clean, uncluttered backgrounds. The DUO 2in1 High/Low Key Background Vinyl is reversible, hardwearing and wipe-clean (from £50) – or you could simply hang up a plain white bed sheet.
Zoom with a view
“While some portrait photographers favour prime lenses, such as the very pricey EF 85mm f/1.2L, a fixed focal length doesn’t offer enough flexibility for me – I want my families to run around, have fun and be themselves! A standard zoom (such as your kit lens) gives the flexibility to go wide for full-body group shots, or to get in close so the face fills the frame.”
High-key for high-jinks
It’s best to keep setups simple for family shoots, with either a high-key or low-key set up, Neil says. High-key is light and bright, and allows children to run around and be themselves, while low-key is moodier, and enables the photographer to capture quieter and more poetic moments and feelings; so less smiling and a calmer, less boisterous approach is needed.
Perform a head transplant!
With groups, take plenty of shots, as someone will always be blinking or gurning! And even if none of your shots is quite right, it’s easy to copy a head from one image to another in Elements – as is the case with our Shot of the Day, over the page…
In Guided Edit mode, select Photomerge >GroupShot and select the images you wish to combine from the Project Bin. Drag the image that has most people in the right place into the window at the right of the screen as your ‘base’ image.
Select the image with the ‘replacement’ head, and zoom in using the standard Crtl and + shortcut. Trace over the area you wish to transplant with the Pencil Tool, and Elements will replace that part of the photo in the base image.