A Few Tips on Shooting Great Family Portraits


Many of you aspiring professionals have a hard time choosing a photography niche, but some of you already decided to have portrait photography as one of your main go-tos. And the rest of you striving to make it in this transition from an amateur photographer to a pro haven’t really wholeheartedly decided for portrait photography, but you end up doing portrait gigs once in a while because this is what is most often offered to you. Since building a portfolio always requires you to show off your paid gigs, it’s only natural to accept most of the employment offers coming your way even if you don’t need the money that bad (you have another main job) or even if the subject isn’t really your cup of tea. And this is how the matter of family portraits arises.

The customers employing you to take photos for them want portraits most often than not, obviously, so there you have it: sooner or later, every aspiring photographer needs to deal with portrait photography no matter how much or little they like it. But perhaps we’re getting ahead of ourselves and you really have a genuine interest for this kind of photography, well, even better in that case. You’ll need all the enthusiasm you can muster, just as in any other photography niche. We’ve previously shared with you a general outline about the dos and don’ts of portrait photography, but this field has its own subfields which can be very different from each other, like wedding photography, artistic nudes, mother and child photography and so on. Today we’re going to talk about what it takes to shoot really wonderful pictures in the subfield of family portraits, so that you hopefully end up with a product that satisfies both the client and your own artistic and professional exigencies.

1. Be as relaxed as you want your subject to be

Photographers complaining about how some subjects just can’t pose and how they freeze in front of the camera often forget that the subject’s attitude is very often dependent on theirs. Talk to clients beforehand about any previous experiences with photographers and, if they trust you, they’ll confess that photographers freeze too behind the camera and start fidgeting. The manner in which a photographer fidgets is something like this: continuously changing camera settings and lighting, giving contradictory instructions for the subject’s posing, seeming unsure of themselves and of what to do next, and generally conveying a discontent vibe about the whole thing. If you make your subject(s) uncomfortable and general

2. Adjust your lens to the group’s size

The lens you equip dictates what kind of angle your camera will be capable to sustain, as well as opening up a whole array of focusing options. If you’re taking the portrait of a large group, like multiple generations of one family or more than 4-5 people, you need to equip a wide-angle lens of about 18 mm, allowing more people to fit in your shot. A telephoto lens (greater than 70 mm) works, as the name implies, better at a distance, but don’t allow a great angle. If you’re shooting a group sitting further away, this could be a good option. Just climb on something that gives you a bit of an altitude and shoot away for some of the best family portraits ever; the distance will prevent you of missing the angle.

3. Use Exposure Compensation to get the skin tones right

The Exposure Compensation feature is something landscape photographers often use to brighten or darken up skies in order to obtain more realistic or dramatic images. When shooting family portraits, this feature can be used as a trick to make sure that the lighting isn’t tampering with your subjects’ natural skin tone. You can dial up this functionality (the exact place to find it depends on your camera so search it in the manual) by positive or negative ¼ measures until you feel that the skin tone is now just right.

4. Increase your ISO to counteract your subjects’ movement

People tend to move around quite a bit when they have their portraits taken and this is true especially of large groups. Imagine many generations and kids and pets all crammed up together in a tight group and having to wait for multiple shots to be taken. But don’t worry, this can actually work to your advantage, as they will be more relaxed and natural if they’re allowed to move and you may be able to capture some very fun family portraits. The only downside to all this is that movement can make the pictures blurred, depending on your camera’s aperture and shutter. To prevent the blurring, you should increase your ISO and bump up your shutter speed up to 400, and even higher in low light. This might produce a little bit of a grain effect (at higher ISO values like 3200), but even so the pictures will still look better.

Remember to practice patience and friendliness and keep researching and experimenting with various camera settings. Your portrait photography skills and photography skills in general will get better for it.

Combine Two Photography Niches to Be Unique

photographer-photography--005Struggling to make the transition from an amateur photographer to a pro can be a tough job as it is. Creating a compelling portfolio, acquiring a client pool and managing it properly, creating a name for yourself, struggling to get new gigs and the credibility that comes with them… it’s already hard, right? But besides this manager and marketing business, you are expected to be an exceptional artist as well. To be original and stand out from the crowd as much as possible – that’s quite some pressure, actually. But there’s a neat trick you can use if you’re still confused about which path to take and you don’t know how to create your own individual voice: go two ways. Combine two photography niches to be unique and you’ll really stand a chance of doing memorable work and working on projects which people could actually remember. Let’s explore this thought further and hopefully this will inspire you to further define your photography strategy.

First of all, let’s clarify for a bit what it would mean to combine two photography niches to be unique. It’s not about doing twice the work in two separate sub-fields to see which one works out better, no. It means choosing a main niche in which you plan to exercise your skills and combine it with a secondary one which is perhaps even rarer than the first. Let’s say, for the sake of example, that you plan to be a portrait photographer as the main choice. It’s a good option, especially if you’re passionate about it, but any amateur photographer aspiring to make the transition to a pro knows that it can be hard and not what you initially expect out of it. Think about choosing something even more specialized for a secondary niche; let’s say that you have an eye out for culinary photography, how about making a regular thing out of that as well? It might work out better than you think.

Following the logic of this example, since the portrait photography niche tends to pay better when you’re a beginner, this is obviously the main choice. But if you would also be into culinary photos, you could get in contact with people who own food blogs and who generally take their own pictures of food, and offer to take their portraits (for free, in the initial stage).  They would get some more promoting out of it, and you would probably create a unique project of portraits of the main food bloggers in your city and this will get you known as the only photographer who did this. It won’t get you immediately paid, probably, but it will contribute to creating a more recognizable photographic identity.

If you would do it the other way around, choose the culinary niche as the main specialization and the portrait photography as the secondary niche, then your project would look different as well. Instead of creating a series of portraits of people working in the food business or somehow iconic for the foodie culture, you could think about taking photos of plates of masterfully created dishes with their author in the background. It may look similar, but the presence of food and the change of focus would express better your primary-secondary niche dynamic. See where we’re getting at? Now think of your main choice, it’s probably the same kind of photography you’re pursuing right now, and then think of something else, maybe a little more specific, that you would like to have an interest in. Create your own choices and combine two photography niches in order to take a big step towards a better contoured professional identity. If there are plenty of other pursuers of your main niche, there wouldn’t be a lot of other photographers in the two combined ones. Consider your options and good luck with creating a more unique artistic voice.

Being a Portrait Photographer: the Dos and Don’ts


In many lines of work where you have to deal with people, having special people skills is a must. The famous “bedside manner” of doctors is just the tip of the iceberg, since many, many jobs involve having an adaptable and light social touch, especially when the job is a serving one. But being a photographer isn’t really regarded in professional mediums as being one of those serving jobs where your diplomacy and people skills are that important, since being a photographer, as we all know, equates more or less to being an artist. While that last statement is by all means true enough, the corollary is that it’s the type of artistry where those sometimes dreaded people skills do matter, since you need to negotiate with people (your present and potential clients) the exact vision they are looking for and the point of view you are trying to convert them to. This couldn’t be truer than in the case of portrait photography: not only do you work with people that commissioned the photos to deliver what they paid for, but sentient humans are the subject(s) you have to actually shoot in those photos as well. To make sure you don’t leave any kind of bitter after-taste, make sure you take these dos and don’ts into consideration when interacting with people as a portrait photographer.

 Be extra careful to promote a positive body image for your subjects

People who want their portrait taken want to feel pretty, and some of them might even be a bit extra sensitive about how they look or have bodily image issues. Be careful not to make anyone feel uncomfortable (not on purpose, of course) by suggesting they would look better in a different pose or angle, in a way that reminds them of their potential flaws. On the other hand, you can’t allow someone to really pose in a way that brings out their flaws, because then the bad result would be on you anyway, so keep in mind that it’s a thin line and you must keep the balance in the most pleasant manner possible.

Don’t be afraid to suggest spontaneous changes of plans

If during a photo shoot for a series of portrait you suddenly get an idea to do something that wasn’t originally part of the plan, suggest it right away. Maybe you’d like to invite someone else in the client’s circle to join the client in the photo frame, or maybe you want to get out of the frame altogether and try shooting in another environment, even one that hasn’t been prepped for the shoot. Whatever your idea is, try voicing it out, with confidence and tempered enthusiasm, you don’t know what good may come out of it, and the people you work with will appreciate your dedication and creativity. If they don’t seem open to the idea, don’t push it, of course; but even so, it still strengthens your professional image even if they don’t resonate with your proposal.

Try your luck with strangers (in a non-awkward way)

If being a portrait photographer is your thing, then you probably agree that people are a fascinating thing to watch and make for the most interesting subjects. Why don’t you try out your luck the next time you go for a long walk and, if you find someone interesting to take a picture of, approach them? It will not only be a good chance to further develop your people skills, but you may be surprised of the good works that can come out of a spontaneous thing like that. Take a look at the Humans of New York photo project, if you don’t know it already, and you’ll know what we mean by it. The more you try to talk to people about it, even if you get rejected, the more you can explore what kind of approach makes them uncomfortable, or work out a more reassuring and trustworthy professional persona.

Don’t neglect your social media presence

Since being a portrait photographer means working with the public and directly with clients even more so than other branches of professional photography, it’s important to brush up on your people skills in other areas as well. Your overall reputation and business card-like things, for instance. Brush up on your skills of amplifying your impact and image within social media hubs, work towards making the people who are satisfied with your work be more visible as well, while tagging you directly, and you’ll attract more potential customers than in any other way.

7 Things To Help You Improve Your Boudoir Photography Sessions

One of the fastest growing niches in the photography industry is boudoir, and with good reason.

Have you ever tried to take a boudoir selfie? Nope, it just doesn’t work.

There’s a special art form to creating a really great boudoir image. Yes, anyone can say they shoot boudoir and snap a few images outside. But to get really creative and have your work stand out from the crowd, it takes time and commitment to the art form.

What can you do to improve your images?

Study Boudoir Photography

With the Internet at your disposal, its easy to find very good photographers within this industry. Dedicate an hour or two to research and head out and find sites with the images you love and are comfortable taking and presenting to your clients. Yes, you can create a “hidden” board on Pinterest to mark your favorites and have immediate access to them at any time. And in fact, this is a great way to have your cheat sheet with you on your shoots. Just pull up your Pinterest app on your iPad, pull up your hidden board, and have inspiration at your fingertips as you shoot. Don’t be afraid to use those images as inspiration as you set up your own images – your style will come as you gain confidence and discover what works for you.

Don’t Assume Your Clients Know What To Do

When a client books a boudoir session, they have some understanding of what they want. But they still need direction. Instead of a quick conversation – bring this and that – establish a marketing kit that provides them with the details. You can provide guidebooks on how to get comfortable in front of the camera. You can provide ideas for clothes and props to bring. You can provide sample images from other clients. Make it distinct for each individual client. This alone will give you an edge on looking and acting professional – your clients will love it.

Set Your Rules From The Beginning

Will you shoot in your studio or your clients’ homes? Will you shoot outside? Will you work with nudity? Will you work with individuals or couples? Just because you define boudoir photography in one manner doesn’t mean your potential clients might not have a different definition. And it can be very uncomfortable if you aren’t working towards the same goal. Be very specific about what is acceptable and what isn’t. Don’t be afraid to have guidelines available – share them before you book with a client, and consider placing them on your website for anyone to see before they decide to book with you.

Have Options

Does your client want the full treatment for her special day? Why not work with a makeup artist and a hair stylist who can come together with you for a complete package deal. Give her the royal queen treatment! Not only will she feel great, she’ll look happier and sexier for her final images too.

What’s The Final Product?

Sure she wants a boudoir session. But the session itself is only half of your service. What will she be taking home? A few images on a CD won’t cut it here. This is where you should have many options available for her to present her “surprise” to her significant other. A secret photo album? A framed image she can unveil? You can set the scene – and the excitement – by teaching your prospects what the outcome of a session will be.

Teach The Session

While many women love the concept of boudoir photography, some will definitely be more comfortable than others with the actual process. As a photographer, it’s your job to put your client at ease from the beginning. Can you create special videos to showcase the process? Can you show them the experience before they book with you? How do you talk with them when they first connect with you? How much detail can you put into your sales process to show them they can be comfortable every moment of the shoot? Boudoir isn’t like a family portrait. You can’t just show up and wing it. Put time into every aspect of it and it will improve your process immensely.

Boudoir Photography: The Quick Start Guide For Professional Photographers.

Understand Your Clients

Instead of reaching out to “all” women, choose a specific niche to work with. Maybe you live in an area where you can work with military wives wanting something extra special for their husbands’ homecoming. Maybe you work with cancer patients wanting to feel sexy with their bodies again. There are many directions you can take with boudoir photography, and it all can stretch beyond “every woman”. The more specific you are from the beginning, the easier it will be to create your marketing materials and reach out to your niche market.

Want More Family Portraits? Target New Home Sales

Looking for a way to bring in more family portraits to your photography business? It may be as easy as knocking on the doors of brand new home owners.

While the economy has been down globally for a while now, things change all the time. Even where you currently live, I’m willing to bet there are people moving to new homes all the time. They make an excellent target for a new family portrait. Here’s why.

A recent survey published in Deliver Magazine showed that:

  • New homeowners purchase more products and service in the first 6 months after moving than an established resident spends in 2 years.
  • The average new homeowner spends more than $9,000 on purchases within the first few months of a move.
  • 50 percent of new homeowners purchase home decorations and accents.
  • 35 percent of families plan to or will move into a new home after having their first child.

And if you think about it, it makes sense. If you are doing well enough to make a move into a new home – and anymore it also means you’re doing well if you can get a new mortgage, as the requirements are higher than ever – you probably have discretionary income to spend.

Why not target them for a family portrait?

Specific campaigns will always work better than generic. If you send out thousands of postcards around the holidays advertising portraits, you’re basing it all on zip codes. You may be reaching singles, married, married with children, grandparents, families with newborns, different ethnic groups, etc. Whatever you showcase, its probably not an exact match to the majority of the population. They are busy. And the majority end up in the trash. [Read more…]

Year Round Sales With Baby Portrait Plans

Babies. They are only little for a very short time. And while a new mom may be counting down the days until her child sleeps through the night, just as quickly she will be wishing she could hold her child in her arms again as they race from school to soccer practice.

Because babies grow so fast, its one of the easiest and most lucrative business models to get into.

Babies are born every day of the year. And because new moms understand how fast the first year will be, they are also the easiest to sell to on emotion.

Ready to put baby plans into your business model? Here is a step by step guide to get you started today.

Step 1: Set up your pricing

Baby plans aren’t set up with one session. Instead, they comprise of three or four sessions, possibly with add-ons. A typical baby plan may include:

  • Maternity session
  • Newborn session
  • Three month
  • Six month
  • Nine months
  • One year

Get your client into the door while they are still pregnant. Because your plan should include a newborn image that is taken during the first few weeks of life, its important to sell the plan before the baby is born.

Package plans should include one image from each session placed in a wall collage or montage frame – which they won’t receive until all sessions are completed. This gives the client a reason to finish all sessions. [Read more…]

3 Tips To Getting More Qualified, Better Paying High School Senior Portrait Sessions

My daughter brought home her high school year book yesterday. As a photographer, the first thing I did is pick it up and start scanning the senior portraits. I know things are different now, but I’m always amazed – and a little shocked too – at how many truly “bad” photographs are within the pages of this keepsake.

Twenty years ago, you had to use pre-established photographers that had the measurements of the specified image, and would conform to the requirements. When you looked through a yearbook, the seniors’ images were all relatively the same. Which meant you focused on looking at the kids.

Now anything goes. Around one third of the kids use the image taken for their school ID. You can tell by the “infamous” blue background and the lackluster smiles. Then you have another one third with quality high school senior portraits – you can tell they went to a professional, and in some cases I can even tell who the professional is by the props and poses. Then there is the final one third.

  • I saw images with overexposed backgrounds and dark, washed out faces.
  • I saw images that were out of focus.
  • I saw snapshots from family vacations where the senior was so small it was hard to see.
  • I saw some of the craziest poses and angles – I couldn’t believe anyone thought they were good images.

Yep, many of them were truly bad.

In today’s society, people are forgetting what real photography is all about. Real photography is now associated with “new”. The last picture you snapped goes up on Facebook, and that becomes your newest image to share. Chances are it will be “good” – you wouldn’t put up a bad one. But it isn’t great. It isn’t beautiful and it won’t stand the test of time. Look at it a year from now and it will simply be a snapshot marking a moment in time.

Dig Deeper: Filling Your Portrait Studio With High School Seniors
A real photograph is more than that. It not only marks a moment in time, it captures the essence of who the person is. And that’s where a professional comes in.


by Sam Attal

Professionals learn a lot of things over the years. [Read more…]

Filling Your Portrait Studio With High School Seniors

I had a question come through yesterday on the high school senior market and how you build a list of qualified prospects. And since the high school senior market is coming up in full force here in the States, I thought it would be the perfect time to create a new post and look at how you can fill your portrait studio up with high school seniors.

Like other niches within the photography industry, the high school senior market has become a cutthroat business. Years ago, many high schools in our area had a pre-select group of photographers to choose from. You had to go with one of them to be included in the yearbook. So of course all high school seniors selected from those few photographers. Then things changed.

Now any photograph can be included in the yearbook. A child simply has to get it into the yearbook office before the deadline. There are very few restrictions, which means if you look at a yearbook, you’ll see the good, the bad, and everything in between.

Dig Deeper: 7 Tips To Take Better Senior Portraits

Because people are looking for extra money, the high school senior market seems to be the one area that is easy to jump in. With no requirements from the schools, its just a matter of offering a low enough price to gain some business, or so a lot of photographers seem to think. And in reality, it works. [Read more…]

3 Reasons Boudoir Photography May Be Your Ticket To Profits

Looking for something new for your photography business? I’ve mentioned before on this blog how much I love the concept of boudoir photography. It’s a niche that sells well, is customizable, and allows you to add all of your creativity to create a final product your clients will love.

Why should you consider boudoir?

Women Like To Feel Special

Want to know the real reason women love weddings? Its one day in our lives we can look forward to, dream about, and plan for years on end. It’s the one day we can wear a dress like no other, and really enjoy the feeling of being someone special. Boudoir can give that same feeling on a different scale. It allows a woman to look inside, and find out whom she really is. It can make her feel special, and share her sensuality with that someone special in her life.

Women Will Pay For Things That Create A New Experience

People may not be able to afford a new car, or the trip they’ve been planning for years. But they can save up and invest in a daylong experience that will help them escape reality for a time.

It’s a Niche That The Big Box Stores Won’t Offer

It’s getting more difficult to compete with the big box stores on the average photography. In fact, they are getting pretty good at creativity with what they have. But if you stretch beyond what they can do, you’ll have more luck within your community, and become more recognizable for what you do. Big box stores like the “repetition” model. Come in, wait in line, stand on the X, snap the picture, buy your prints, and leave. What they can’t do is offer exceptional service and creativity. Boudoir gives you that edge; that option of offering something they simply can’t get anywhere else.

Don’t like the word “boudoir”? (I have had people tell me that they don’t feel comfortable promoting that type of photography.) Then change the name.

  • Intimate Portraiture
  • Maternity Memories
  • Love Stories

Get creative, and find a way to niche the idea of boudoir even further.

And if you’re looking for a way to learn more about turning this into a lucrative niche for your photography business, check out Ed Verosky’s newest release, Boudoir Photography: The Quick Start Guide For Professional Photographers. I’ve followed Ed for a number of years now, and I can tell you without a doubt that his books are packed full of useful tips, great how-to ideas, and many step by step strategies that will have you up and running with boudoir photography in no time. It’s a great investment in your future if you’ve decided to add this to your services.

Photographing Baby: A Quick Primer

A guest post by Susan Black

Babies have the transformative power of kryptonite.  There is nothing funnier than watching a tough, leather-clad, motorcycle riding hulk, suddenly morph into a cooing, grinning, nonsense-spouting hulk, in the presence of a toddler.  Or how about the completely un-self conscious “face pulling” performed by strangers in line at the grocery store in an effort to entertain a child in a cart?  Seeing a baby smile makes everyone happy, and in everyday situations, as long as the little person is not too tired or uncomfortable in some other way, babies will smile repeatedly.  So why is it so difficult to get them to smile when you want to take their photograph?  Capturing that perfect still image with your offspring can be a truly frustrating experience, both for you and your baby.  Here are a few tips to help you and your child smile through the whole process.

1.  Natural Light is Your Friend

Bright lights, loud noise, and sudden movement, especially in the first few months of any child’s life, can be very disturbing.  The new world that they have emerged into is a lot to take.  Consequently, as a new parent photographing a baby, avoid using your flash bulb at all times.  Instead, find areas of natural light.  Areas where the light shifts over time are preferable.  That way, you can leave your little person in one place, while reaping the photographic rewards of an environment that is subtly shifting over time, as the sun changes position.

2.  Bigger is Better

Go in close with your photographs or try an entire session in macro mode.  Work with a long lens, so you do not have to impose the camera on your child’s space.  As the great architect Mies van der Rohe once said, “God is in the details”.  Whether you believe in God or not, there is no denying that the little parts that make up your little person are as wonderful as the whole.  While everyone wants that perfect smiling shot, remember to take photographs of other body parts as well.  They sometimes make for the most compositionally interesting shots, and they can also serve as a great chronicle of your child’s growth.  Shooting body parts close-up can also serve as practice for more portrait-style photographs. [Read more…]