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  • Writer's pictureGwendolyn Houston Jack

Three Tips for Impromptu Family Portrait Sessions

A dear friend told me the first holiday without a parent is the hardest. I dreaded Thanksgiving week because I knew we would all be reminded of my father's absence. Thanksgiving was his holiday. He had nothing against Christmas; he just enjoyed Thanksgiving more.

black mother is sitting on a loveseat with her daughter, son, and two grandchildren. Her grandson is sitting in her lap.
Select a location with good lighting and space.

I normally don’t travel with my photo equipment unless I’m working. I have cameras for family gatherings and other events, and it’s not the equipment I have insurance for. Yet, my brother asked me to drag my equipment home because he wanted a portrait with his sons. We’ve been trying to create these portraits for at least two years. So, I gave in and brought the basics.

What happened was a good ole fashioned multi-family portrait session. I’ve got three simple tips for capturing your family portraits when you need to seize the moment.

Location and lighting.

There’s no need to overthink the idea of a family portrait. The goal is to create an image everyone will cherish for years to come. In our case, we selected a small area of the living room. We didn’t move much furniture around because the idea was to keep it simple. I brought my strobes, so be aware of the available light or be prepared to use the flash on your phone/camera.

White Fuji instax mini camera is on the table next to a Canon G7X point and shoot camera.
The best camera is the camera you have available.

We would have opted to capture portraits outside, but it was raining this past Thanksgiving. No, it was storming. That didn’t stop us, though. We made it happen.

Start big, then go small.

The best way to ensure you don’t miss an image you want is to start with a big group. The kiddies tend to get agitated, so photos with them should be captured first. For example, we started with my mother and all her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Then we began to peel off the generations and move from family to family.

In the end, we had the adults who were far more patient than the little ones. So please start with the children and add on. Of course, you can always start with the adults if that works better for you and your family. The main idea is to be consistent with how you’re capturing the generations of family members.

Have fun.

This should be an easy one! Have fun while you’re creating these family portraits. This isn’t about the “perfect” pose or having matching outfits. You don’t want to lose sight of the moment, which is creating memories with your family.

Retired Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders poses with family friend Shana F.
Good lighting makes the difference in home photos.

If my father had been here, he would have been so proud. Despite his huffing and puffing, he was always available for pictures…and the occasional video. Do I believe every family needs to make an appointment for a professional family portrait? Well, yes! However, that doesn’t mean we can’t create images we’ll be thankful for.

When you’re ready for your family to sit in front of my camera, give me a shout. A quick 15-minute photo consultation is all we need to get the process started. You can schedule a consultation here: schedule photo consultation.

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