Saturday, 23 July 2016

Family Photos - I have nothing to wear!

What should we all wear for our family photo session? It sounds like a tough question - here are a few simple tips to help you out.

Should we all wear something similar? 

That depends. Sometimes this can be unifying for a family, but when overdone, it can look cheesy. If you’re looking for something more natural, you might want to stick with “casual dress” and wear what you are comfortable in. 

Everyone wearing something similar (but not the same) is a good idea though – for instance, all jeans, all dress clothes or all bike shorts and bicycles. Imagine if you had each person wearing one of those - the photo would not look so good! Too many different styles and colors can be confusing in an image.

These are digital memories and what you are wearing should represent who you are at this time.

What colors should my kids wear? 

You will probably want your kids to look smart, but try and put them in clothes that have muted colors and they feel comfortable in.  If the clothes are itchy they will get tired of the session quickly and it will be much harder to capture smiles. 

If you have more than one child – think about whether their clothes will complement each other.

What kind of clothing should adults wear? 

Long pants are best and if a lady wears a skirt, below the knee may be best as you will likely be sitting for at least part of the session. Keep clothing relatively simple – muted colors, similar  but not the same top and bottom (either dark, or light). 

Definitely Avoid bright colors, busy patterns and logos as these will distract from the main subject – you!

Here are some suggestions for different situations:

  • Studio backdrop / White set - white t-shirts and blue jeans, light colors with beige pants - each family member in same color hue example: light blues to darker blues, browns to beige.
  • Studio backdrop / Tuscan Wall or Beige backdrop - medium to darker colors, khakis and creams or fall colors work well for these sets
  • On Location - earth tones (just look at nature), greens, browns, burgundy, any fall colors look fantastic!

Bare feet are OK for the white set and medium to dark shoes for the other sets, (make sure to wear dark socks with your shoes - unless you want your socks to be the focus of the images). Keep jewelry simple and to a minimum.

Wear your hair as you would normally with the clothes you choose. If you’re getting haircuts, do so at least 2 weeks prior to your portrait session – it will look more natural.

Will you figure out how to pose us or should we suggest what we would like?

The simple answer to this is “yes”.

Most photographers are very happy to accommodate and work on poses you prefer if you have something in mind. Putting our minds together to come up with the best places and poses always works better than just one person coming up with an idea, and I really enjoy this collaborative process.

However, if you have no idea what you would like, your photographer will have lots of poses and places in mind. Don’t worry. They will work with you on the spot to create great images depending on your family, the available light and the surroundings.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Family Photos - I don't have time!

Taking a family portrait is not like it used to be. You don't have to spend hours getting dressed up and have to sit all stiff in the studio with huge flashes going on around you.

These days it is a lot of fun.

Dress as you normally do (maybe a little bit nicer if you like) and pick your favorite location and let's go!

A session can be anywhere from half an hour to about an hour and in that time you can get quite a few different poses and views. Sessions can last longer if you have a lot of people you want involved, but remember that kids get tired in an hour session and that means they are less likely to smile, so keep your group to your family, or schedule different parts of your family to come at different times.

If you choose to have your photos taken in a studio, the session itself is usually shorter as the location of the photos is fixed (though it can be a little flexible if not using backdrops). Setup and teardown can reduce the actual session time by about ½ hour, but that's usually lots of time for a regular family group.

What is the best time for a session?

Depending on the kind of session you are looking for, and the demeanor of your kids, timing can be very important.  Sessions should be timed when kids are most likely to be relaxed and “calmly energetic”.  We can work, as far as possible, around feeding times/school pick-ups etc., and I can stay for as long as it takes to get the pictures you are looking for. Depending on the kids, they may get tired after 15 minutes, or may go on forever like the energizer bunny - you know your kids so we can plan accordingly.

If your photos are to be taken outside, in natural light, the best time of day is an hour or two before sunset, or an hour or two after sunrise – the light is soft and atmospheric, and you are less likely to get big shadows on faces like you would if we met on a sunny midday. That being said, however, if your schedule works better during the middle of the day, we can accommodate that and work with the available light.

Of course if you are looking for a studio portrait session, any time works as we control the lighting. Sessions can be scheduled almost any time you are available.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Family Photos - But the weather is bad!

The weather is our natural nemesis when shooting outdoor photos – oh to be one of those lucky photographers who live in California and rarely have to deal with rain and never heavy snow!  But a little rain, or a light snowfall does not need to cancel a photo session.

Too much snow? Nah, unless it's a blizzard out, those little white flakes can make a very nice photo. Remember, when you're viewing the image later, you will enjoy it in the warmth of your own home and you won't be thinking about the chill. It's also a great time to snuggle up when you take the photos!

Not a big bright blue sky and lots of sun? Don’t worry! When it's cloudy out, we avoid the really harsh sun and high contrasting shadows and the camera will love it. The diffused light softens and flatters faces and makes it much easier to find good locations to photograph.

Unbearable heat? Not something we worry about too much in Southern Ontario, but it does happen. There are lots of shady spots and a gentle breeze makes all the difference.

What about rain then? Well, a downpour could be a problem for outside shots, but rain can also make for some interesting possibilities and there are always places that will shelter you - a gazebo or overhang make dry spots to stand under and umbrellas can also add to a photo.

Should the weather become unbearable, I am happy to reschedule your shoot, or move them indoors for a studio type session, but it may not be necessary.

As for a studio shoot, that's always another option. With a variety of backdrops to choose from, a studio can be set up at my studio, or in your home. Or we can do some wonderful photos in your home using strobe lighting setups.

There's really no excuse for not taking great photos - you can't blame it on the weather at least.


Monday, 4 July 2016

Family Photos vs School Photos

My kids have been through almost every public school grade and every year we wonder if we should purchase the school pictures, or take the kids somewhere else to have their photos taken. Sometimes we have decided that we should do both.

As a photographer, I have worked on both sides. I have been a school photographer with a company taking the school portraits and I have been an independent photographer doing location photos with kids. There are certainly advantages to both. Perhaps some of the tips below will help you decide which is best for you.

School Portraits

The biggest advantage to school portraits is their biggest disadvantage. Because the school photographer is taking hundreds (even thousands) of kids, they are very well practiced at posing them quickly in a way that puts your children at ease as much as is possible in just a few minutes. The photographs are consistently the same - which assures that they will be good every time. And in post processing they can be enhanced with a variety of inserted backgrounds. 

On the other hand, the photos can appear very "Cookie cutter" as they are all posed the same way for every child. In reality what can appear to be half a dozen poses are really different crops of just one or two images. Of course this is an advantage if you want to put each year side by side for comparison.

Price is not bad either considering what you receive, and the variety in the products you can purchase is usually very good even if the poses are limited. 

If your child is the kind that likes to get messy, be sure to send instructions. The photographer will take care to groom the child properly with the assistance of the teachers, but they may not know that you wanted the sweatshirt off for the photo - and your child really wants it on. 

Of course the school photographer will provide you with a group photo of the student's classmates. That is something your independent photographer will not be able to do - unless you are willing to host a party for all their friends and their teacher.

Independent Photographer

While the price for a hired photographer may at first seem more than a school portrait company, when you begin to add the cost of prints, you may be receiving a much better value with an independent photographer. 

The reality is that the number of good images you will receive by far outnumbers the number of poses of a school portrait session. The independent photographer will take much more time with your child and will probably work closely with you if you wish to create an image that depicts their personality in a setting that matches who they are. They will usually take the photos at a location you choose - or even your own home.

With the advent of digital, many independent photographers will provide you with the digital files that you can print wherever, however, and in whatever quantities you wish. When this is weighed against the cost of prints, you may find the independent photographer is actually cheaper.

A session with an independent photographer may also include family and siblings at the same time - something the school photographs do not.

Grad Photos

Certain years, there is always the fun of cap and gown photos. An independent photographer can provide these for you along with other studio or location photographs. If your grad was into music, or drama, or chemistry or physics, you could even have some fun creating an environment that portrays them where they feel most comfortable. Were they into football or basketball? They could wear their uniform for some of the shots as a special memory. 

Your choice

Is there a better choice? The School Photographer, or the Independent Photographer? Each has it's advantages. But before you simply choose the school photographer by default, have a look around (or contact me) to talk about your options. Here are the advantages and disadvantages in chart form.


School Photos Independant Photographer
Advantages - Easy to obtain
- Consistent quality
- Class Photo available
- Provides a variety of images
- Parents can assist with grooming
- Parents can suggest poses
- Family members can be included in photos
- Digital files are available to print from
- Print options are available for photos
Disadvantages - Only one or two choices of pose
- Photographer has very little time with the child
- Parents have no control over grooming
- Prints are expensive
- Parents must coordinate time and possibly place
- Unless offered, green screen is unavailable.
- No photo with Class (Though it can be obtained from the school