video episode 27, outdoor portrait photography tips #3

This is the third and final video in the outdoor portrait photography course. We’ll take a little different approach this week, observing as a 15 minute family portrait shoot takes place. Rather than explaining technical details in this installment I thought it might be helpful to watch as I work with the subjects, getting to know them and helping them to be comfortable in front of the camera. After the jump below the video I’ll explain some of my thought process when photographing families and groups.

Subscribers view video here

Some further thoughts and link to the gallery:


View the gallery of final images from the shoot here.

No two photographers have the exact same approach to photographing people (or any subject, for that matter). Here’s how I like to approach portraits:

  1. For casual portraits I like to “build” the photo. There’s no pressure on any of us to get things right on the first exposure. I like to take a photo, check exposure, take another, check poses, and continue to warm up the subjects so they’re comfortable, talking with them and letting them know there’s no pressure. ***Business portraits are the exception to this rule. If someone is in a hurry I concentrate on making the first shot as perfect as possible.
  2. A tendency is to concentrate on the baby right off the bat, trying to get a good expression. I prefer to get the adults composed and settled before asking anything of the little ones. We don’t want to wear the little ones out before the basic pose is sorted out.
  3. Take breaks every once in awhile. If you’re going to be distracted for a moment let your subjects know it’s okay to relax for a bit. Even if you’re not behind the camera, some subjects stay focused on it.
  4. I use my hands a lot to point out what direction I would like the subject to turn or how to pose. Many times I jump into the picture and show someone exactly how I would like them to stand or sit. This helps them see what I’m talking about and it also helps me make sure that what I have in mind is not too uncomfortable or difficult to do.
  5. As I’ve mentioned before, I first like to see how people naturally stand and then try to guide them. It’s important to remember that, in family photos like these, we’re working with real people and not models. It’s okay to mold and bend models into your personal vision of a photograph, but in family portraits something of the person should be retained. Make sure they’re happy and comfortable with how the shoot is proceeding and with what you’re asking them to do. Unlike supermodels, if they’re not comfortable it will show through.

Hey, that’s it for this outdoor portrait video series! I want to give a huge “thank you” to my friends Kelly K., Bob S., Jason P. and Melodie J. for helping put it together, it wouldn’t have been possible without them.

And thank you for tuning in. If you’ve enjoyed watching the videos and they’ve been a help, I hope you’ll consider shopping at Calumet Photographic for your future photo needs, large or small. Not only do they have a great selection, prices and service, it also helps out prophotolife when you link through us to Shop Calumet Photographic – It’s Where the Pros Go.