by Sarah O’Connor, Contributing Editor
As photographers we are always behind the camera, rarely in front of it. The whole reason most of us began our photography journey was to document our children’s lives. Well, as moms we are kind of a big part of their lives, so here are some tips to hopefully get you in front of your camera and capture some amazing and fun pictures of your family to cherish forever.
For this example I am using a recent trip that our family took to White Sands National Park in New Mexico. What an amazing place with huge hills of white sand, nope it’s not snow! The perfect spot for family photos. If this is your first try at a family self portrait choose a non-busy location. Preferably somewhere that there is nothing to distract the kids like a playground that they will just want to run off too.
Preplan your initial poses. Have them in your head and show your husband a picture of the pose if possible so that he knows exactly what to do as well. That way the only wild cards will be the kids and you get what you can with them. You’re not looking for perfection, so relax and let them pose how they want as it’s more natural that way. I like the family holding hands pose since it has the kids doing something with their hands rather than covering their face or picking their nose with them:)
Equipment You Will Need
1. Wireless Remote control
2. Tripod- a good one that will hold your camera and your lens. Check the weight limit when purchasing one. Do not get a cheap one or your camera will move all over the place.
3. Candy – I have my husband keep smarties candy in his pocket and slip one to the kids whenever they start to get bored which is like a minute into the session.
1. Set your camera timer to 2 second delay (under the AF-Drive button on most Canons)
2. Have your husband stand where you want the family to be and then focus on him. Make sure he doesn’t move since he is your focus spot.
3. Cover your viewfinder with the eyepiece cover if there is a bright light coming into the back of the camera that might mess up your meter reading.
4. Wrangle up the kids and go over next to the hubby. Start with your first pose and go from there.
5. Aim the remote control at the camera and you have 2 seconds for the click. Then every 2 minutes or so run back to the camera and check your images. Make sure they are in focus and looking the way you want. Change your settings if desired to get different looks. Zoom in or out for a mix of photos as well.
Give your Husband a crash course in photography
When you are done with the family shots hand the camera to your husband and let him play photographer for a bit so that you can get some good stuff of you and the kids. As long as you set the camera to the settings that you want and explain to him what you are looking for he should be able to do a pretty decent job. I leave the camera on the center focal point and tell him to keep the focus on me and then just keep clicking.
Finally finish the shoot up with letting the kids play and capturing them just being silly. This should give you a nice well rounded gallery for your home.
Keep the session short. No more than 20 minutes and make it as fun as possible so that everyone is not only willing to, but excited to do another session in the future.
What lens I used
I prefer using my 24-70mm lens for the family self portrait because it is so versatile. Since I am in the photos there is not tons of time to be switching on and off my different lenses. It is more for convenience than lens preference. When shooting my family I know I am going to want to create a canvas wall of many different photos so this lens lets me create the most diversity in the shortest amount of time.
Don’t get frustrated if it doesn’t work out the way that you planned in your head. If you end up in a bad mood threatening with time-outs if the kids don’t behave then they likely will not want to ever try again. Set them up for positive pictures. Tell the kids we are doing a fun photoshoot and we are going to laugh and have fun and eat candy together. I found that if you slip them the candy in small pieces during the session instead of promising something when the session is done they will be happier during the actual session. Good luck and have fun!
Sarah O’Connor is a creative portrait photographer in the Kansas City area and works mainly with families, newborns & children on location and in her home studio. She lives in Lenexa with her husband, two little boys and a very fluffy Old English Sheepdog.