I really enjoy photographing extended families. There are many different kinds of special occasions that can bring a family together and these provide an excellent opportunity to be remembered with professional portraiture. Whatever gathering has you coming together, there are a few things to keep in mind when you are considering booking an extended family session. With some preparation, I can promise you that its totally worth it!
Its important that everyone is in agreement about what kind of session you want. Some may only want a great photo of the whole group, celebrating that everyone was there, a more posed image that would look nice as a keepsake and can become a lovely piece of art for parents and grandparents. Devoting too much time to a session in an already hectic day, may not be a good fit.
Some families however want to take advantage of the rare opportunity of everyone being together, perhaps already dressed up for a celebration or reunion and use it to capture the relationships between family members-siblings, grandparents with their grand-babies, aunts and uncles with their nieces, or all of the cousins, etc. Understandably, this takes much longer but can create a custom album that will be a gorgeous, treasured heirloom for all.
It is also important that everyone agree about what style your extended family session will be. On one hand you have those that love a traditional, posed studio look and on the other you have those that love a more relaxed outdoor portrait that can perhaps include a favorite landscape. Will Aunt Sue understand that her hair could be blowing some at the beach, or are there some who will be uncomfortable sitting on the ground? If this is intended as a gift for your senior family and their taste lean towards conservative and classic, make sure they will appreciate a casual portrait.
Everyone will need to decide which session to book, a shorter group only session or a longer session that will include all of the family combinations. Because extended family sessions involve a lot more posing and editing and involve so many people, these two options keep it simple for all involved. Albums, wall portraits including framed prints and canvas, gift prints and digital files are all available a la carte and are not included in the session fee. I am happy to work with your family to offer bundle discounts and payment plans.
Please make sure that if you plan on splitting the cost among family members, that everyone knows exactly what their share will be BEFORE the session. If you are planning to share responsibility among siblings please collect the money early, so this will not be a stress the day of your session.
Please choose one person to be the contact that I will communicate with before and after the session. This contact will be responsible for payment as well as providing any information about those being photographed, if needed. This will eliminate a lot of potential mistakes and help me to provide you with the best, most stress-free experience that I can.
Deciding on clothing does not have to be hard, even for a large group! I am here to help with that as well. One thing to make certain of though is these decisions should be made as soon as possible so those who are travelling can be prepared. There is no need for everyone to match, this does not photograph well and can look very dated. The easiest thing to do is provide a color palette of neutrals as a base. Navy, black, white, off white, khaki, gray are all neutrals. Then two or three additional colors with limited patterns and no logos. The tones will coordinate well together without needing to match. Encourage everyone to choose clothing that they are comfortable and feel themselves in. Clothing should be clean and as wrinkle free as possible. Layers and accessories can be fun as well.
The contact person should check with everyone ahead of time so that there aren’t any surprises, just because something coordinates doesn’t mean it will be appropriate for a family portrait.
What matters to you about location could be sentimental, beautiful, easy or close by. What matters to the photographer, is light light light! It is my job to provide locations that will be appropriate for a large group, provide adequate light without it causing squinting or harsh shadows. The time of day will also decide whether a location is a good choice. We would need to discuss specific locations prior to the session so that I can be prepared with lighting equipment if necessary. My absolute favorite is when we can successfully combine a gorgeous location with a lovely family. Are you ready to capture that special, often once in a decade extended family portrait?