When you think of the word FAMILY what comes to your mind?
For me, it's unconditional love, good times, support, togetherness, joy, and a sense of belonging...just to name a few. I look back at old family pictures and childhood memories come bubbling to the surface reminding me of who and what helped shape me into the person I am today.
Pictures really are that powerful. It's one of the reasons I do what I do.
Is there a way to convey these sentiments into your next family portrait? I believe there is. In fact, if you asked for just one simple tip, this is the one I would pass along: Physical Touch. There needs to be a visual connection between family members, and physical touch (hand-in-hand with affectionate interaction) is the only way to translate those relationships onto film.
I've said it before, but it deserves repeating. Before I even begin snapping the shutter during a session, I take time to explain to a family the importance of physical touch. I encourage them to show the love and affection they have for each other. I try to help them understand that an image without physical touch leaves the viewer with no sense of togetherness.
Whether you're a fellow photographer or simply a mom (or dad) doing their best to create wonderful memories for your family, loosely directed posing should not be ignored. When posing your subjects, be sure to encourage them to touch one another in a way that is natural to them - an arm around the shoulder or the waste, a hand on the knee, a little snuggle into the hubby - just something that feels right.
Keep in mind that a man's gesture should be "manly". A woman's or younger child's gestures can be more tender in nature. I'm not saying that a man can not be tender, but they should always "look" like a man. There's a fine line, so pay attention to this in your posing.
Here's the difference a little loosely directed posing can make. These were taken last night during a session with Susan's family. It was a great time, and I'm excited to share the rest of the images from their session after the weekend.
Let's try that again.
Ah...now that's a family that likes and loves each other! I knew they had it in them.
In posing your subjects you also want to make sure that the physical touch among your subjects is varied within the image. You don't want everyone with their left hands on the right shoulder, or everyone holding their hands in their laps (like in this first image). Mix it up a little for the best results.
Think about it. When we look at our own family pictures, we want that image to remind us of why our family is so important to us. Physical touch in a portrait visually makes that happen. When it is missing, so is the love.
Not buying it? Are you thinking to yourself, "Man, do I really have to touch them?" I get it. You may not be a touchy-feely kind of person, but you are a loving person. You want your portraits to show that.
The last image above shows that. It is a HUGE improvement over the first one, isn't it?
I'm still debating though if I like how the middle brother on the end was posed. After spending some time with him during our session, I'm not quite so sure his hand on his older brother's knee fits his personality. Hmmm....perhaps a slug on the forearm...or a jab in the ribs...Yep, that would have been better! But then again, I'm not so sure Mom would have approved...Hand on the knee it is.
The point is this: Don't be afraid to try something new. If your first attempt at posing your subjects is not what you had in mind, try, try again until you get it right.
Summer's almost over. Why don't you take advantage of these last few days with the kids at home to try this tip out for yourself. (Or, borrow someone elses kids if need be.)
Have a wonderful weekend!