Let me guess.
1. In your family, you’re the one with the ‘fancy camera’.
2. In all likelihood at some stage you’ll be facing a family reunion.
3. You’ll be called up to photograph the family event.
No pressure, or anything, right? It’s simple isn’t it, just take a few snaps? You have the expensive-looking camera so you should get some decent results.
If you own the most expensive knives in your kitchen, it does not make you the a Michelin start chef.
It makes you the owner of a set of expensive knives.
Photography is just the same. If you’re being called up to photograph your families all coming together and you’re feeling a bit stressy about it (because, fair enough, how often do you all get together?), then let’s break it down into a few manageable parts. Remember that you can only be in one place at one time, capturing one moment at a time, so let’s go through my top ten ways to photograph a family reunion, step by step.
#1 Fly on the wall
First, work out your camera settings ahead of time.
Then you’re ready for the good stuff when it happens.
Roam around, smile and move quickly.
If people start giving you weird poses and smiles, move away again.
Keep it fluid.
#2 Try different angles
If you have to do the family lineups, then mix it up by moving in
and shooting from the side angles.
It surprises them and generates some real laughs.
Break it down into smaller combinations based on relationships.
Then go for the look-at-the-camera style,
as well as the in-between candid moments too.
#4 Children at their level
Bend your knees, baby!
It ain’t hard and it gives the viewer a real sense of what that child’s world is like,
tanties and all.
#5 Capture the connections
When you discourage people from posing and smiling for the camera, yes,
it does confuse them because you’re not doing what they expect.
Pretty soon their attention will turn back to each other.
Connections between family members are magical, unique and often unexpected.
It’s like riding a wave in the surf – don’t fight it – just go with it.
Let the moments happen and be in there with them when they happen.
So much thought at these events goes into the details.
The place settings, the garden, the food, it’s all there for the taking.
So try pointing your camera away from the people and build your photo story
with all the elements that make your family reunion unique.
#7 Out of the sun
How many times have you heard, let’s stand in the sun, that’s where the best light is?
Direct sun is hot, makes people sweat, acts like a big spotlight, gives people racoon eyes,
makes them squint, wreaks havoc with your light meter and creates a contrasty result.
Stick ’em in the shade so you don’t fight the light.
Then meter for the people in the shade, and step back with those same meter settings.
Let the brighter areas (in the background) be brighter because the hero of your captures
– the people – need to be correctly exposed for midtones.
Break it down to individual people.
Rather than tell them what to do and how to pose,
look for the best light and suggest a different spot for each person.
Then let them find their own way in that space.
It creates a more unique result for each person.
Have a conversation with them, and when they smile, that’s when you click.
#9 Candid groups
The family line-up is a hangover from the good old days of photography when the most
people could afford was a ‘portrait sitting’ at a studio.
They wore their best clothing, were formally arranged and asked to smile for the camera.
Unfortunately the common expectation is that this still occurs.
And yet everyone hates doing it!
Ok, fine, so set them up, make some jokes and create a conversation between them.
Step in and capture the moments between the moments.
Then you can calm them down a bit, step back and migrate to #10.
#10 The family lineup
It’s different for each family group, and the numbers too.
First things first, choose an even background with no distractions and smooth light.
Keep the sub-groups together and anchor the picture with the elders.
Turn people on their sides and overlap the shoulders.
Mix up the placement of hands, and standing people can ‘wait for a bus’.
This means they shift their weight to one foot.
Check around the edges that you’re leaving space for framing.
Shoot with around F5.6 to ensure decent depth of field.
Take a few frames to cover off blinks.
Give a lot of energy to them as they will bounce of you.
Most of all – have fun!!! It’s photography, and digital photography means if you didn’t ‘get it’ you can always delete dud frames and try again at no cost.
Confidence is king in photography. So if you are feeling a bit anxious, then calm yourself down by remembering that you can only do one idea at a time.
Good luck – I hope this helps you beautifully capture all your family magic at your next family reunion.