The family photo: make it fun, make it last
The other night, I was introduced to a small group of people. When asked, “what do you do?” I replied, “I take pictures.”
As simple as that sounds, it boils down to only that: taking pictures. In most cases, I don’t create anything, rather I record with a camera that is right in front of me. One of the most rewarding experiences I get while shooting a wedding is the family group photo.
“So much to see!” I say to myself as I scan the group I just formed. A family. A cornucopia of love, peace, emotion, competitiveness, stress and sometimes even a little dysfunction. I take a deep breath and smile as I’m delighted to see such a group assembled in front of my camera. Again, I say to myself, “so much to see, take it all in!”
I soon realize that they’re waiting for me to shoot the damn picture so that they can go finish their cocktails. Like cattle they roam and mosey at my directions. I know what they’re thinking… “This is going to be a drag” they think to themselves. For most families, they stand together not realizing the uniqueness of their family. The beauty. They don’t see what I see.
Here’s how the magic happens . . .
The family groups vary in size, but my preferred number is around twenty five. That’s the ideal mix of parents, children, in-laws, aunts, uncles and cousins. I begin my process by looking for the odd one. The one family member that doesn’t “blend in.” I search for the one relative that has the “it” factor. The goofy bright eyed 6 year old, the awkward teen, the whacky 68 year old auntie that has had her fair share of Manhattans or perhaps it’s the Patriarch of the family. The quiet, but authoritative grandpa who knows what it means to sacrifice for the sake of the family.
Whoever it is, I bring them to the front center, several feet in front of the group. Out of earshot of the family, my target subject and I have a brief chat. Without hesitation I begin shooting. I focus on the eyes of this lead subject, three maybe four frames is all it takes…
The next time your family gathers together, take a deep breath and follow my advice. The family photos are valuable now, but in years to come, they’ll be priceless.