Outdoor family photography is one of the most laid-back genres I’ve encountered in my experiences. It is an incredible way for a family to create lasting moments using mother nature as the backdrop. Creative candid shots show the little-noticed details between family members and posed photos offer a snapshot of the present for future reminiscing.
Family photos are popular worldwide, and people are willing to pay for a professional photographer to capture them. This guide outlines the fundamentals you’ll need to succeed at outdoor family photo sessions.
What Exactly is Outdoor Family Photography?
In its most basic form, outdoor family photography is simply taking pictures of family members in an outdoor setting. Some sessions can include entire clans or just small groups of family. A popular family photography event involves a single household, including a husband, wife, kids, and pets.
Kids are generally a focal point in family photography. Keeping the photo itinerary simple can make it easier for the session to stay focused. However, this can become tricky if they are unruly or beginning to get tired. Let the parents handle the kids and offer support where you can.
The main difference between indoor family photos and outdoor ones is that you’re at the mercy of nature. Without the safety of a studio, you’ll need to plan your photo shoot for when the weather is good. As long as you’re prepared and offer a rainy weather contingency, there shouldn’t be any issues.
A rise in popularity has seen a need for newborn photographers. As the name implies, this sub-genre involves taking family pictures with a newly born child. It’s a unique style since some time constraints are applied, as newborns only stay new briefly.
Safety is essential for your clients since a newborn can be fragile. You want the session to be manageable, or it may ruin the moment’s magic. Luckily, the parents are always willing to help you pose and keep the newborns’ attention.
Keep the location simple and somewhere quiet. You don’t want bugs or wild animals close by in case they decide to get curious. Often, a city park or a backyard is a good location choice.
Another creative sub-genre is outdoor maternity photography. These photo shoots are meant to showcase the journey to motherhood from the baby’s conception. The main advantage is the gorgeous natural light you’ll have access to as you try to celebrate the unity between mother and child.
A good strategy would be to use abundant lighting to soften the curves and bring out the natural glow that an expecting mother has. Props work well with this type of photography, as flowing dresses and flower crowns strongly represent fertility and love.
What Photography Equipment Do You Need to Get Started?
Taking family photographs doesn’t take a lot of equipment to get started. Make sure it’s sound equipment. Most photographers will choose between a DSLR, a mirrorless system, and a smartphone, perhaps even using more than one in a session.
Lenses: A 35 mm lens is the perfect choice for families who want to do a lot of group shots. A zoom lens, like 24-70mm, can help incorporate background scenes into your images. A 50mm prime lens offers high-quality glass with a wide aperture, perfect for family portraits.
Off-camera Flash: Using an off-camera flash in your photo sessions gives you the creative ability to control the lighting. Photographing people in the bright sun can cause unwanted shadows to appear in the photograph. Off-camera flashes allow for precise placement and illumination that can help you fill in the dark spots.
Reflectors: Another excellent tool for controlling light is a reflector. If you’re on a tight budget, this would be an excellent alternative to an off-camera flash. It has reflective material that can bounce the existing light to play the part of a fill flash and illuminate dark areas in the photographs.
Tripod: A tripod is an essential piece of equipment for any outdoor photographer. They provide stability for shaky shutter speeds and help you get creative with your shots at night. Use a tripod with a wireless remote shutter release to give you the freedom of movement to help position the kiddos for the image.
Client Considerations for Outdoor Portrait Photos
If you plan on turning family pictures into a business, you must manage the expectations and work closely with your clients. Sometimes the families will come up with ideas for locations, activities, and posing, and that’s perfectly fine. However, for those that leave it up to the photographer, it’s a good idea to have some outdoor portrait example ideas ready.
Using Props for Portraits
Props can help set the scene and enhance the subjects within the photo. Props can be any items that are incorporated into the session. Themed family photos can use props to understand what’s happening in the scene. Halloween, for example, is a great time to incorporate spooky items or costumes into family portraits to create memorable moments.
Talk to your clients about those possibilities and then see the additional cost to get it done. You can slowly build up a library of things to offer them. Sometimes, your clients will bring their props with personal meaning to them.
Choosing the Right Season for Family Portraits
In North America, all four seasons are generally unique from one another. Realistically, it’s possible to shoot during every season as long as the family is comfortable being outdoors during it. The best time of the year for family portraits is when the fall colors are out and the natural light has a golden hue.
Outdoor Photo Locations
The beauty of taking family portraits is that because it’s outdoors, it can be anywhere. Does the family have a favorite park with lots of flowers? Is there a local area that has a fantastic sunset? Pick a landscape that is memorable and provides inspiration for the photograph you’re trying to take.
Don’t Forget about Posing
While candid photos will take much of your focus, you may forget all about posing. For group shots, a great strategy is to keep the kids in the middle when they’re younger (up to 18) and keep the parents in the middle if they’re older (18 and up). The kids usually end up tall or taller than the parents, so having the tall people at the edges helps funnel the eyes to the middle.