Digital Life Photography

Togetherness – a family photo shoot

Now that the weather has finally decided it really is autumn rather than a scorching hot summer (that was a rather unexpected but lovely few days, wasn’t it) I have become wistful for those lazy, long days of sun, sand and sea.


I took these photos of my lovely friend and her family back in April. It felt like anything was possible back then; surely every summer day was going to be just like this one and summer would last forever. Quite a hedonistic way to think but a bit of sunshine in April will do that to a person.


I’d never really done a ‘people’ photo shoot before, so seven humans all at once was in at the deep end for me. I needn’t have worried though because every moment was an absolute joy. I don’t know if this was because we already knew each other, or that we were on the most wonderful beach (on the Isle of Wight – what an adventure), or that the sun shone – all I know is it was a perfect day!


I certainly learned a lot about portrait photography that day too, namely…

  • children are short (I wish I’d got down lower for a lot more shots)
  • props are a godsend
  • one-off photo opportunities only ever happen when you are changing lenses
  • you sometimes need to get quite bossy to get the shot you want
  • plan a few staged shots before the day
  • kids (and adults) will do almost anything for an ice-cream
  • dedicated photo-management software (Adobe Lightroom in my case) is essential when you return with over 500 photos
  • even when you’ve edited out the rejects, it is very hard to select your star shots (again, Lightroom, essential)
  • if you weren’t good at editing photos before you soon will be

wave jumping
ice cream

I didn’t do much in the way of research before taking these photos, part of me is pleased about this as I feel as a result the style of these photos is more personal and relaxed and from the heart. Having said that I have since picked up some fabulous tips from the book Expressive Photography (from the founds of the fabulous Shutter Sisters website – also full of tips) and this eBook that’s recently been released by Digital Photography School (again, great for photo tips).


Post-production-wise it was really hard to stop myself going crazy with the filters and presets in Lightroom and Photoshop. When I was working on an individual photo I had to keep in my head all the time that ‘this photo is part of a group’ as I wanted them all to look like they belonged together. I could go on for pages and pages about how and what I did in Lightroom – I’ll save that ‘treat’ for another day, maybe.


So there you go. Please let me know if you have any hot tips or advice on shooting this style of informal family portrait – I really need to learn more about it. And do you have portrait photos you’ve taken yourself? I’d love to see them!

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  • Reply
    6 October 2011 at 11:30

    What a beautiful family and gorgeous photos!

  • Reply
    7 October 2011 at 18:33

    Great portraits! Love the processing you’ve done, when you get the time do please share what you did! ; )

  • Reply
    13 October 2011 at 14:14

    Your post-shoot learning lessons are fabulous.
    Thanks so much for sharing them!
    I’ve taken note 😉
    I’d say that this shoot was very successful. They do hold well together as a group. You’ve nailed that element.
    My only question is how to get down lower?
    Do we really need to get down on our bellies for great kids photos?
    I often ask myself this question when photographing my daughter who is 11 months.

  • Reply
    29 January 2012 at 19:36

    I love your pictures!! They are great! I’d like to know how to get the effect of your pics with photoshop if possible.

    • Reply
      30 January 2012 at 23:35

      Thanks so much :)
      There’s a variety of techniques employed here – some have vignetting which I have done a Photoshop tutorial on here
      Other than that I would say investigate the ‘adjustment layers’, especially the ‘Selective Color’ option – that one can work all sorts of magic on an image.
      I have had a few requests now for tutorials using Photoshop rather than Lightroom so my next one will definitely be Photoshop-based!

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