My family loves photographs. My father is a keen photographer, my mother has bookcases full of family photos, my sister plasters her walls with pictures of her loved ones, at home and on Facebook. And how many times did we get our family portraits taken...?
Once. One lousy time! At a friend's birthday party, so not even our initiative. It was a black tie affair (that's British for "fancy") and although my parents looked very dapper, I was going through a gothic phase and was dressed like a zombie and my sister was wearing a bracelet with studs on. Rebellious teenagers. That is our ONE professional family portrait! No, I'm not posting it. I would actually, but it's hanging on the wall in my parents' house in England.
So, despite the ridiculous outfits my sister and I are sporting, we're all REALLY glad we have that professional quality picture of all four of us together because it's one of the few pictures of our WHOLE family! In all our other pictures, one of us is missing because we're behind the camera.
Now that I have my own family, I am making up for lost pictures! It took me a while to realize that I need to hire a professional for this task. Actually, it wasn't until I became a professional myself that I realized WHY even pros themselves use OTHER professional photographers to take their family portraits.
I tried the stranger at the bus stop approach... out of focus. The stranger didn't understand the camera. And I look as tense as a lion about to pounce, ready to catch my expensive camera if the stranger drops it! And we are wearing anoraks and silly hats. And the backdrop is a bus stop.
Halfway to setting up as a pro, I even thought I could get away with being the only photographer who took her own family portraits... But when your family have not invested financially in the photo shoot, they don't invest enough time or effort into it. So, after 3 pictures on timer, they've had enough. And my bro-in-law (love ya!) is making a face. And I have my hand in front of my husband's head. These are the things the pro sees, when behind the camera. By the time I had run back to the camera and begged for one more shot, it was too late - the 3 minutes were up and everyone was headed back into the house for beers. I framed the picture anyway, to my bro-in-law's chagrin!
A professional photographer will spend anything from 45 minutes to 90 minutes shooting hundreds or even thousands of images during a family portrait session. We plan our backdrops in advance, we sketch out poses to go through during the session, we snap candid shots of the family interacting naturally. We arrange to meet at a time when the light will be perfect and allow a break for a change of outfit. We have a vision that will be creative and our own. Certainly, photographers sometimes use popular poses that are known to be flattering or striking, but each photographer puts his or her own artistic flair into both the shooting and the post processing and this differs from one pro to another.
Finally, at an important meet-up of a group of my family that has not been together for a few years, I knew I MUST book a photographer to capture the occasion.
I spent weeks trawling through websites and finally found someone whose work I LOVE. He is Peter Russell, from Cape Town, South Africa.
This is a quick picture I took of him at the end of the day, inspired by his creativity and the awesome time we all had together.
And here are some of his images from a great professional family portraits session:
Nobody unintentionally out of focus, no bus stops, everyone dressed up and coordinated, all attentive to what the photographer asks of us, a lovely mixture of poses and candids, beautifully edited in Peter's own particular style. And the best thing of all? We are ALL there! These days, I spend so much time behind the camera and rarely any time in front of it, but there I am, completely relaxed, with the people I love, a moment in time, a fabulous, happy day captured forever for us.
And here's one of my own candid pictures from the same visit.
I love this picture and everyone in it, but I'm behind the camera again! Thank goodness that when my children are grown up, they will have portraits to treasure of their WHOLE family, including their dear old Mum!!
My advice to anyone who loves photographs and wants to have a record of the whole family at important times during your lives? Hire a pro! Pick a photographer whose portfolio inspires you and let them work their magic for your family. You won't regret it!
Rebecca Berra Photography
I love, LOVE, L♥VE photography! And my family, friends, life, traveling, music, skiing, good food, nature, our Parker community, the world... But I'll try and stick to the photography here! Most of the time....... ;-)