Portrait photography

2021 RF + WPPI Tips & Trends for Family Portrait Photography

As family portrait shots moved from department stores to photographic studios, intimate settings, and beautiful outdoor locations, the trend for emotional and authentic images began to reign.

It was this sector of photography, alongside wedding and newborn photography, that suffered the most in 2020, according to a report released in December by British electronics chain Currys. As the industry continues to rebound in 2021, Rangefinder + WPPI offers monthly educational content to help photographers reset their business.

This month, 234 photographers (84% of whom are based in the United States) answered questions about their family portrait business. Respondents were predominantly male (46%) and over 45 (79%). More than three quarters of them considered themselves professional photographers. Their experience varied from less than 5 years to more than 30 years in the company.

Before the pandemic, photographer Sandra Coan noticed a shift to classic studio photography after years of lifestyle imagery that dominated the field.

© Sandra Coan

“The appeal of lifestyle photography is clear. Capturing families as they are in their homes or in a beautiful park seems authentic to many, ”she told Rangefinder. “However, many photographers I spoke to shared that despite their lifestyle approach to family photography, they were noticing a growing interest in working in the studio.”

In this survey, half of the photographers described the aesthetic of their family portrait as a lifestyle, 14% as photojournalistic and 26% as posed or formal.

When cities started to restrict contact with each other, many photographers got creative with social distancing, and “porch sessions” popped up in different cities. “Since my favorite lens is my Canon RF 70-200mm f / 2.8, which allows me to work well outdoors with 6-foot distance restrictions, I thought it was particularly smart,” explained the photographer Andre Brown at Rangefinder.

Wherever photographers organize shots, capturing the personalities of their clients was paramount, as 74% of those surveyed said. See more results below.

When photographing family portraits, respondents said their top five considerations, in order, are quality of light, pose, background, expression, and sharpness or focus. on point. To prepare for their shots, the majority of photographers say they discuss with their clients before the shot to understand their personality (81%) as well as the location of the marking (69%). Only 29% of them plan the lighting and only 23% create mood boards.

“I get as much information as possible about their expectations as well as who they are, what they are specifically looking for and the challenges they may have encountered with past portraits,” said one respondent. “Basically all the information I can get to make it successful in every way. In the end, they become an assistant salesperson for me as a reference. “

In terms of team composition, studio assistants were the most popular (39%), followed by makeup artists (38%), hairdressers (29%), clothing stylists (22%), retouchers (22 %) and finally, scenographers (9%).

Photographers told us their biggest concerns during filming, ranking the uncomfortable subject first at 75%, followed by time limit at 50% and unflattering space at 43%.

Portrait photographer Elena S Blair has tips for eliciting more natural interactions with family members who may not be used to being in front of the camera. Having them dance in a line, stand close and inhale, or tickle each other (lightly) are just a few of the techniques she uses on set. She details these tips in “5 tips for posing families together”.

Brooke Schultz, meanwhile, reveals her approach to photography in family homes, each of which, she says, “will come with their own challenges and gifts.” Instead of lining up everyone on the couch, “break the rules: have subjects sit on the edge of a sink, lie on a bed, or kneel on a nice rug.” While not all of these places are particularly realistic in everyday life, they can create authentic and vibrant photographs.

© Brooke Schultz

Photographers who responded to the survey stressed that to amplify personality, open communication and posing are essential, with 94% choosing this option. Just over 60% indicated that the wardrobe can also play a huge role, and 29% and 23% indicated decoration and scenography respectively.

Given time constraints, 70% of respondents said they plan for multiple setups and stay flexible, 44% said they bring reference images for pose and mood, and 33% said they developed a creative brief.

More importantly, to lay the foundation for a good shot, almost all photographers reported collaborating in some way with their subjects, with 79% saying “always” and 12% more. saying “sometimes”.

“I do most of the work in terms of creating images, but I’m open to customer requests,” one photographer said in the survey. “I schedule the session with my clients in advance and get their feedback on what they would like to see so that we can achieve their goals. “

Half-day filming sessions were the most popular length for investigators, followed by sessions ranging from 1 to 3 hours. One-day or multi-day shoots were rarer. 65% of those surveyed said they don’t offer mini-sessions, but for those who do, half said they added the ability to their services to reach new customers, while 20% said that it had become an alternative service during the pandemic. (For advice on pricing your portrait packages, Michelle Lange has an insightful breakdown here.)

Almost half of photographers said they usually shoot on location, only 11% said they mostly shoot in the studio, and 43% said they did both.

Photographer Sean Lara has tips for large groups outdoors. “You’ll have to get a little more creative,” he told Rangefinder. “I will be looking for unique features in the landscape such as uneven soils, rocks, trees and other areas of visual interest. Then I’ll have my clients stand, sit, or lean on those elements to create a more interesting portrait than just having them stand in a straight line.

In the studio (or outdoors), photographers who use backdrops have chosen muslin / fabric as the most popular option, followed by seamless and pliable backgrounds, then vinyl / PVC. Most of those interviewed said that they choose their backdrops for their ease of use and transport. And the majority (59%) said they used props during their shoots.

Lighting is the most important element in providing a compelling family portrait, according to 49% of those surveyed, while 25% said posing, 18% said composition and 8% said staging. scenography.

To create an atmosphere, photographers favored side lighting and discreet lighting over the silhouette, high intensity lighting or spotlights. For the most flattering results, photographers said they used external flashes, high speed flashes, and strobes, which were much more popular than flashes or light rings built into the camera. In addition, they considered their biggest lighting challenge to be the midday sun.

Lara highlighted the role of the off-camera flash in her Rangefinder editorial. “It can be difficult to use with restless kids and large groups of people, but if you can plan ahead and maybe even bring a helper, using flash will help balance exposures and make it stand out. the background subjects, ”he explained. “When you capture people with vast landscapes, it is almost guaranteed that you will have exposure gaps between your foreground and the highlights of the sky.”

Godox, Profoto, and Westcott turned out to be the three most popular lighting brands, while Westcott, Profoto, and MagMod were the top three choices for accessories.

On the lens side, investigators said aperture was the most important feature when choosing a lens (49%), followed by priming (21%) and image stabilization ( 15%). Autofocus motor (7.5%), zoom (5.6%) and weight (0.9%) rank last. Canon, Nikon and Tamron topped the list of photographers’ favorites, while Sony, Sigma and Zeiss each won less than 10 percent of the vote.

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