Almost any time you photograph two or more related, (or soon to be related!) human beings together, you are photographing love. Parent/child, siblings, families, couples, weddings…. It is the relationship, the love, between the people that you are trying to capture.
Mostly I tend to resist posing. I love candid natural shots with minimal direction. I might shift people a bit to bring out their best or to reduce background clutter in an image. I might have the subject straighten a collar or remove the spinach from their teeth. I may even have the subject(s) shift their shoulders, arms, or hips. But then I step back and watch. Nobody likes those “say cheese!” forced grins and stiff poses. Sometimes with large groups, you may need to direct more to make sure everyone is looking and smiling at pretty much the same time. But in this case, I’m thinking of smaller groups of 2 - 5 individuals.
Getting Natural Expressions
If it’s a wedding, I may ask the couple about their honeymoon plans. Almost immediately, the two will look at each other with a sparkle in their eyes. Snap! I also will often start sessions with asking the couple to walk ahead of me to a bench holding hands. This allows them some much needed “alone” time where they start to whisper to one another and relax. Snap!
Ask a kid to tell you their favorite joke. Snap! Ask your subjects about their past, their future, a memory… anything to get them thinking about something other than a camera staring at them. You will notice posture and facial expressions relax a bit. Often, you will catch natural eye contact and interaction. These are the beautiful images you are looking for!
Is there something disturbing in the background like a branch, a piece of trash or something else that takes the focus off the subjects? Before you start shifting people, try shifting yourself. Sometimes a slight step to the right or to the left can hide the smoke stack behind that tall person’s head. Before moving your subjects, try moving yourself. And BEFORE you even pick up your camera and place people, look carefully for anything that is unseemly. Try to make the session as natural and flowing as possible.
This is something else to do BEFORE you begin setting people up! People get nervous and fidgety when the photographer starts messing around with the camera. You don’t want nervous and fidgety. Before you begin, select your location and test all your settings. Get those set up as best as you can and then add in the people.
If you shift locations, you may need to adjust your settings again. Just ask your subjects to relax for a moment or two and chat amongst themselves. Who knows, once your camera is ready, you might be able to capture a truly natural shot before your subjects even know what is happening.
Who Is In Charge?
Everyone! Seriously. Yes, you as the photographer need to provide some direction to get the best lighting and backgrounds, but the subjects need to be happy too! What do they want? Especially with children involved, having them choose a location or a pose can help them feel empowered and more in control of the situation. Let your subjects speak their mind. Ask questions and be open to suggestions and possibilities!
Relax and Enjoy
People feed off of one another’s emotions. If you are feeling nervous, anxious or uncomfortable, your subjects will likely sense this and stiffen up themselves. As you relax, smile, and enjoy the session and the love of the people in front of your lens, the more everyone will enjoy the session and relax into the moment.
What have you found that works best for you in capturing the love and relationships of families, couples, and friends?