Friday, October 8, 2010

Family Portraits on the Farm!

I recently had the pleasure of shooting some family portraits for an old college friend, Romi.  The awesome part was that the shoot was part of  a long weekend visit and Romi and Family were more than happy to do the shoot informally!  Romi and her husband Andrew (everyone named Andrew rocks!) have two beautiful children Kalan and Gavin.  As many of you may know shooting children can be difficult, especially in a formal studio setting with a limited time frame to work in.  So having parents willing to trust me and go with the flow is a luxury and really in my opinion the best way to have a chance to grab something special.

This was a first of this kind of shoot for me.  I have worked with a few families in the studio, but never had I worked on location (in this case their beautiful historic Farmhouse in VA).  Hearing horror stories from my other photographer friends about trying to get children to cooperate had lead me to realize that trying to force young children to focus for long periods of time with parents and photographers trying to get that perfect image with all involved smiling on cue was a recipe for failure.  So I have always wanted to try an informal, available light shoot.  Just me and my camera and the Family on location. If I could get the whole family to relax and get used to me pointing a camera at them I figured I might be able to produce some images that were much more than simple images of a family all smiling on cue.

So the first day of the weekend visit I made sure to have my camera with me at all times.  I took a couple hundred images that day.  Almost all of the them terrible, but my goal was to just get everyone used to me with the camera.  And I did capture two lovely images that you could never duplicate in the studio.  The first is of Kalan passed out on the couch after an afternoon at the pool, and the second is of Gavin helping Dad prepare for dinner.

The morning of my last day visiting ended up being the big shoot.  The weather as expected was terrible for photography.  It was over 100 degrees (did I mention the beautiful historic farm house had no AC?), the Sun was bright and harsh even at 10AM when we finally started shooting.  And on cue Gavin had a melt down with in 5 minutes because he had no desire to wear the nice polo shirt his Mom wanted him to wear.  So I asked Romi if I could go off with Gavin alone and see if I could win him over.  Once I had him by himself I asked him what he wanted to wear, his soccer uniform he replied.  Perfect! Then I asked him what he wanted me to photograph him doing, he decided posing on his bogey board in the middle of the lawn..Brilliant! I sure would have never thought of that :)

Next up he played with his cool dump truck, and then onto T-ball practice.  The Holga came out for these images.

at this point the whole family was watching and I grabbed a nice simple image of Romi and Kalan.

Then it was time for some bike riding and Dad stepped in to help.

Now these images may not be fine art, but they are images that are showing the Family as they are.  So they are unique and special in that way.  Personaly I find these images more meaningful and more likely to be special over time.  There is a bit of a snapshot of this families evberyday life here, something they can look back on a still be transported back to this time in their lives 10 years from now.

Next it was time to play soccer and Kalan joined in.

All during this time I was making a deal with Gavin, if we did what he wanted for a while, maybe we could do a few with his sister and then the family.  When it was time to pair up the siblings I managed to grab some really special images (with the help of some obviously funny antics from the parents going on behind me, maybe one of these days Romi and Andrew will tell me exactly what they were doing behind my back that was so hilarious).  In these images I managed to capture a few brief moments where Gavin let his guard down and you can see how much he loves his little sister.  Kalan was never shy about showing her love for him.

Up next came some serious tree climbing.

And then it was time for some portraits of the whole family.  The bright background actually provides the perfect distraction free background.  I love having the children in trees in between the parents.  I also love how again you see this natural family dynamic in an obviously posed image.  Kalan is staring lovingly at Dad, Gavin as usual is in his own world, and parents are doing what they are supposed to!  Put it all together and I think it adds that extra something and gives you a more true glimpse into this lovely family.

To end the shoot we went on a short hike around the property.  It was hot, everyone was getting tired, but the children were now having fun and comfortable and I got this!

For me this was THE image of the shoot.  It is one of the best family portraits I have ever shot.  You have this perfect representation of this family.  The strong, loving, protective arms of the parents representing their love and support of their children.  Yet the parents faces aren't shown.  Honestly their hands are all you need to understand how Romi and Andrew feel about their children.  You also understand that these are parents who are not overbearing, they see their children as individuals and allow them to be exactly how they are.  You see Gavin off in his own world, this is very much Gavin.  Kalan is quietly experiencing everything, happy to be with her family and finding enjoyment in every new experience.  During the walk she picked flowers and they make the perfect appearance here.  The only direction I gave the family was to stop in a patch of shade and then I started shooting.  I saw this immediately and grabbed it.  I knew then that I had something special.

I grabbed a  last image with the Holga.

The gear used for this shoot was a Canon 20D and a Modified Holga from Holgamods.  The majority of the shoot was done with the Canon.  As a solo shooter digital just allows for a smoother and quicker work flow.  In retro spec I wished I had done some more work with the holga and explored overlapping images of each of the family members.  I plan on heading back down to work with the Klears soon so hopefully they will be happy to let me experiment with that.

I think the main lesson learned is to not have to much of a plan going in, when you are working with many individuals and especially young children it may be better to just go with the flow and see what you get.  having parents that are willing to allow you that freedom is key, they may not get the perfectly posed images they might have wanted, but they will get some lovely images of their family as they are and personally I think those are family portraits that will stand the test of time.

Hey if you just want images of the whole family on a silly blue background, perfectly dressed up and all looking right at the camera smiling on cue, I can recommend "Glamour Shots by Deb" at your local mall or Walmart.  There is no sense paying a fine art photographer to create shots that a 14 year old kid can make while working his summer job!

Keep an eye out for the next article from GreenSt detailing Andrew's testing of some of the Impossible films starting with PX100 First Flush and the new PX100 Silver shade as well as his first tests of the new PX70 First Flush color film.

Also check out GreenSt's Filckr page every Tuesday for Andrew's weekly uploads of new images from current shoots and his archives.  Tell him what you think by leaving comments and favoriting the images you like.


  1. Love these. The last two and especially the first one really bring it home.

  2. Thanks Warren! That means a lot coming from you, your images of your family are awesome!

  3. I like Georgie's cameo! Kalen asleep on the couch is my favorite.

  4. wow, great report and amazing photos!

  5. Thanks Leah! I think Georgie just thought Sabu was the greatest and never wanted to be anywhere but at his side :)

    I'm glad you like the write up and images Magic! Thanks for your kind words!