There are the most common question questions regarding family photography.
What do you shoot with?
Top of the line Canon DSLRs. Professional cameras should be a given for a professional family photographer. But one of the most important tools in our toolkit is the understanding of light. There can be no great photography without great light. Choosing the right time of day and the right environment is critical. But most important is the ability to control and manipulate light.
What's different about your lighting?
There are many "available light photojournalists" out there. These folks can produce good images when armed with a nice camera and favorable lighting conditions. Unfortunately excludes the ability to shoot in most indoor environments, and it limits creative possibilities. A whole world opens up when you are complete control over your light. We always bring off camera lighting to every shoot, to create the kind of dramatic images you see in this portfolio. The work should speak for itself.
Off-camera lighting allows us to evoke gorgeous sunsets and to shoot in challenging conditions. It allows us to create flattering shadows and gives a sense of dimension to the photos.
What kind of lenses do you use?
We use a variety of lenses. A combination of prime (fixed focal length) lenses, as well as zoom lenses. Telephotos and wide angles. You can see examples of all kinds of lenses being used in the portfolio shots. Long, telephoto lenses can be more flattering because they compress facial features, leading to less distortion. This makes the nose look smaller, for example. Long lenses, especially long prime lenses such as the 50, 85, 135 and 200 are particularly great for evoking the beautiful blurry backgrounds and "rings" of light known ask bokeh.
However, we also lean heavily on the wide angle lens. The 16-35 is a favorite, because - if used with intention - it can lead to some unexpected and awesome results.
Generally, using a longer lens is a "safer" choice and leads to more classic images. The wide angle can be a high-risk, high-reward lens. Therefore, shoots usually involve the 80/20 rule. We take many safe, classic shots before we begin to experiment and take some creative risks with a wide angle.
How do you make people feel at ease?
Comfort level is critical to getting great photographs. Adults need to feel a sense of trust and rapport with the family photographer. Will this photographer capture me at my best? Will he know my good side? Will he hide my imperfections? Will he get a natural smile out of me? These questions are constantly swirling in the mind.
It's the photographer's job to address these concerns quickly and effectively. Communication is key. Set expectations. Tell people what you're doing. Give and take feedback. Seek out people's best attributes and focus on those. Give genuine compliments. If people can see that you've identified the things they already like about themselves, it creates an instant sense of comfort because they know that you've got attention to detail, and that you're honest. Aha! This guy knows what he's doing! He understands me! When taking photographs, it's easy to see when this moment happens with adults. It's only after this moment that you can capture people at their best.
How do you work with kids?
Working with children is not easy. That's where the family photographer really earns his paycheck! Kids have a short attention span, and they cannot repress their physical needs. While adults can tolerate some physical discomforts, or hide them - kids require immediate resolution. Therefore, the number one thing with children is to ensure that their physical needs are fully met before the session. They should have gotten enough sleep and a nap. They should not be sick. Not ashamed to say it - bathroom trips should be taken if necessary! There should be plenty of snacks and sugar as well.
After the physical needs are met, kids need to feel emotionally supported. Many kids immediately feel the disapproval of the adults in the group if they don't smile or behave or pose properly. It's this very disapproval that can derail a session. The general approach with kids is: let them do as they please. If they don't feel like cooperating in the moment, it's not constructive to push them. Kids like to do kid things. They like to jump and run and grimace. Rather than attempt to curb these behaviors, we embrace them. Let kids be kids and let them warm up to the process.
Connecting with kids is super important. Learning their names and using them. Some gentle physical encouragement like high fives, a pat on the head, a gentle touch on the shoulder. This kind of physical contact is subtle and appropriate, yet establishes a connection between the photographer and the child.
Just like adults, kids appreciate when someone compliments them and notices something about them. ("Wow, check out your awesome orange shoes!"). We are not afraid to get goofy and silly. We'll use high pitched voices and make crazy faces. Whatever it takes to get the kids on our side!
How many photos will we get?
The answer is rather simple: The longer the session, the more photos. We do not hold back any images because we know your memories are important to you. The goal is always to create an eclectic mix of iconic posed and photojournalistic ("candid") photographs. No clients has ever said: "We got too few photos." In fact, most clients end up having a hard time choosing their favorites because there are so many to choose from!
How are the photographs delivered?
Your family photographs are delivered in a private, online gallery. It is print-enabled and has download access. You are free to make your own prints as well, and to share the photographs on social media. You can even conveniently download a lower-resolution version so that you may email it to your grandma. Of course, custom prints, metal and canvas, and albums are available for purchase.
What kind of guidance do you give clients in planning the session?
As much guidance as possible. We determine locations based on the best time of day, often balancing out the best lighting conditions and the nap schedules of children. We advise on what works and what doesn't as far as outfits go. We even consult on choice of shoes! Planning is crucial in order for the session to be success. We often send inspiration and examples from prior sessions in order to provide the most effective guidance.
Of course, we are also open to feedback. Got a Pinterest board full of family photography ideas? Send it over. Got a shot from the site that you really love? Call it out! Have locations that are meaningful for your family? Let's go there!
It's important to think ahead about the demands of a particular location. Are we going to the beach? If so, let's bring appropriate footwear, perhaps a change of clothes and definitely some towels and wet wipes. Are we doing San Francisco family photographs at sunset? If so, better bring layers in the likely event it gets cold quickly. Are we going to be in a windy location? If so, how does that affect your hairstyles?
Do you know how to work with pets?
Many families have a beloved pet - usually a dog - that they want to involve in session. You must know the temperament of your dog. If you expect the pup to be uncooperative or spooked, this should be evaluated. The best advice is to get a dog walker to take the dog after we get those shots out of the way. That way you are not spending the entire session trying to handle your furry one.
In other ways, dogs are much like kids. You have to win their trust with affection and kindness. So we take the same approach.
Do you shoot in studio or outdoors?
Get it? We shoot in both.
Just depends on the look you're going for. A studio with a clean or classic painterly background? Or an iconic San Francisco location? Or both? It's simply a matter of planning.
What if we have to reschedule?
The two most common reasons for rescheduling a family photo session are weather and the kids being sick. We have no control over either factor, and so therefore we have to be accommodating! We keep an eye on all factors that may lead to reschedule, and try to make a call as early as possible given what we know.
How soon will we get our images?
Sneak peeks within a couple of days. Full set within a couple of weeks.
What if a big pimple appears on my forehead the day of the session?
Obvious blemishes are removed during the post production process, and this is included in the session price. Major retouching work, such as deep skin retouching, digital slimming and removal of people/objects are quoted a la carte.
It's important to understand that we strive to accomplish as much as possible IN camera, using lighting, posing, composition, lens choice. The post production process is meant to turn good images into great images (not poor images into mediocre ones).
How soon do you book up?
The fall is our busiest time. Generally October and November are the two major months when people are scheduling their family holiday photographs. We highly encourage you to book in advance.
Do you have multi-session packages?
Yes. Many families have us capture their session every six months or so, especially in the early years when they have young children. They change so fast!