Hope to see you all back this weekend for the final Scavenger Hunt link-up! That's when you'll let me know how many items you found and be entered in the final prize give-away (there's two prizes . . . one open to people who found all the items and one open to everyone who participated, regardless of how many items you found).On Sunday afternoon, my friend, the amazing professional photographer Becky Ruppel came over to our house to take some family portraits. The main occasion was to capture a belated "senior portrait" of Henry before he leaves for University, but she also took portraits of Clara and some family groupings. The session got me thinking about all the family portrait sessions in my life.
The very first portraits I remember having taken were taken in a Foremost mobile studio truck/van that would drive through our neighborhood and have families take portraits. There was also a person who brought a pony around, dressed the kids up in cowboy gear and took portraits. These two experiences are the only formal portraits my family every took when we were children.
One of my very first jobs (the summer after I graduated from college) was working for Olan Mills Studio selling portrait packages. My sister and I were living in Boulder, Colorado, and we even got some of the studio portraits taken. They had your standard studio backdrops and the poses were pretty mundane.
When the children were babies, I tried to take them to a mall portrait store front (Picture People, maybe) every few months to capture their growth. The backdrops, props and poses were a bit better than Olan Mills, but still nothing really special.
When Henry was two, we took him to a nice photography studio in town and had a series of gorgeous black and white portraits done. They were beautiful and classic.
A few years later, we had a photographer come out to our house and take portraits of the children. These remain my all time favorite portraits.
Finally, about ten years ago, we had a major portrait session with the local photographer. But this time we went outdoors. It was also the first digital portraits we ever had done. Some of the portraits were stunning, but I never really loved the big family photograph she did.
So, this time when I set up the portrait session, I asked Becky to come out to the house. I snapped the photo up top of Clara on my iphone when Becky asked Clara to hold her camera. I loved the pose which Becky set up of Clara in the big chair. I also took this candid of Clara and Aria in instagram:
I love how Aria naturally sat at Clara's feet, how they are both looking in the same direction and the interesting parallel they present. It's interesting to compare the two photographs (from a composition standpoint, not a technical one) because I like both of them as portraits. The first one is a little quirky, but still pretty and has the advantage of Clara looking directly into my camera. The second one, on the other hand, tells more of a story. . . of a teenage girl and her dog. If I had to pick just one as a portrait, I'm not sure which one I would choose!
I feel really good about the portrait session with Becky and can't wait for the proofs. Which got me thinking about family portrait sessions and what I wanted with them at this point in my life. I wanted portraits that capture us as we are now - not dressed too fancy or matchy-matchy, but in our regular clothes (okay, so we all showered and put on clean clothes). I wanted a photographer who would take the time to get to know us and would try to capture our personalities in the photos (with Becky, this was easy because she knows us all pretty well). I wanted a photographer who was an excellent technical photographer - one who knows light and has the right equipment (reflectors, diffusers, etc.). It's telling that Becky asked me to snap a few photos of my living room and backyard at the times I wanted her to come and send them to her in advance so she could get an idea of what lighting she would need. Finally, I wanted someone who takes pride in their work and would not be willing to give me something that she didn't love. I feel like I got all this (and more) with Becky! She even asked to meet Henry on another afternoon to get a few more shots because she had some ideas that she wanted to try out. I'm glad I set the location for our living room and back yard (but also happy that Becky took Henry out to the "enchanted forest" as well). I know these portraits will be more meaningful because they were taken in our home; the only home the kids have ever known. And I'm really glad that there were not a cheesey backdrops in sight!
So, now, I'm curious. Let's talk family portrait sessions. What has been your experience with them? Good? Bad? Have you gone to a studio, had the photographer come to your house, or gone on location? What would you do differently? What would you do the same? Of the two portraits of Clara posted today, which would you choose and why? All opinions welcome!
"Let's Talk" is a semi-regular series designed to inspire frank discussion and sharing of information on issues relating to photography, art and blogging.