Thursday, September 19, 2013

Let's Talk . . . Family Portrait Sessions

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!
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"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. 

20 comments:

Lesley G said...

That certainly is a great photo.
Back in Feb, we went to a studio for some fun style portraits to be taken. Although expensive, I love how they turned out and the photographer captured our love as a family. You've probably seen most of them scrapped over on my blog!!!
Two days - I'll be back :)

Karen said...

My favorite of Clara is the second one. We had a professional photo taken at a studio this summer when everyone was here. I don't think it's awesome, but the photographer was quick, and with two toddlers that was important. I got what I wanted--a shot of all of us together. I paid to get the digital prints, and I'm pretty disappointed with how they are printing on my home printer which usually gives me excellent prints. My post is ready to go this weekend: Saturday or Sunday?

alexa said...

Oh, I am hard pressed to choose here! I think the second one, just for its casual informality ... We have never had sny family portraits done :(.

Sian said...

We've never done one. It's not something there is much of a tradition of in our part of the world: certainly when we were growing up it would never have been considered as something to spend on at all. Now? We call the neighbours over to snap a few pictures when we come home from something as a family.

I couldn't choose either. Both lovely!

Sian said...

ps some of the prettiest pictures of Clara are the ones you have taken recently of her in running gear

Becky said...

We have had one family portrait done when Ben was 8 and Penny 4 (now 24 and 22) as we were given it as a gift. As Sian said, it is not such a tradition over here either. I took the children to the local shop once a year when they were little until they started school and then we just bought their school portraits. We try to get an informal family group photo once a year, but usually set it up ourselves using the tripod - never brilliant, but still fun and a record of how we looked! I love the second photo of Clara :)

Ruth said...

Never done one ~ you'll be gathering it's not that routine her in the UK. I like the idea of one, at least I'd appear in them! But with The Boy Child's autism you can never be sure he'll play ball ...

ComfyMom~Stacey said...

We had a family portrait done around Xmas 2004. Mayhem wasn't yet a year old & Havoc had just turned two. It was at Sears so you can guess how it all went.
A couple years ago I wanted to get the whole family together for a photo session with a big family portrait done for my folks 45th anniversary.
I had to leave the photographer choice to my brother as he was in our hometown & I wasn't & I assumed given how plugged in he is to the 'old boy' network he could find a fabulous one. But no. He got the guy who did my wedding photos who does good indoor work but has issues with natural light & picked high noon as our time, which was terribly glary.
My folks loved the portrait but every time I look at it I see white balance issues & I never ordered any prints because of it. Sort of feel like it was a waste of money.
I want to get some casual fun portraits done but i'm not wowed by the work of anyone so far recommended to me locally.

Ladkyis said...

We have never done one - UK residents you see. We don't pay for pictures in a studio because every primary school in the country has an annual picture of every pupil/student done as a way of making a little money for the school. All siblings usually are taken together to I have pictures of my children - head and shoulders - from every year from the age of 5 until the age of 14. My 8 year old granddaughter took a picture of us this summer that was a really good portrait.

Abi said...

I think it's a uk thing. We have only ever had one from a family friend. I liked it but it felt awkward when she tried to make us laugh!

Irene said...

Sad to say we have not taken a family picture, but had a portrait of John in his letterman jacket when he graduated.. The other boy did not want to take a portrait.

Missus Wookie said...

Being a US transplant in the UK I convinced Wookie it was important for us to have family photo shots and went to the Olan Mills set up. We do a family reunion most years of my parents and sibs and get photos from that. Having no photos of myself in my teen years I was determined to get more of my kids :)

Miriam said...

I love the first picture of Clara and I will just say that I live in the UK as well so no tradition of a professional family photo session. So looking forward to a scavenger hunt blog hop over the weekend.

Fiona@Staring at the Sea said...

How funny! I was expecting everyone to think I was terribly remiss for not ever having a family portrait done, but it seems I'm in very good company. I love the 'girl and her dog' shot, it's perfect :o)

Jo Murray said...

Lovely photo Rinda...I like the one with the dog.

sky-blu-pink said...

Hello Rinda! Just catching up to say I will post my Scavenger hunt post tomorrow. I have had such fun collecting them - great challenge!

Deb @ Paper Turtle said...

I love the photo of Clara and Aria in the second shot. :o)

As for family portraits, I have very few as a child. There are a few of myself and my sister and brother (before our baby brother was born) and they look like mall portraits. Carrie and I have had a few taken together - just the two of us and those are fun, but they just look so posed. I'd love to find a local photographer to get some good photos of Doug, Carrie, and me. I hope you will share Becky's shots on your blog when you get them - can't wait to see!

Andy said...

Hi Rinda, I like the second more casual photo with her dog. It is a great shot. I had a family shot when I graduate from University. But I agree family photographs is lost tradition unless you make an effort.

becky ruppel said...

I was honored to come take your family photos and I can't wait for you to see them!
As to your post- the only time we had a formal portrait growing up was-wait for it-Olan Mills! It hung in my parents bedroom until my dad passed and is now in my sisters possession.
I did. However, take a formal photo of my kids every Christmas as gifts for my parents and Iin-laws. I still take at least one formal portrait of each of my now adult children once a year. They are tolerant for maybe 2 minutes so I work fast. Your family was wonderful and both Clara and Henry were so easy to work with.

Gail said...

It's hard to pick between the two, they both are really good. We never had any formal portraits as a family when we were growing up but it seemed like every year for awhile we'd go to a photography studio and my parents would get pictures of my sister and I but that seemed to stop once we were both in school. Those are about the only pictures I have of growing up because once my Dad got his movie camera the still camera got put away. I think I'd like to get a professional portrait done of John & I.