Bluebird Chic ambassador Leigh Ann of Leigh Ann Atwell Photography shares her best tips for photographing blended families.
Photographing blended families can sometimes be stressful. Sometimes you will feel more like a therapist than a photographer. It can be tricky to navigate the waters of family dynamics, particularly if there’s tension between the children and a step-parent. More often than not, you’ll need a few tactics to help you through it.
Today I want to offer you five simple tried and true techniques for your next blended family session.
TIP # 1 – Start with the entire family group shot.
Especially if you have small children at your shoot. Kids tend to open up easier when they see that mom and dad (or mom and step-dad, or step-mom and dad) are comfortable with you. Get that pose-y, posed shot, then ask them who’s the most ticklish, or who snores the loudest. Catch them when they all crack up about the rumbling bear snores that dad puts off at night. By then you’ll have their trust, and their attention, because “hey, this session is pretty fun!”
TIP # 2 – Treat it like ANY other family session.
That’s right, not too heavy of a technique and more a practice of normality. Photograph them as you would any other family that comes your way. By not treating it as a “special” session, it becomes just another session. Our vibes spread to our client, so it’s important that we laugh, put them at ease and photograph them being themselves. If the kids are more comfortable sitting by “their” parent, roll with it. Make sure they’re all touching, and then tell a ridiculous joke that only kids and adults with immature senses of humor (ahem, me!) find funny.
Tip #3 – Do not force any photographs that children aren’t comfortable with.
I once had a family, I asked the children for a picture with Dad. Two of the children were his, one was his step-daughter. The step-daughter was very wary. She wasn’t angry, she wasn’t upset, she just did not want to do it. I read her body language and quickly switched to a different pose with just the kids and no parents. We, as photographers, must be observant. Had the parents forced the girl to take the picture, she would have looked uncomfortable, and that’s not the images nor memories that I want to deliver.
TIP #4 – Don’t differentiate between step-children and “real” children.
I do not EVER take images of mom with “her children” or dad with “his children”. I always lead them to poses of mom with THE KIDS. Dad with THE KIDS. All the kids together. Family is inclusivity. Nine times out of ten, these will be really easy images to capture.
TIP #5 – Laugh, Have fun and PLAY.
The best thing I have learned in my six years as a photographer is to STOP posing and start playing! Be ridiculous, get them to open up, ask them questions about themselves. And shoot the entire time they are playing with you. You’ll catch the best photographs when their guard is down and the mood is high. This applies to blended and “normal” families. Trust your gut and follow your instincts.
I started my professional photography business in 2012, since then I’ve been published internationally, won awards and mentored countless other photographers. My clients describe me as patient, fun and laid back. Now that the formal facts are out of the way, let me tell you more about me. I’m a mother to Gracie and Ryder. I have an amazing fiance, David, that came into my life just at the right time and brought my bonus daughter, Shelby, with him. Things that make me fall even harder in love with the world around me: sunsets (cliche but true!), watching children explore, seeing new love develop, sweets (give me all the chocolate. No, seriously.. All of it) and pretending I’m very organized with my planner and schedules.
Visit me at: http://www.leighannatwell.com/