Holidays are the source of many family memories and photos are a great way to keep them alive through the generations. My experience says that you’ll be more likely to capture family memories and the feelings and heart-felt emotions of the moment if you make a plan. Even if parts of it go out the window in the day’s excitement and distractions, other parts of it will get used consciously or subconsciously.
Several days in advance, make sure you have fresh batteries and memory card(s) with sufficient free space, and that your camera’s white balance, exposure compensation, and shooting mode are set where you will likely want them. The light on the day of the shoot might dictate changes, but checking in advance and re-familiarizing yourself with the controls will improve your odds for good results. You might want some formal poses, but also think about capturing action and excitement. Get some theme shots too –dyeing eggs or preparing food, table settings, close-ups of meat being sliced, or candid shots of conversations and play. I’m sure you than think of more.
Casing the joint is always a good idea. If you know where you will be shooting you can consider what can be done to position your subjects to add light, avoid strong backlighting, and manage the background to keep extraneous details, reflections, and clutter out of your shots. Remember that shooting in aperture priority with a wide opening might eliminate the need for flash, and if you are close enough to subjects, you can use the shallow depth of field to render the subjects sharply while keeping the background soft and slightly out of focus.
Photograph children and pets at their eye level, and don’t hesitate to move in close with zoom or by closing the space between you and your subject. It might be wise to enlist a helper to help you hold your subject’s attention.
Some people aren’t happy with earlier photos of themselves and would rather not be represented in your of pictures, especially since they’re sure you will share them. Be sensitive and consider not photographing them individually. Instead, try to include them in some of the group shots without being pesky, and keep them out of the front row in the “lineups” that always seem to emerge from family events. Sometimes it helps to begin with a few people in the scene and add the more reluctant ones as your photographing nears a close. There is a good chance that others will provide encouragement for the more reluctant ones.
Finally, do your best not to be intrusive, and give high priority to taking time to enjoy the gathering yourself. I’m sure you would rather be remembered for your good company and not as the one who always has a camera.
I welcome you to share your thoughts now or after your next family photo session, and may your light be right and your shutter finger ready.
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