Ohana Guide: The Family Photography Guide You Need

Disclaimer: Everything that I am “teaching” in this post is actually regurgitated from FIND: Ohana Means Family Guide  – a family photography guide written by Jonathan Canlas of The Find Lab. I’d be shouting the FIND: Ohana Means Family guide’s praises from the rooftops for free, but Jonathan has arranged that I get a few bucks each time you buy a guide. Trust me, it’s worth every penny and you actually get 50% off for not only this guide, but all of his guides until November 28th (no coupon necessary) so hurry up and get it before you buy everyone’s presents! Also, feel free to join my Professional Family Photographer Facebook Group.

If you look at my Pinterest history, you will quickly see “family poses for photoshoot”. Whew, it feels good to get that off my chest. However, I know I’m not the only one that goes (now it’s “went”) straight to that website and/or Google to attempt to save my sessions (well, let’s tell the truth: “plan my session”). Not only did Pinterest and Google completely let me down by only providing cheesy poses (and really creepy ones) they also didn’t prepare me for the interaction part of the shoot which is about 90% necessary for a successful session.

Let’s get real here, some of you think that when you get to the location, the children will jump out of the car with excitement for their photos to be taken. You believe they will pose however you ask them to and facemaking will be kept to a minimal if not at all. I’m sorry to break the news to you, but they aren’t going to jump out of the car with excitement and they definitely won’t follow your orders without any trust being made first.

I used to be like many of you (especially beginners): I would get to the location and shake hands with the parents and just have the family follow me to the spot (and after a few photos in that spot, we would go to another… bad move. Keep reading to find out why) My go-to line for introducing myself to the children was “Hiiii! My name is Michael”. That’s it. You may be thinking, “Ok? What’s wrong with that?” and my answer to that is, nothing is wrong with that as long as you don’t care if the kids are on your side or not (I’ll let you in on a little secret: you want them on your side.)

So I will now get to the point. I can’t really type out every single action you should take in your sessions for two reasons: 1) What works for me and photographer Joe may not work for you. We are all different and that’s actually a beautiful thing. 2) There’s too much to share; I would have to write a book on it (but luckily I don’t have to because Jonathan Canlas already has it taken care of

Without further ado, the “must-follow, non-negotiable, no going around them” tips for a successful family photoshoot.

1) Introduction – Remember when I told you that my introduction with children was limited to 5 words: Hi, my name is Michael. Although it isn’t bad, it also isn’t awesome; it’s whatevs. Canlas says to get down to the children’s eye level so they can look at you, not up at you. To a child, you are a scary (or weird) stranger with a big camera, they have no reason to trust you; but getting to their level changes all of that, it creates a connection because not every adult gets down to their level. It’s vital that the connection is made with the kids before the session starts. Do whatever it takes to make this happen. I usually get down and look at them in the eyes and say, “Are you ready to have a good time?  I can’t hear you!” They’ll usually shout and then I’ll give them a good fist bump and then bam, I’m the cool guy and we are BFF’s.

2) The Force Is Not With You – Although you are now best friends with these kids, you’ll have their attention for 5 minutes before they ask you to start playing with them (especially if there are rocks around). Your first instinct is to force the kids to somehow stay focused, and in Canlas’ words “Force it and it breaks. EVERYTHING. Just like parenting, success is found when your session is created with love, not force.” So what does this look like? Well, Jonathan’s example was if mom isn’t in the photo with dad and the kids, mom should be behind you doing whatever it takes to make the kids laugh; and once that happens, you’re getting some great shots. This is also a good time to mention that you should rarely have your eye out of the viewfinder; the fun moments that needs to be captured sometimes happen out of nowhere and may not last longer than a few seconds.

Must Have Shots:

3) Huddle Up – The group shot is the moneymaker, literally, it will make you money. Most of the time, families want pictures to send as gifts or keep as memories; not to die and be kept in jpeg hell for eternity. The most important shot of the whole session is a super sharp family group photo. Yes, I said it: super sharp. Now isn’t the time to be shooting at f/1.6, I would camp out at f/4 for a small family. Do whatever it takes to make sure every single member is sharp and in focus. It won’t be your most creative shot, but the family will love it and they’ll buy print after print.


4) Family Shots – use other members as a background – I’m not going to say too much because I really want you to get the guide, because Jonathan speaks in depth about this picture and the rest that I will list. Here is an example family photo of my friend with her son using her husband and daughter as the background.

5) Kids together – One of my favorite childhood photos is of my brother and me in our mudbath that we dug up in our front yard. It was taken by my mom with a regular cheap ol’ camera. Do the children a favor and take a photo of them together that they will cherish when they grow older.

6) Sitting Family – We took a photo of the family standing up, but who doesn’t like variety? I followed Canlas’ advice and took a sitting family photo, and I am sure glad I did because it was their favorite one.

7) Parents Need Memories, Too – Some parents haven’t had their photos taken in years. Do them a solid and take their portrait: chances are that they will buy a few prints which equals more money for you.

I gave you all the pointers I could, and to be honest, this isn’t even a fraction of what I learned from the Family guide by Jonathan Canlas. If you are serious about your photography business and want to learn not only about setting up a successful family session but also tripling your income, you need to get the guide. Jonathan was kind enough to extend his Black Friday pricing to my friends; there is no other way to get 50% off and he RARELY has sales, so pick this guide up and any other guide on his website and get the sale price till 11/28

Don’t forget to check out the Professional Family Photography Group on Facebook but only if you are serious about family photography.

Good luck on your next family shoot!

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