Portrait photography has been around as long as the history of photography itself, dating back to the pre-Civil War days. Family photographs have been popular ever since and are a wonderful way to remember important events and pass memories down to our descendants.
The winter holidays are typically when folks think about snapping a family portrait, usually for the annual holiday card. But just because the first of year has come and gone, doesn’t mean you can’t take great photos the rest of the year. While it may be quick and easy to line everyone up in front of the fireplace and set your camera or mobile phone on timed release, putting a little thought into your family portrait ahead of time can really make it stand out.
First ask yourself some basic questions: Do we have the eye and camera equipment to take a high quality picture, or would we be better off hiring a professional with experience in portrait photography? Do we want a color photograph or black and white? Do we want the photo taken indoors or out? Nature can make a beautiful backdrop, adding color, texture and light, but be sure to take into consideration the weather and time of day.
What to Wear?
As tempting as it may be to put everyone in the same color t-shirt or not even deal with the dress issue, your choice of wardrobe is important. Color can unify the photo and make it look more professional, but you don’t have to have everyone dressed identically. These sites have some fabulous ideas for how to subtly coordinate clothing for a family portrait:
Does your family love to dress up, but there’s no fancy occasion on your calendar? How about taking a portrait in black tie, complete with tuxedos, long gowns, white gloves, and tiaras. Or maybe your family is always perfectly put together and it would be fun to get a little messy. Put on white overalls with bright t-shirts and take your photograph painting the house, cooking, or playing soccer in the mud.
Is Halloween your family’s favorite holiday? Maybe that’s the time to get out the camera and show off your costuming and makeup skills. You could be anything that strikes your fancy, from the Flintstones to a house full of vampires.
Take a Page out of History
Re-creating an old family photograph from generations past could be fun, too, especially if you still have some of the original vintage clothing on hand. Have it printed in sepia to give it that old daguerreotype look and hang it in an antique frame.
Tableaux vivants are living re-creations of famous works of art, and are often photographed—art imitating life imitating art. A trip to the art museum or the library to check out some books can help you find the perfect inspiration. Local costume shops may have everything you need to mimic the original. This is a perfect time to include extended family, and even pets, in the portrait. Think of scenes like Renoir’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party,” or “The Night Watch” by Rembrandt. You could even re-create your favorite album cover, a la “Abbey Road.”
Go Somewhere Amazing
If your family likes to travel, vacation is a great time to get a picture taken. Everyone is rested and happy, and there aren’t a million other things on the schedule. And with so many portfolios on the Web now, it’s easy to hire a photographer out of town.
Travel destinations also make great backdrops, whether it’s the Eiffel Tower, Disneyland, or a sailboat on the Atlantic. If your family is athletically inclined, think about getting a portrait in action: under water surrounded by fish, on surfboards, riding horses, or whizzing down the street on rollerblades.
Put Technology to Work
These days we’re not constrained by the limitations of actual film. Digital cameras allow us to manipulate portrait photography in all kinds of ways. Depending on how gifted you are with programs like Photoshop, you can embellish your photo yourself or have a pro do it.
Wouldn’t it be neat to have everyone holding another earlier portrait of themselves to show how much (or how little) they’ve changed? You can also use digital photography to create a collage out of many smaller pictures, arranging them in interesting shapes or using them to spell out a message. The sky’s the limit once the computer gets involved, so use your imagination and go for something unique and representative of your family style. That’s what portraits are all about—capturing the essence of the people in them!
About the author:
Viva Photography specialise in Wedding & Portrait Photography through out Perth and Melbourne.