I LOVE photographing multigenerational and extended families! Vacations, reunions, holidays, and anniversary celebrations are special times and provide the perfect opportunity to be remembered with quality professional portraiture. However, in my twelve years of experience photographing large groups, I have learned that there are a few things to keep in mind when you are considering booking this type of session. There are a few common pitfalls that can easily be avoided with a little thoughtful preparation.
Make sure that everyone is in agreement about the goal of the session. Some families only want a great photo of the whole group, documenting that everyone was there and providing a well lit and controlled image that would look nice as a keepsake and perhaps an enlargement for the grandparents. They don’t want to devote much time in an already tight schedule (understandably so). I offer a special mini-session for this type of session, which takes about 20 minutes and yields 5 digital files of the whole group so that everyone can select the one that they look best in, lol!
Some families want to take the rare opportunity of everyone being together and use it to capture relationship images between family members – siblings, grandparents with all of the grand-kids, etc. This takes longer, but allows the creation of a custom album that will become a treasured heirloom and last for generations. You also get the poignant and priceless video slideshow that I am known for creating. This is my most popular session by far. After all, the opportunity to all be together for a session is rare, and the hardest part of getting everyone together and dressed is done – so taking full advantage of it makes sense.
Make sure that everyone is in agreement about the style of the extended family photo session. Some people love traditional, perfectly lit and posed studio photography and some people prefer casual, outdoor portraits that are a little more relaxed. It’s important to know if someone will be unhappy if their hair is blowing a little on the beach, or if they will be uncomfortable sitting on the ground. Often the session is a gift for grandparents, who tend to like a more classic style, so please be sure that a outdoor casual portrait will be something they would display in their homes. I will be happy to refer you to another photographer if studio portraiture is your preference.
Once you decide what your goal for the session is, you can choose from 2 collections:
*Sweet Lil’ Moments, which is a 15-20 minute session of a few basic family group poses, and includes your choice of your favorite 5 digital files from a selection of 8-10 edited images for $250 including the session fee, or
*Special Moments, which is up to 60 minutes and includes all of the digital files (minimum 30), slideshow, and a gorgeous custom heirloom album of all of the edited images for $899. This session includes all of the family combinations: whole group, grandparents with their children, grandparents with their grandchildren, adult siblings, each individual family, etc.
Please see my pricing page for further details about what is included in the Special Moments Collection, and the add-ons that I offer. The Simple, Sweet, and Shared collections are not available for extended family sessions.
Because these extended family photo sessions involve so much more work for me (posing and editing), and involve so many people, I only offer these two choices in order to make it as simple as possible for all involved. Once the decision is made as to type of session, the rest flows smoothly.
Please make sure that, if you plan on splitting the costs among family members, that everyone knows exactly what their share will be BEFORE the session. Sometimes family members who have agreed to participate in the photo session may not be clear that their siblings expect them to also contribute financially, and to the degree required. Payment in full for the type of session is required on the day of the photo session, so if you are planning to share responsibility among siblings please collect the money early (this is for your protection – so you don’t get left holding the bag!).
Please choose ONE person to be the contact that I will communicate with before and after the session, who will make the payment, and who will be the person to sign the portrait agreement. It is too easy to make mistakes or omissions if there are too many people involved, and I want to provide you with the best, most stress-free experience that I can!
Clothing decisions need to be made early so that those who are travelling can be prepared. PLEASE do not show up in matching white shirts! My best advice is this: choose neutrals plus 2-3 colors that match the decor of the grandparents, in case they want to hang an enlargement. So – jeans, blacks/grays, creams/khaki for your neutrals, and then 2 or 3 colors with very limited prints or patterns. The designated contact person should check with everyone ahead of schedule so that there aren’t any surprises, such as someone showing up in a football jersey that happens to match the red, gray and blue palette that was chosen (true story). Please see my What To Wear page, under Details, for more info.
Location is crucial to a good portrait because of the lighting. Often I am asked to shoot on location at a special place “in front of the garden” or at a lakefront home or in a hotel where everyone is staying. This creates special challenges, because I can’t have people squinting into the sun or crushed together to fit in front of a landmark. Time of day is especially important because of the position of the sun. We need to discuss specific locations prior to the session so that I can be adequately prepared with lighting equipment if needed. I have many places that are perfect for groups that I can recommend for a beautiful result. And remember, it’s about the PEOPLE, not the flowers!