Do-It-Myself Family Portraits {Part 4}

by Becky on April 3, 2012

Finally, it was time for the big shoot.  Raining almost all of spring break, the weather cleared up on the last day.  Not only did the clouds part, the temperature started to rise, creating a perfect day for a photo shoot.  I gave the big boys their shirts and told them to find the nicest jeans they had.  Calmly, I dressed Abigail and fixed her hair.  Ryan helped Thomas.  Everyone donned their wardrobe with no fussing.  Usually, there is a great amount of whining and complaining about family photos, but not this time.  Every family member was… happy!  Not wanting to lose the moment, I quickly packed my tripod and camera bag (checking to make sure I had memory cards and my remote shutter), and my reflector.  In a sing-song voice I said, “Alright, everyone get in the van!”  We went back to the base lake, where Ryan and I had done our photos.  I used my 70-200mm lens on the Canon 5D Mark II.  I wanted the lens to be partially zoomed, because the background blurs more when a lens is zoomed, but the reach of the remote is only 15 ft, so I couldn’t get much zoom from it.  It took a few test shots, but I found the right balance.  After the camera was set up, we started shooting.

It’s difficult to get seven people looking at the camera when I’m standing behind it, so you can imagine the “excitement” of trying to get seven family members to look at a camera standing on its own in the middle of a grove of trees.  Again, Ryan had the remote and we shot about 44 family images before everyone started to tire.  I then quickly tried to get all five kids together, which resulted in some interesting shots.  Abigail has decided that she needs to strike a pose every time she sees the camera, so my ideal of candid images fell flat.  When I gave up on that image, Ryan took Abby and Thomas for a walk and I was able to get some great images of my boys together.  I enjoyed this part of the session. We had fun, and I was able to capture some images that show their personalities.  When the sun had set behind the trees, I gathered all five together to try to get one last image on the bridge, and finally a shot of Abby and Thomas together.  Then we packed everything back up, let the kids play on the playground for a few minutes and headed home. I was exhausted.

I immediately downloaded the images to my computer and perused the gallery.  Out of the 44 family images, there were five acceptable shots, but only three that I really liked, but all I really needed was one, so I suppose the mission was a success.  After further reviewing the images of all five kids together, there wasn’t one that I loved.  So, the next morning I casually gathered up the “picture clothes” and non-nonchalantly started handing out the shirts to the big boys.  When I started dressing Abigail, she buckled and wailed, “But we already did pictures!”  “We’re just going to walk to the end of the street.”, I responded.  “Ten minutes.”  I walked them down, Ryan held the reflector, and I got some more posed shots of them.  That is also when I was able to capture Ryan with Abby and Thomas.  At last, we were finished with the family portrait sessions!  Three (and a half) shoots, five hours, one sitter, 484 shots.

Look back at the original post to my list of desired shots and see the shots I didn’t get. One more reason to hire a photographer.  She would have made sure Mommy got the shots I wanted.  :-) The next blog post in this series will discuss editing and ordering the prints. Here are some of my favorite images from our family session:

Family Portrait Little Rock Air Force Base

Close Up Family Portrait LRAFB


My BabiesMy LoganMy SkylerMy GraysonDaddy's GirlDaddy's Little ManAll Five


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Do-It-Myself Family Portrait {Part 3}

by Becky on March 27, 2012

Okay, now that I’d chosen outfits, and completed lovey shots, it was time for Abby and Thomas’ session.  I discovered a new “perfect” location around the big base lake and was so excited to try it out!  We dressed the “babies” (they are 4 and 5, but we still call them babies), and packed up the tripods and cameras and headed out just before sunset.  As soon as we arrived, I realized that I had forgotten my reflector!  I decided to shoot without it, because I wouldn’t have another opportunity to do the session before the big boys arrived.  Setting one camera up on the tripod for video, I attempted to capture the images I had envisioned with the other.  Instead, the babies took me on a wonderful journey of spontaneity and joy.  I never did get my ideal images; but I discovered something better.

Thirty minutes later the sun had set and Ryan and I started repacking equipment back into the van.  I had so much fun doing this session, even though I didn’t get the portraits I wanted.  Oh well, there’s always next time…


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Do-It-Myself Family Portrait {Part 2}

by Becky on March 11, 2012

The next step in creating the perfect family portrait was getting some good images of Ryan and myself.  We had a sitter for two hours, and we went over to the base lake with the tripod and remote shutter.  I felt really goofy running back and forth between the camera and the pose, but Ryan is exceptional at making any situation fun and more relaxed for me.  He was also the one with the remote, because when I hold it, it is painfully obvious.  My face always has the “I’m hiding a remote in my hand” look.  He did a great job and we took about 100 shots. I went through and chose 35 of my favorites, then he did the final selection of 9 images.  While I think it’s important to have an image of mom and dad in any family portrait collection, the time we spent together creating these images was even more priceless.  Below are our favorite images with a little commentary.

“Is the light blinking?”


“Okay, okay… soft smiles…”



“Making them exciting!”


“Let me see if we can make it look like my head is coming out of your shoulder.”


“Look at that tree and dream about our future…”


“Alright, look like, ‘What is that random camera doing here?’ ”


“The ground is wet.”


“I hope my foot isn’t cut off.”


“For this one, you are a handsome prince strolling through the woods.  You see me and are mesmerized by my beauty.  As you are trying to woo me, a Far Far Away paparazzi photographer captures our intimate moment.”


The last one is my favorite and is the one that will make it onto my wall.  I used two lenses for this shoot, the 70-200 and also an 85mm prime.  All of these were taken with the zoom, except for the one showing me slung over Ryan’s shoulder.  If you look, you can see that image shows much more of the background range.  Prime (no zoom) lenses work well for sprawling landscape shots.

That’s in for the Mommy & Daddy in love shoot.  Next up will be Abigail and Thomas.  Wish me luck and see you next time!  :)


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Do-It-Myself Family Portrait {Part 1}

by Becky on March 10, 2012

Ha! I used those little bracket { } thingies!   :)

Okay, so many of us portrait photographers make a big deal of letting a professional handle your family portraits.  For many reasons; we have higher quality equipment (usually), we have a good eye for composition, posing, and exposure, and we can provide you with a high end print product for your wall, a professional can get you a better portrait than a tripod and a timer.  The experience a professional provides takes away many stressors.  The photographer can worry about taming the kids, snapping the shutter at the right moment, knowing she has the shot.  Not to mention the culling, editing, and printing of a Wall Portrait that will have a prominent display in your home.  However, many of us professionals ignore our own pleas and we shoot our own family portraits.  Why?  I think the excuses vary, but for me, I know exactly what I want, and I only have a short window of time to set it up, and it’s kind of become a challenge for me that I secretly enjoy.  I’ve been using a tripod and a remote for many years, and I thought it would be fun to take my blog readers on the journey with me.  So, here we go…

There are so many factors to consider when I decide it’s time for a new family portrait (usually once a year).  Camera, lens, wardrobe, print size and variety, the list goes on and on.  I know that I will want to print it large – larger than 16×20.  Therefore, I will use my Canon 5D Mark II.  The high end sensor used in this camera provides the megapixal type that will allow me to print big.  I know that I’ll want the image to be as sharp as possible, I’ll want the subjects (my fam) to pop from the background, so I’ll use my 70-200mm zoom lens, the highest quality (and most expensive) lens I own.  This lens will throw some challenges though, because of my family size.  I’ll have to take a few test shots to make sure everyone is in focus and in frame.  I don’t just want images of the whole family, I want many sets of images, just like I would provide a client.  I have five children, ages 16 to 4, and keeping them all entertained and happy while I’m trying to compose images is tough.  In order to maintain peace and sanity, I will break the shoot up into three or four mini-shoots.  I know that I want the following shots:

  • Abigail ( age 5)
  • Thomas (age 4)
  • Grayson (age 10)
  • Skyler (age 14)
  • Logan  (age 16)
  • Abigail and Thomas
  • Mommy, Daddy, Abigail, Thomas
  • Logan, Skyler, and Grayson
  • All 5 kids
  • Mommy with all five kids
  • Mommy with Logan, Skyler, and Grayson
  • Daddy with Abigail and Thomas
  • The Whole Family
  • Mommy and Daddy

Whew!  It was tough typing that, and I’m concerned about shooting it.  It’s been way too long since Ryan and I had portraits done, so we are getting a sitter and going out for a couple of hours to do our portraits.  That takes care of one image on my list, “Mommy and Daddy”.  The big boys, Logan and Skyler are only with us for a few weeks per year, so we only have a week to do the large part of the list.  While I can only do the family shot during spring break, I can knock out the shots of the littlest kids anytime.  I think I’ll take Abby and Thomas out sometime this week to do the shots of them.  If Ryan can make it, we’ll do the shots of the little ones and us at the same time.  That will take a few more items off the list. After the big boys get here, we’ll go out for a couple hours of pain and get the list completed.  Sweet, logistics done.

Now, for the portrait planning.  My first concern is usually wardrobe.  Wardrobe sets the tone for the images.  If the wardrobe is very formal, the portraits will have a very regal feel.  If the wardrobe is casual, the portraits will have a more relaxed tone.  I want casual and relaxed.  My goal is to have fun during the entire process, and I want the wardrobe to reflect that.  When choosing wardrobe for portraits, I suggest choosing one family member’s outfit, usually a child’s, that has a distinct pattern.  Then, using the pattern from this first outfit, select the other family member’s clothing.   I followed my own advice and I chose a printed dress for my daughter as the “Inspiration Pattern”.











From there, I went to the little boys clothing and found the perfect shirt for my four-year-old.  While it pulled out the gray in the flowers of Abby’s dress, I fell in love with it because it has airplanes!

The big boys’ shirts were a little more complicated because I didn’t want them all in green, and they are not really into wearing pink.  Dedicated to the mission, I kept looking until I found shirts in green and gray.  There was not another color in Abby’s dress that was not pink or green, so I was stuck.  I stood in the store, staring at the options for big boys shirts.  My eyes kept returning to a blue/green/aqua color.  It coordinated with the coral on the dress amazingly!  Inspiration struck!  I would add a shirt of the same color for Abby to wear under her dress.

Perfect!  The kids were done.  Choosing for myself and Ryan was not too big of a deal.  I tried on a couple of shirts that were funky and fun, but, alas, I am not funky or fun, so I settled on a simple coral sleeveless sweater.  I chose a muted lime green polo for Ryan, and I was finished.

Wardrobe is ready to go.  Now to get all of the images on my list without losing too much hair.  First up… “Mommy and Daddy In Love”… stay tuned…


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Mommy Photography 101!

by Becky on March 4, 2012

This will be my first time teaching a photography class, and I’m super excited!  We’ll be covering basic camera operation as well as tips to get better images of your kids.  For a cost of just $10, this two hour class will encourage you to start moving the dial away from the green box and start telling your camera what to do.  Email to register (or use the PayPal button below).


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