Top Tips: #1 Simplify The Shot


Children and Family Photography


Lesson Info

Top Tips: #1 Simplify The Shot

So I want to run through my top tips for that's actually hard to stop texting tamara for children and family portrait as it relates teo if you're looking over all at photographing children and family we obviously been going through a lot as it relates to lighting and positioning and mood and energy but kind of overall what are some things to keep in mind when it comes to setting up and delivering a shot and I do keep those as two separate things setting up and delivering a shot obviously as much as you can get everything set up and clean and great camera that's wonderful but if you can make sure you're emphasizing what you know you most want to express and for me I've always said this that I consider a shot half done when I shoot it and because I know that everything I delivered my clients is going to go through some sort of post experience and that post experiences my ability to be able to give it that next level that I would wanted to dio but when you're there on the scene what are s...

ome things to consider tip number one is simplify the shot this one I probably could not over and empathize know emphasize you should be really empathetic when you empathize and the flop emphasized that emphasize emphasize home I got refrigerator so constantly consider this when you're looking at an image what can I take away what can I take away every time I'm looking at image? I'm thinking, what can I take away? How can I make this as simple as possible? If my goal for you as the viewer when you're looking at my image is to hone in on something that I think is important, how do I get you there faster? And the way I do that is I take away anything that doesn't add to the impact I want an image to have. So how do you simplify a shot as much as possible in this case? And that doesn't mean that every single shot is isolated subjects, everything else shall it up the field that's not what that means, it's. More like how did I get you to see what I care about the most. And sometimes that is simply just brother and sister together and the way that they care about each other. Other times it's these four five layers in a scene that I think are really cool. How do I simplify it? Enough that that's what you see, too? When I shot this image, this was on a trail and cary, north carolina, one of those green ways and we were not dissimilar from show showing you the shoot in the park we did yesterday with those kayaks coming by on this trail we kept having bikers come by and zooming on the corner, which is dangerous, eh? So we made sure that we're far enough away from the bend where we could see if anybody was coming around, but I had to consider consider several things here there's a bench on the edge of the frame that I made sure was just at a frame there were leaves that have fallen to the ground if I have the chance and I did in this case I wasn't rushing anything, these kids were hanging out, they were having fun, I could just jump in and clear the leaves out of the scene and I will take the time to do that often in stuff in shots like this, I don't really want to go in and patch them out, their clone them out if I don't have to in this case, I didn't have that rush I could do that in more relaxed fashion and so I did little things about the light behind us. We were backlit in the scene, we have our reflector popping light back on them so we can get their faces well illuminated, but I need to be able to tilt my angle so that I don't have a ton of brightness coming out at me I'm still going to probably do a little bit to burn it down later so again you go to where I want you to see, a lot of that is simplifying the shot this image was shot I want to say at probably a one eight I'm guessing again my distance, the subject shooting really clearly on the two of them together single shot focus and then how can I set it up so that the steam is exactly what you want to see? This is a pretty simple shot, right? But I think for me that's part of its effectiveness um if you look really closely, they're actually french kissing it's awesome s o in this image we actually this was shot during a workshop right near my studio actually right outside of my studio in durham, north carolina, and another thing where there's a time going on if there had been another camera that and there probably is anybody who might be watching this very workshop in north carolina probably has a shot they can share, but if you're looking at the scene, what you would see is fifteen photographers fifteen people cap at the workshops myself, these two and the rest of her family to other boys, her husband and joggers, runners, bikers coming up and down trail it was it's chaos it's really a nutty scene, but I don't need to show that I get to choose what I want the image to be and what I want to select was a release simple shot here. So what I do is I end up adjusting my angle so that I'm shooting up a bit so I can drop everything else out of the scene. The first thing I do to simplify it, I've got the white side of a reflector filling in the shadows that are naturally occurring. When I've got a backlit situation, I'm shooting again. We've been talking about meeting a lot, I'm shooting with a spot meter, which means I'm shooting back lit, and I want to be able to focus and have the exposure beyond them, and then I have coarse and framing it because I have the ability to do this, framing it in a way that we've got it, you know, following the nice common rule of thirds where your focus is going in a certain area. So a simple shot. Um, this actually, I just photograph recently about I would say about a month ago, this is shot from the top of a ladder in the client's backyard and in chapel hill, this was shot with the deep forests and the twenty four, seventy two eight lens I'm standing on the top of the ladder and removing them really gently, back and forth that's kind of another degree of difficulty moving them, but moving them is what helps me get the expression. So if I had them just steady and sitting there and just said, all right, everybody stay right there and look at me and laugh I'm gonna have these really stilted expressions and that's not worth it to me I'll give up the whole lot before I'll give up expressiveness because I want them all rolled up the two sisters and a brother on dh I want that form do you see the shape the way the shape is with their legs that's done on purpose that's me and you've seen me shoot enough now that's mean jumping in getting shot jumping in getting a shot, having them do certain things like snuggle your knees which gives me oppose gives me these curves that I'm going for, but I'm not telling them I would like you to not produce an s curve, you know? I'm just we're giving them the language that they're going to respond teo on dh then I'm shooting top down and making a really clean vertical shot the first few images were just on the hammock their heads were a little too far back we brought in a pillow the pillows look kind of they were stand alone, we brought in more pillows and then we just played with the color palette so that overall all the colors work together in a really fun way again keeping the shot simple this's, my little girl out back during a snowy day and tana snow coming on out back in our backyard, literally, and this is just to show behind her, where trees and bushes and a dog running around an altar staff, but the shot is just super clean. Very simple seventy two hundred lens on an f two eight I'm stepping away far back, I have her very far for the backdrop, and I immediately drop everything out of focus, except for what I want you to see, which is their expressiveness and those eyes. I don't have to worry about catch light by bringing in any fill light, because I've got this blanket of snow in front of her that's balancing right back, and I see that right away, and the snowflakes are doing a great job of styling your hair, which I really appreciate. It did that all by themselves. I did nothing to do with that, those great but again, it's really simple? I probably took about twenty shots of her out there full length, this and that this is the one that I was drawn to the most, because I feel like it says the most in its simplicity, another image on the beach just dancing and playing around, running into the sun as it's dropping down this is really clean on purpose. I love the building's back there just giving you a sense of we're near a city. We're not on an island somewhere. It's important? That there, there. But if you notice what's different about this images there's, no eye contact like at all that's not necessarily a common theme in many of my portrait, but here I think the subject is very much the freedom that one feels when they're at the beach and that's what I said about simplifying the shot what do I want you to experience when you look at the image? What do I want you to go to that's what I want you to go to? Not necessarily this child's face, but the feeling that you get when you're having an experience like that and then so how do you frame it and angle it accordingly? Uh, well, I'm shot fairy diva we've got we are this is interesting because this has everything to do with you frame it were in a parking lot with a ton of gravel piles. Have you ever seen those where they're doing construction and their gravel piles? We've got an incredible amount of backlight coming in. I need to adjust that by doing a couple different things, one of which is to tilt the camera angle down so that that light doesn't flare everywhere. And ruin the shot and the focus. I want to keep the expressiveness on her. We've got a reflector underneath bouncing back, making sure we get those catch light the speculum highlights on gonna frame it in more of a titan tall way you saw my children's posing guide thing. I did a whole section on composition styles, and one of the ways I'd like to do it is a tall kind of narrow shot so it's delivering it as maybe a ten by twenty or twenty by forty sort of print to a client. And so this kind of thing allows me the whole the whole ability to do that shot pretty shallow as well just photographed this actually a couple weeks ago. This is on a beach, wrightsville beach and same thing there is a lot going on and what I think is so important think about when you're framing your subjects when you're putting together when you're developing the shots is if I look at everything in this scene, how could I take it all away and just have it be the essence of what I want to show you here? It has to do with shoving them really close together on the lifeguard stand, having a pop of light right there, I think actually this was a fill light. With flash because they were fully backlit this was a fill light and then moving them closer and closer together. So one of my posing stiles is simply to push kids together that are trying to run a part and that's the game I'm sure you guys have all experienced that with children you saw me do that earlier this morning you're pushing together and they're pulling apart but the second that they take a break and laugh and relax that's your microsecond of a shot um and then you can get that right there there's a mother daughter moment I love the exchange I photographed this family they have three children. All three of their children are adopted and I do something in our studio where once a year will do a family portrait of a family that has been built through adoption just as a way to promote adoption obviously bearing erin dear to my heart and many of yours and we're gonna be talking about it a lot later today but to me what I want to show here more than anything is the way that people could belong to each other and that's what this whole shot is about to me is it's not the pose it's not the lighting it's just the fact that at the end of the day two people from a different side of the world can find each other and mean everything to each other and so having the technical in the lighting and all that to back it up you know that that makes a difference you want to be able to show them well you wanna be able to expose the shot well but at the moat for the most part you're having these moments where they're they're interacting and you can see that the two of them have something that's pretty significant and and a lot of the best shots as you know as much as we're directing and setting things up a lot of the best shots that we ever see are ones where you clearly caught a moment and it's usually a moment that cycling between on by make making this it's clean and simple as possible it builds up the impact of the shot versace if I tried to get a lot more going on here just keeping it very very simple I love that yeah I see you like having a very emotional yes yeah yeah I'm an adoptive parent who so this resonates with me well this is your little boy is from haiti how old is he he's six six yeah have you been this far away from him before by chance yes actually okay went to africa last year for eight days which was hard for him so this is only a couple days yeah yeah good yeah but you obviously completely connect with what I'm talking about that I said concept yes, absolutely. That to me I mean adoption in general is just such a miracle and being able to find it and show these miracles I think it's something that is one of the cool things we get to do in terms of photography um this is very, very clean and simple she's simply sitting on the window sill in our studio completely backlit light just flooding in we have a reflector underneath that's giving this fantastic catch light there on dh even though there's a message a letter to the right of her and there's fifteen people standing to the left of her again it's what you choose to show and from me I want to show this kind of dreamy look that this little girl can have where her eyes were so big and she could really kind of zone out we had talked somebody ask the question the other day yesterday which feels like two days ago about are mostly images all laughing and happy and fun right? Who asked that yeah on dh no so this is where you could take advantage when you're having longer sessions or you're making people work where they just start going away. Did anybody notice yesterday when we were doing the urban shooting how lily started just fading lily who would talk to about self consciousness she just started fading part of that was the heat in the location in the building we were at, but also part of it is having to be on for so long. One of the super advantages I find in photographing children is that they do fade, they don't, they do go through cycles. My shoots are longer because I'm going to ride those cycles out and I'm gonna get a lot of different looks and feels during the cycle's this is the look and feel I'm going to get when we're in a law, which is where some of my favorite images from shoots tomorrow. How long are your chutes? That question had come in, jenna shoots in general, you know, I say that they go up to three hours. I've had some go five hours portrait sessions in general, I tell people to expect an hour to two and a half hours an hour and a half, two, two and a half hours. I don't think I'm trying to have ever done one under now and a half. I don't think so thinks at all and in terms of flow then are you ever going from the studio and then outdoors in one session? Yes, every session, every session, I really and don't you ever will do a shoot in just one location. Okay on dh that's a great question, because the reason for that has everything to do again if you saw me shoot yesterday, you saw the shoot at the lake and that I am a huge fan of set up go set up a goat, so go like if I had to sit here and be in this corner for three hours, I couldn't I couldn't produce what I know it can produce if I can keep moving. And for that reason alone, whether I'm in a client's home where, whether I'm in the studio, any sort of indoor location it's always going to involve some outdoor location as well and it's going to multiple spots and so even saw me shooting with the flash in the pelting rain that pelting rain is something like that's not going if that's an aspect of it, of its knowing if it's raining, whatever the case may be, we're going to go out. We're going to find a way to shoot in any way most of my chutes on purpose, the vast majority of them are scheduled a time where the light is best. We made a point of shooting in the worst spot for lighting yesterday, just so we can show hey, if you're in a scenario where you're in the world case lighting it's, super harsh, super glaring, what can you do? You can still make it work andi showed that for a reason but that would not be my choice to move into that spot I was think that when we do crave live there's someone tuning in right now that thing why did she choose that spot there's all those other spots there's a reason for that I want to be able to show you what you can do in those locations yes tamara I remember when I was shooting families that I would I would think to myself if I had said this session goes up to three hours and I was done in one hour and I felt like oh yeah we've nailed it with gentle it do you ever feel or do you get clients feeling that you're like taking away from the session if you've said up to three hours that like oh they do they ever say oh you didn't spend enough time with us or yeah how does that work? What literally has said on our priceless is that shoots can last up to two hours or as needed and we say there's no time limit so I don't want anybody to ever feel like I'm like uh we're just now getting to the best spot ever but it's time to go I won't have you guys have ever like seeing like a therapist or psychologist but like this is the moment we're having the best breakthrough ever but I'll look at the time we've got to go, I don't ever want my clients to feel that way, and specifically so we make a point of saying it's about two hours or so, I know from experience that it can go a lot longer and also, if I'm at the point where you just said so you're the scenario was I told the client to ours, but I know I'm gonna knauer here's something I know about me, I don't know, I feel like I'm done I always feel like we can do more those sessions on the field where a challenge to me, the urban chutes were a challenge to me because we had fifteen minutes and I'm like, well, do you know it's actually really hard for me, tio close that out after about two and a half hours, I feel like, yeah, we got a comprehensive look att at this family, we really got to look at these children, but part of that is because I get very lost of it, and I'm very, very interested in learning more about, um and, you know, there's there's, any tips that you can take when you're going into a shoot it is if you could wrap your mind around the fact that the people in front of you are the most fascinating people you're going to experience and then you just find ways to showcase how they are fascinating. You will see that over and over again, you're constantly looking for german expressions, angles, locations and ways to show that that's going to come so naturally that you're not going to feel like you're not an hour. Yes, if you're shooting for three hours or two, or how many images do you usually show and do? Sometimes people say something like this is it or what happened to that one shot that they think it would be so often, but you looked at it, you're like, maybe that really didn't work out, yeah, like someone that just showed you where they're running at, and I'm like, oh, that's, you're right, let's do that again. Yeah, yeah, so a couple of things one I actually do not have clients say, what if I have? If I'm setting up a scenario, then I might expect that they want something written from that scenario, and I'm gonna have images from that. But the expectation is said early on that we deliver the photographer's choice of images. And so we make a point of saying that and our congress choice of images, as well as their delivered in a combination of color, black and white, or the artist's choice of toning something like that, and what that does is set the expectation and that's clearly communicated, and they have to sign a portrait contract agreeing to that digitally sign it. And when they have agreed upon that what we get then is them understanding that what they're going to be that's gonna be delivered to them is everything that I have selected, but if they see red up front, they have an issue and I had a twx leased to clients who have told me they'd like to see everything again. It's, not the norm. This is over twelve years on, and I'll tell you exactly how you handle those situations, but I have also had clients say, you know what I hate black and white, I want everything in color and then I'll just deliver everything color that's, easy, that's, easier even for me. That's not a problem. I've also plant saying the other thing I would like everything in black and white hate color, okay, I'm still gonna shoot everything in color and have it if we need it for some reason, because short national deliver everything in black and white and the grand parents want a big order of all color, so everything will still be shot in color, but in in the scenario one of the clients I'm thinking of is also a really big commercial client for me I happen to photograph her family as well and she's a big fan of like I just like to see it all and because I have that additional relationship with her and that consideration I'll make that exception and I simply show her all the ross and she'll say okay, I'd like all of these and those ones to deliver but that's unique and very different most the time I'm going to make sure I'm delivering on lee what I feel is representative of what we got, so to sum up the whole idea of that number one tip simplifying the shot what I want you to think about when you're out shooting is that big cash off? What can I take away? How can I constantly take something away what's extraneous to this image that is going to not allow my viewer to see what I most want to share with them when we do print competition? I've judged competition for five or six years now the number one thing you're looking for his impact and when you're sitting there on the judging panel and you hear the judging judging judging comments that come through winter walk we're looking image is one of the comments you hear a lot is there's just too much in here there's too much to look at, I'm distracted you hear that often and so, and you'll see that that's, usually the hallmark of the casual snapshot, is there's. Everything at the kitchen table and people behind it, right? So that's. Our job, I think, is to really be clear about simplifying the shot and moving away. Any element we don't want to showcase.

Class Description

The best family portraits are those that capture the true spirit and personalities of their subjects. In Children and Family Photography, Tamara Lackey will teach you how to photograph individual children, sibling groups, and complete families in an authentic and exciting new way.

Tamara is a celebrated family and lifestyle photographer. In this class, she’ll teach you how to beautifully light, naturally pose, and creatively photograph children and their families. You’ll learn about:

  • The gear that’ll help you get you great shots
  • Which lights to use and when to use them
  • How to integrate the location into the shoot
  • Digital workflow and album design
Through instruction and demonstration shoots, Tamara will share her top tips on posing and lighting and she’ll teach you how to get everyone into a great group shot. You’ll also learn about what goes into her sales sessions and how she handles prints and portrait albums.

Whether you are a parent who wants to take better photographs for the family album or an experienced photographer hoping to expand into the family photography business – this class will equip you with the insights and skills you need to produce photographs that feel natural and look great. 


1Simple Posing: Young Girl 2Simple Posing:Young Boy 3Group Posing: Two Girls 4Backlit Shots: One Girl 5Shooting in the Shade 6Using the Rule of Thirds 7Review of Selected Images 8Working with Self Consciousness 9Training to Photograph Authentically 10Talking Through Self Consciousness with Subject 11ProFoto Strobes: 2 Light Sources with Pre-Teen Model 12Stylize and Prep for a Shoot 13Simple Family Poses 14Use Props and Backdrops During Family Posing 15Family of 5 Indoor Couch Scene 16Natural Light and Strobes 17Image Review of Family Photos 18Use the Right Light for the Right Occasion 19Ice Light Demo 20Constant Lights Demo 21Speedlight Demo 22TTL Demo 23Reflector Demo 1Pose Children in a field 2Build on your shots 3Capture Motion in a Wide Open Field 4Capture Splashing in a Lake 5Photograph Movement with Fast Moving Subjects 6Top Tips: #1 Simplify The Shot 7Top Tips: #2 Small Posing Shifts for Maximum Effects 8Top Tips: #3 Direct The Feel & Energy 9Top Tips: #4 Be the Destination 10Top Tips: #5 Mix it Up. Vary Everything 11Top Tips Q&A 12Family poses in a field 13Posing: Family of 5 14Dads and Daughter Family Shoot in Field 15Posing: Parent/Child Pairings 16Why Tamara Was Drawn to Family Photography: Beautiful Together 17Adoption Interview with Vicki Taufer 18Lackey Family Adoption Experience: FAQs 1Tamara's Gear: Cameras 2Tamara's Gear: Lenses 3Tamara's Gear: Accessories 4Mylio Demo 5Digital Album Design 6Sales Prep Process 7Photo Review With Client 8Selected Images and how to sell them 9Closing out the Sale 10Professional Photography Pricing 11Start Your Business 12How to Market Yourself 13How to Stay Inspired 14Photoshoot Recap 15Tamara's Top Tips Recap 16Tamara's Tools Recap 17The Importance of Family Photography