We do have a bunch of questions, we saw how fast you are, we saw how quickly you're working around, so kind of coming back around to the type of gear you use and how you're focusing and those types of things. So let's start with do you just have one lens when you're out there shooting so that you're moving forwards and backwards or what kind of lenses do you use?
So I have, I always say I'm a camera gear minimalist. I'm don't, I'm not a big gear person. But I do have three lenses that I use for family photography. So my 35 millimeter, I'm a Canon shooter, 35 millimeter 1.4, a 15 millimeter 1.2, and a 135 2.0. And I do change lenses. In here obviously I was not changing lenses 'cause this is not a realistic situation but I do change lenses, usually a couple of times. And what drives me to change the lens is if I want one, you know, back from the slide that's more panoramic and has more scenery then I'm gonna pop that 35 on. If I feel like I want more compression, so I want the backgro...
und to be more blurry then I'll use the 135. And I just yell my instructions or I pose them and I run back and then I do it 'cause I just love the look of that lens.
Can you talk a little bit about focusing in all these scenarios and especially if they're kind of more strewn about than right together F-stops and focusing.
Okay, yeah, I get that question a lot. So I shoot pretty much wide open. I think I had, think this might have been 1.4, or something, I might be at, which is a little wide. I'm usually about 2.0, 2.5, and for me it's interesting learning about film, it's very different, but for me a very fast shutter speed is the key to a sharper image so I keep my shutter speed really fast. I'm not afraid to push that ISO up to make sure that my shutter speed is really fast so that it handles moving kids. I use Al-Servo focus and I toggle, I don't back button, I toggle around. So usually on the center though actually, and I'll focus and recompose occasionally if they're really moving around.
Awesome, we have a question in the back. Go ahead.
That seems like a really ideal situation for how happy all the kids were and I was just wondering what do you do when there's a meltdown or it starts off poorly?
That's a great question. So this is, this is a question that I get a lot, and I do photograph a lot of families and I can say with all honesty that I have never had a situation where I felt like I had to just call it. I've heard of photographers saying that and I think that a lot of it has to do with the fact that I am in control right away. So it's kind of like the teacher dynamic, it's like kids are gonna listen to a teacher before they listen to their parents. I get there right away, I meet the family, I tell the kids what we're gonna do. I do a lot of pre-session education so telling the mom, I give them instruction on what to tell the kids to help have a better session experience so that they know what to expect from me. We talk a lot about not doing, you know, not coming right after a soccer game or don't go for a hike and then come for your family session, make this the big event of the day. Talk about feeding the kids properly before, so I do a lot of pre-session expectation setting that I think really sets us up for success, to be honest. Now if I have a kid that is really unruly or having a hard time I will just play on it. If the kids don't want to stop moving I will make a game out of it, like, "Let's play Simon Says", or, storytelling works really well for kids that are really crazy. I'll say, "Come sit right here "I'm gonna tell you a really quick story." They'll usually listen to you. So lots of engagement, being relatable, really goes a long way with kids. And I will say that most times I have a pretty solid handle on who my ideal client is and most times they're pretty laid back and pretty go with the flow types of people.
We do have a lot of questions like that like, "How do you handle X-Y-Z scenario?" But I'm really curious about what you said, how do you have your parents talk to their kids in advance? What do the parents discuss, do you have any specifics to that?
I do. So one of the worst things that happens during family sessions is when they show up and they start threatening the kids. I learned this early on, like, "If you don't behave you're not gonna get that ice cream." And the next thing you know everybody's crying, right? So I set them up at the beginning, I say, "Let's make this into a special day", and it's a full, you know, that's a whole other, I could give all that information, it's a bunch of stuff. And I said, "Let's make this up to be "a special event of your day. "We are gonna tell your kids that you're gonna get together "and meet an old friend "who's gonna be taking their picture." And then I give them my, I tell them to look at my Instagram feed and see pictures of my kids so that they can see that I am a mom too and that I am a person. And I ask them to show them pictures of me which are on my website. So if you don't have pictures on your website of yourself you've gotta do that, so that I don't seem like so much of a stranger and that really really helps set the kids up for not being in a scary situation. I think that with kids when you shock them with something, when there's not a lot of preparation, I've just learned that being my own, with being a mother that it really helps set them up for success.
That was a great, great tip. So we have a question right over here.
Yeah, you mentioned that usually you try to shoot with a high shutter speed and I was just curious what about the minimum is to get the action sharp?
For shutter speed? So the rule, I would say the rule, when there's, you know, there's rules in photography, the rule would be that if you're working with a live subject you never wanna be below 125 on your shutter speed or twice what your lens is. So if you're using a 50 you never want to be slower than 100. I would never be at 100 because that would make me really nervous. I'm usually pretty fast, I'm usually like 500. So I think that really makes a difference in sharp images, I don't have a lot of focus issues.
So we had talked a little bit, so these are obviously littles, I had a shoot this week with three high school aged boys, none of whom were excited to be there. Do you have any suggestions how to draw them out or differentiate poses when you're working with angsty teenagers?
Yes, so I surprisingly do a lot of the same stuff, obviously I don't have them lay on Mom's chest but I do have them, I'll say, "I'm sorry, I'm gonna torture you for a little bit. "You're gonna touch your brother, "I'm not gonna tell anybody, "we're not gonna show anyone this." I kind of like get their affection that way. I sort of just say, "This is gonna be quick and painless. "You gotta do it for Mom." And they usually will, and I still have Mom hug her teenagers, and I still have Dad rough house with his teenagers and do the same stuff. So I actually do a lot of the same things with older kids. That being said the people who come to me are really kind of expecting that I think so it's not really shocking to them when I'm like, "You're gonna hug your mom, "we're just gonna touch a little bit." And so I think that that helps too that they're expecting it.
So, another scenario, this is from Isuz Bock, and there are some votes on it which you guys can do just so you know. She says she photographs a lot of blended families so the intimacy can get awkward when the parents maybe have kids from previous marriages. Do you have any advice for that?
So I just, it's funny that you ask that. I just had a family that had adult children, so the dad had a, semi-adult, 19, a 17 and a 19 year old and then they had a bunch of little kids, like little little ones, with the new marriage. I come from a blended family so I feel like that doesn't make me super uncomfortable but what I did when I posed them is I put the dad's children on his side, where he was standing, so I still could create that type of intimacy with the whole family without making them feel awkward by being over with their stepmom was how I handled that. And I did, I think that a lot of our insecurities when it comes to posing families, or worrying about situations like that, are personal. That actually when you get in there and do it they're okay with it. We're more just worried, "Oh what are they gonna say "when I ask Dad to put his arm around his 19 year old? "is that gonna be weird?" Usually it really isn't, I think a lot of that starts with us and we worry more than we need to.
So this question came in, again, about challenges that people have. And this is from Beats435, said, "I had a family of three show up "and one of the kids was still asleep." So like timing, time of day, and the question is, "She's one of those kids that takes forever "to wake up and get sociable so by the time she "was good and awake the baby was already done." So any advice on do you coach your families in terms of, I mean we talked about that a little bit, but when the kids aren't kind of all connected?
So that is, that's a problem that I hear a lot of people complaining about, these similar problems that are coming up. And if anyone in here has, does a lot of work with children it's a setting expectation issue. So if your clients are showing up and they aren't ready to start right away, they didn't plan their day around it, well you didn't make it clear enough probably that like, "We're gonna get started." I do my shoots mostly at golden hour so I say, I remind them multiple times, "We're starting at seven o'clock, "and we have to start at seven o'clock "because the sun's gonna set at eight", or whatever, you know, the time of year that it is. "So please arrive early, make sure that anyone "has gone to the bathroom that needs to go to the bathroom "before it's time to start the shoot. "Make sure that anyone that needs a snack "has had their snack before." So I really set them up for success in that way. I get a lot of people complain, or are worried about starting the shoot late because they have little kids and I just say, "You have to organize your day around the shoot." Again, same thing, "Take a late nap and be prepared." So it's a lot of education.
So what about any tips or tricks or just things to consider and think about? I have a family with a special needs child and so she's nervous to even do it and I haven't quite convinced her that she should yet but I know that she's concerned about that. So what kind of watch outs do you have for that?
So, I work with, I've worked with a lot of families with children with autism and that would be the most common one that I face. And I think that again that one starts with the mom's insecurity and you can usually tell right away, they wanna tell you about it, if their child has a special need they'll kind of tell you when they're thinking about booking a session or when they're inquiring. And what I usually say to them is, "Not to worry, "that what we're trying to do isn't to make "the family, or the child be, or look, or act "like something that they're not. "And that we are going to work with "what he is giving us and create true authentic images." So I think that what she needs, a parent like that, is just a lot of reassurance. That's a good question.
So I have some questions that are coming in sort of about the sessions that you do, a little bit on the business side. So many people wanna know how many images might you take in this style of session? We saw you shooting pretty quickly.
Like a thousand.
And then how many do you normally deliver.
Yeah, that's a good question. So I am a all inclusive photographer, so people will wonder how I am doing so many pictures and that's why. And I shoot digital obviously so I have the freedom to do that. My friend who shoots film thinks that I'm crazy. I shoot about, a family session with this many children that you saw here, would be about 800 frames probably. And I will deliver about, between 100 and 150. So I give really big galleries. And it's because I want them to have the entire experience that we documented together. And what I usually hear from my families is that it feels like an experience, a fun experience, and I think that's why they come back every year. So I give really big galleries. I'm not ashamed of it.
And so how long are your typical sessions?
So my sessions are pretty fast, they're usually about 45 minutes to an hour. I'm like a ninja, people tell me that I'm like, but I'm fast because the kids are, they're gonna lose interest, right? They're just not gonna be with ya much longer than that. So that's why having poses is great 'cause you just like, power through those poses and then you can play and takes pictures of them playing and be done.
That's incredible, 45 minutes.
An hour probably but, yeah, sometimes in about 45 minutes.
So people are wondering then do you have sort of a set, those poses in your mind, that you're going to go through, like a check list, and if so what do you recommend for people who haven't been doing it for years like you have?
That's a really good question. I do, I have what I call a routine, a flow. If you're just starting out and the bonus is that you get a PDF and there's more poses than the five I went through broken down, there's 10 in there. So if you're just getting the class what I say when you're starting, or if you're just getting started, is to pick three or four that you wanna try. And that's all you have to do and you can really maximize each one of those poses. Some families, like this family, if we were out in the wild, out actually doing a pose, or a shoot, they probably would last a long time because they're really kind of chilled kids and they'd be into it. But if you only use three or four real poses and really maximize those you're gonna get a full gallery from that alone. So that's how I would say to start. I do always start with them standing and then move into the more intimate laying down and sitting poses.
Is that also a case that they get dirty or if you're outdoors?
Yeah I guess so, I guess that there's that. A lot of my sessions we end up so we, here in Seattle we have a lot of great water locations, a lot of times we end up in the water at the end. And I'll do that at the end because of that, because they're gonna get dirty. But I think the sitting poses feel more intimate to them and it's harder sometimes, I think if you started with that they'd be like, "Wait, I just met you, "you're sitting next to me trying to get me "to do all this stuff that I'm not comfortable with." I think when we start standing it helps people to kinda get used to my style of instruction and then move into the more intimate stuff.
That's great, I love the concept of the flow with this style of the way that you work. Are you just, this is from a couple of different people asking, are you just in one location or will you take people to get even more variety to multiple locations?
So one location location, we never drive to more than one location but the great thing about Seattle, we're very lucky everything is so close, is that most locations have three or four different spots that I like to use. And so I do, I am always the one who picks the location, FYI, I wanna be in control of that. And I know where I'm gonna shoot at that location and I usually move around to three or four different spots. And that's great for the kids because then that transition time allows them to run and play. And I didn't talk about movement poses in here just because we didn't have a lot of space but I'll get shots of that too.
So I guess, and that is a question that came through, is the photos that you showed us earlier of the families walking through the fields, can you, even if we don't have space for it, maybe describe how you get those?
Yeah, that's a good question. So, when I really max, like I'm saying, I am fast because I know how kids are, and so I maximize the entire shoot and I always say I end up being like a Sherpa because if Mom brought a big bag when we're moving to one spot I'm like, "I'll hold that, I don't wanna miss this in-between moment," and I'm carrying it all. But I will ask them to walk in front of me make sure that where we're walking is gonna be pleasing compositionally. And I will shoot them from behind while they're walking in front of me. And I'll give them a boundary. A lot of times too kids wanna run, I'll say, "Okay start by me, let's let "Mom and Dad go ahead," and then, "Now run." And so then when they get next to Mom and Dad you take the picture because they're in the same frame and then they keep going. So, yes, I do do direct that a lot. Or I'll say, "Run ahead of me," like the one of the mom looking. "Run ahead of Mom," and then I'll say, "Stop! "Okay now run back towards here." So lots of instruction.
Oh and that, that instruction is the direction, is the posing direction.
Going back to the locations, since you are locally based and I'm presuming, or guessing, since a lot of your clients are local, do you go back to the same locations? For your business perspective does that matter for your clients?
Yeah, so I do, I am sort of a one trick pony. I have one beach that I'm using right now, I don't use more than that because it's not very populated. I have one field, I have one park, and I have one mountain location. And so when they book in my session form I say, "What are you interested: beach, mountain, park?" And then when they say which they're interested in when I'm getting in touch with them about getting all of the details together I say, "Here's my suggestion for that spot." And once in a while, once in a while you'll get a family, I do do in-home, or like at people's estates, if that's the case, and I don't care about that, that's awesome, I'll do that anytime. But once in a while you'll get a family that says, "Actually I wanna try this at such and such a location." And I just make sure that, I look it up and I have this app on my phone called Sun Tracker I think it's called, that tells you where the sun sets at different times of day at different locations, so I'll make sure that that's gonna work for me. But most times, yes, I do choose the location. I'm kind of a control freak with my business or my shoots.
And that's how you get the type of work that you do in 45 minutes right?
Hi, what about editing? What kind of editing do you do?
Editing, that's a good question. Okay, so, I do not like to edit. That is not where I make my art. Never do I add skies, any of that that you saw, actually happened. Never do I add sun flare, if you see that in my work it was actually there. We have lots of dreary days here so I just really go with it. My editing is pretty simple and pretty clean. I will admit that I have started to outsource my editing this year, and it was the best thing I've ever done for my business. And I know that that's rare for family photographers but, oh my gosh, amazing. But before that what I would do, this has just been this year, I was really fast, I could edit a whole session in an hour or two. I will call the session in bridge, I'm only Photoshop, and then I do some quick adjustments to every image that has the same light and then I run a batch action. So I am pretty clean, I don't do a lot of, you know, trendy stuff, with my work. Like I said, where art is made for me is actually during the shoot with the connection that I'm making with the clients and using the environment. So editing is pretty minimal to my creative process.
I think that's a huge relief for a lot of people. And the outsourcing, the ability to outsource these days is so doable.
You guys it was life changing, and it's funny because a lot of wedding photographers do it, and a lot of family photographers don't but while it has been a really amazing thing.
On the editing thing, how do you handle it, or do you do it, if a mom comes to hire you and says, "I have not lost as much baby weight as I wanted to. "What can do you about that in Photoshop?"
I would say that I couldn't do anything about that in Photoshop. What I would say, so this goes to the, this really goes into who your ideal person is. Not that my ideal person is a certain weight. What I'm meaning is that my ideal person's pretty laid back. And what I would say, there are people, there are photographers, I have a friend who says that she takes a good 30 pounds off all her maternity clients. She guarantees in that in her messaging. Great, there is somebody who wants that. Somebody who comes to me probably doesn't want that. But if somebody asked me to do something like that, I would just simply say, "I really don't have the skills to do that." I would be honest, because I don't. I can't take weight off of somebody. I don't feel like that's really my brand. I want people to be and look like who they are. And so I would just be really honest with them if they said that.
Great, great. And that's why you keep getting the people coming back to you, who are your target clients, and that feeds the circle. That's awesome.
Yeah, that's a huge part of business.
Alright, so John Mills is asking, "Do you bring along props?" So picnic blankets, et cetera. Or do they bring anything like that along. And, I think we already talked about the clothing in advance too.
So, I do not bring props. I, if somebody says that they want props, and in a session inquiry it's a big red flag for me, that is probably not my ideal client. I just don't feel like I shoot them very well. I don't want the focus to be on a 1980s camper that I decorated with. I see these amazing elaborate setups. That's their art. That's not where I create my art. So if somebody asks for props, it would be a red flag to me that it wasn't a right client. So I don't bring anything. Sometimes I bring a blanket, 'cause the ground is wet in Seattle, and I want them to be able to sit down. But that would be the absolute minimal that I would bring.
Again, very freeing.
Yeah, yeah, you don't have to, you guys, you can be your own boss. You don't have to ever shoot anything that you don't want to. That's what's so cool about this.
Do you have families that wanna have their family photograph with pets? And if so, how do you incorporate that into this type of work?
Yes, so I do. And I, usually just dogs, I've never had anyone bring anything else. But a lot of times people bring in their dogs. I think I had an example of a family with their dog, and I will just let the dog be part of the shoot. I'm not, I don't have a dog, so I'm not like a dog whisperer or anything, but sometimes the dog is like a toddler. I'm like, "Get that dog back over here." But I will absolutely let them include their dogs. I know that that's a big part of people's families is their animals, so of course, yeah, we incorporate it.
So your session fee includes the gallery, is there any other products that you recommend for clients, or your gotos?
So I include the gallery, and I also include an album, that I design. And that's, that they know that I design. They don't get any redoes. Sorry, there I am controlling things again. But I, they can order additional prints and products from their gallery if they want to. But when they do that, that's just icing on the cake for me. I already know what I'm gonna make before we've even shot the session. I'm just not into in sales right now.
Alright, well people are very excited. What are your final words of wisdom for somebody who hasn't been in this, doing the lifestyle type. Wants to build a portfolio, and wants to start putting those things into practice.
Okay, that's a great question. So if you want to get going on this, and you don't have any lifestyle images to put in your portfolio, to attract that ideal client, what I suggest is putting a model call out and doing some for free. Because if you're asking someone to pay you for something that you've never done, and they're not gonna get something that they thought they were paying you for, that's gonna make them unhappy. So putting a model call out, and doing a couple of sessions free, and getting a portfolio started that way, is a great to way to really get those images out there into the world, so that you can start attracting that right person. And really learn how to pose and direct. Really learn how to be in control, so that you can make these things happen effortlessly, and quickly, and so that everyone feels more relaxed, and better at the end of the session.
Love it. Alright. Well where can people follow up with you? How can they find you?
I'm on Instagram, like most of you guys probably are. So you can find me elenas, don't forget the s, that was my maiden name, blair, b-l-a-i-r, _photography. And I also have a ton of free resources, and different resources for photographers on my website. So, elenasblairphotography.com/resources-for-photographers. Or it's on the top bar as well. So you can find that.