Extended Family Photos
A practical guide for extended family group photos
Why have a photoshoot with everyone?
Coordinating everyone for large group or extended family photos can be daunting. I photograph lots of extended family photos in Melbourne: from young adults with their parents to larger groups with multiple family units and lots of kids. There's no shying around the fact that getting a whole bunch of people on the same page can be difficult - but at the same time, extended family photos are exactly what your mum wants and really - kind of what you want too. These sessions are special for families as grandparents age and generations extend. Celebrating togetherness is crazy important.
In my family photography sessions I shoot a combination of more formal posed images then more creative group family photos along with individuals of each family and portraits of your kids.
Extended family sessions lends focus to those important relationships that are rarely photographed - grown up siblings, parents and their adult children, a Grandparent and their great grandchild. And those endless photo gifts for Grandparents are a real perk! Extended family photoshoots make amazing presents and I often find people will book these as vouchers for key birthdays. We did one for my own Mum's 60th birthday, that's all she wanted. Perfect.
Coordinating a date for a family shoot
Coordinating a date can be tricky. I suggest getting a bit of an idea of when typically works for your family members (eg. work out early that your nephew has basketball on Sunday mornings) and then check in with my availability - after that I'll give you a few date options to work with. My own family uses tools like WhatsApp and Signal to handle group communication.
Once you have a date you're really most of the way there!
But then someone is asking you what they should wear and you don't know what to tell them...
What do we wear for our group family photos?
FIRST You don't have to coordinate. There are no rules. I've shot perfectly fantastic family sessions before where everyone was given free rein.
You do feel the pressure, this doesn't happen often and you'd like it to look nice on the wall.
Family photoshoot colour schemes and texture
If you are feeling like you need some direction (because no doubt someone WILL be asking) Pick some colours! This could be two or three or five (this could be blues and rusts and neutrals for example) this gives scope for variety - a few base colours and maybe an accent colour that just features once or twice. You can ask everyone to stick in the same tonal range - eg. all pastels/all brights/all neutrals or all more subdued colours - take clues from the season of your shoot, your location and your family personalities. Giving some guidance but leaving some scope for individuality is really helpful - no one should feel like they have to go buy new outfits just to match in.
Decide the level of formality you want - this is so you're on the same page - are you dressing up a bit? Keeping it casual? Keeping it super casual?
Texture! Chunky knits next to something plainer is great! Wear scarves/necklaces/fun things if that's you (although hats can hide faces and leave marks on heads if you choose to take them off part way through).
Coordination and visual distractions
Here's the next tip. Don't match. That all jeans/white t-shirts thing is NOT cool - maybe it was back in the early 90s but keeping some visual variance is really helpful, your images will look a much more balanced, your unique personalities will be much more evident.
I feel like the jeans/t-shirt equivalent these days is all white. Differentiation will help your images immensely - all one colour and you run the risk of blending together.
Visual distractions - Be mindful of these things
- Some shoes are super bright. If no one else is wearing yellow shoes then when you look at your final images, your eyes will be drawn down to those feet. It's okay to incorporate an accent colour but I want primary focus to be on your faces - not your feet.
- It's a great idea to avoid words or big brand names on tops or character/images prints, this is again mostly about visual distraction not about avoiding or creating a certain look (I honestly don't care if you are fully themed out in your ugly Christmas jumpers if that's your thing) but I do want to be featuring your faces and your connections with each-other.
- Try to avoid many of the same types of strong patterns - eg. three people wearing polkadots can be a little confusing when you stand together. Or too many stripes. You get the idea!
- And a quick note - get everyone to leave their phones in the car, a bag or at very least in their back pockets. Maybe take your smart watches off unless you're happy for them to be in your images.
Pro tips for your extended family photoshoot
- Feed the kids. Always, always, always feed the kids before a shoot.
- Feel good in what you're wearing but also feel comfortable and be weather appropriate.
- Don't wear something that is not 'you'. Photos are about memories of people. If you're a pants kinda person don't feel like you should wear a dress.
- Listen to your photographer on advice about location and shoot timing. Time of day is important for photography and with family shoots - unlike weddings where things just have to happen, we can call the shots. Using early or late light is more flattering and easier to work with especially with a big group.
- Remind your people this is just one hour of their lives and it will make Grandma REALLY REALLY REALLY happy. Plus it wont be too hard, I'll make you walk and talk and laugh, you'll have a good time.
- Enjoy being together, make the most of the time and plan to hang out afterwards, have dinner together. Have a picnic during your session! There's no specific way you have to do things - we can mix those posed group shots with sitting around a BBQ or over a game of cricket. I've photographed a family eating their fish and chip dinner in a mechanic shop before because it was meaningful to them.
Extended family photos in Melbourne don't just included these posed groups shots. You get LOTS of wonderful portraits and formal and informal groups. Check out a family session in full here.
Think this sounds great? Feeling up for the task of gathering your people? You've got this!
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