need advice for photographing large groups of children

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by shelly86, Aug 12, 2009.

  1. shelly86

    shelly86 TPF Noob!

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    I have a session in sept with a group of 9 grand kids in an outdoor setting, probably a beach , any advice on posing? getting a natural smile? any help will be greatly appreciated, thanks :)
     
  2. gryphonslair99

    gryphonslair99 Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Valium. :D
     
  3. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Whenever I need ideas for poses, I automatically go to flickr and do searches. On a bad day I can find maybe 2000, 3000 or more ideas. On a good day, I get tens of thousands of ideas.

    ;)
     
  4. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Flickr is full of amateur snaps from 20-somethings with D40's, digicams, and cell-phone cameras. I seriously doubt that in eight hours a guy could find a single picture that has eight or nine children,posed professionally,let alone 2000, or 3,000 appropriate poses for a children's group.

    As a former professional portrait shooter, I can tell you a few things that you will not find from the tyros on Flickr. First. Select your location carefully,and figure out how you are going to light the session. Size up the group, for ages and family groupings--grandparents who are actually going to PAY for photos expect that the grandkids will be posed in mini-groups, with each sibling group posed close as its own 'section' within the group; that is the 'preferred' way among parents and grandparents. At times, an older sibling might have to help restrain or even actually hold up a small child (infant to toddler age or with disabilities). Pick a location that will contain/constrain your group of nine.

    With 9 kids, a horizontal composition will be easiest to pose if you have a 3:2 aspect ratio camera and not a 6x7. Position your camera on a tripod in the middle of the posing area, and frame the posing area, then help the kids get into position. Think of ways to get the heads in descending order. One tool is to have taller kids in the back center, and shorter kids off to the left and right, creating a descending staircase-like series of head positionings that will show the heads of the kids in front AND allow some of the body of the kids in back to be visible to the camera. The smallest kids, if there are any really young ones, may need to be seated in small chairs, or on a low bench or log, or seated with an older sibling who can control them. You can use a fairly formal,balanced composition, creating say two diamond shaped-head patterns, one on the left and one on the right,with the tallest kid in the middle (4 x 4 + 1), there are a number of ways to do it, formally. You could also do it three tallest across the back row, four in the middle, and two down front. You can literally pencil it out before-hand.

    The last thing you will NOT find by looking at Flickr photos is knowledge: the knowledge that PARENTS and grandparents ruin MORE family portraits than anybody else in the world. Parents will want to stand near the camera and talk to their kids and say, "smile!" or "say cheese" or, "I payed money for those braces, so let's see a smile!". Parents and other onlookers will also draw the eyes of kids, and in a group of nine, you want to have ONE person getting all the eyes on him,and that person is you, the photographer. You need to tell the parents beforehand that they must NOT talk to the kids, not give directions. When a parent talks to one kid, the other kids will tend to look at the scolded child.

    The best thing is to talk with parents and grandparents beforehand,and tell them that it's difficult to handle a group of nine kids and that they must trust you,and they must not be in the shooting area. You need to have the camera framed properly and focused properly, and the best thing is a remote release,held in your hand. You can act silly, act goofy, whatever, but you must have the camera framed and the group posed and when all eyes are forward and looking good, you need to shoot. Do not try for perfection and be tight--shoot ample frames.

    I can guarantee you that if a parent or grandparent is allowed to stand next to you or behind you, you will have at least one kid who's looking at the parent. Parents often prepare their kids with threats and admonitions about smiling. A kid with braces might not smile willingly,so it's up to you to entertain a bit if you want a smile. Again, let me make it clear--unless you have a 2 year old with separation anxiety issues, you really need to tell the parents/grandparents to move clear away from the shooting area,and I mean AWAY from the area, not just 15 or 20 feet away. On large groups of nine,there could be 3 to 5 parents and 3-4 grandparents,and that is a recipe for disaster. Parents will RUIN most large group shots by kibbutzing.

    If you have a small child (toddler,infant) a squeaky toy or feather or some other attention-getter might be helpful, but instruct any siblings holding that little one NOT TO LOOK DOWN at their baby brother or sister,which is the natural instinct.

    After the main group has been photographed satisfactorily, break the sibling groups down into smaller groups,and photograph them if you want to please the parents and make some additional sales or goodwill points. While all nine together is nice, there are many other sub-groups that you could pose and which would be very nice to have for sales/goodwill/family reasons.
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2009
  5. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    There is a lot of crap, for sure... but I have yet to be disappointed and find WAY more ideas than I could ever handle... yeah, that goes into the thousands.

    Was there a time frame for the searches? I did not recall mentioning one. I did a search for wedding party poses of 20 or more people this morning while on break. In 15 minutes I found over 500 good ideas. Some smaller group poses were from those 20 somethings with dSLRs... like Jesh De Rox. ;) Sorry, but age today in photography is not a factor for when looking for ideas. Some of the most incredible photographers that I personally know are under 30... this coming from a 49 year old guy.

    Actually, step 1 (unless all you do is shoot in a studio) is "location, location, location". I always prefer to get my clients into locations that are totally new to them or extremely familiar, like their homes. Studios are so... sanitary and limiting to me. Maybe my strong strobist and wedding photography background affect that, but I am starting to not enjoy my time inside studios. They all look, smell and ending looking the same.

    Well, the grandparents do not always do the paying but it is basic business common sense to talk to the paying party and fine tune what they want for their money. Value add, offer ideas... exceed their expectations. I am a FIRM believer of under promise, over deliver. That is a guarantee of happy clients.

    I have all the groupings that they want and I start with the largest groups (becuase they are the most challenging to work with, so work with them while everyone is fresh and energetic), and cut them down to smaller groups as required by the client. I move fast, talk quick and keep things light. I will make myself look like an a$$ so they give me natural smiles and not posed smiles, to get the shot.

    Common.. standard. Unless asked for, I avoid this like the plague. I mix the whole thing up. I will tend to look for symmetry and then chaos so that I am not doing things in the same way that everyone on earth does things. I also pay attention to glasses... and tend to try to place them at angles so that I don't get specular highlights coming back at me in my lens.

    Thats not a global truth, but it is wise to know what to do if that is the case. I've had parents politely stand to the side and be as quiet as a mouse. Some have tried to assert themelves, but a 10 second talk handes it easily enough on the rare times it does happen. That is becuase I have asserted myself and retain control of the situation from the start. This comes in really handy when you have two sets of families around like in weddings and you now have to play advocate as to who's side goes first and what has to happen in what order with which groups. This I have recently become very practiced in and love doing.

    One kid or 9 kids, I think it a WISE move to make sure that one or both parents are always within eye sight of what is happening. The last thing one needs is to have a child scream molestation or anything remotely similar. I also would recommend that there are at least 1 gender of each people from your company in attendance (male photographer, female assistant or visa versa). Sad to say, but in today's society, this will potentially save you from being sued, or worse... jail time.

    A question of style here, but I am not the kind of photographer that is merely "F/8 and be there"... the camera is in my hand, I am looking for angles, views, positional changes... I am dynamic, and I make the session fast moving and dynamic for my people. It keeps their attention and more motivated than some static human being pressing a wireless remote release connected to a camera on a tripod that never changes angles or position.

    This makes each picture different and fresh. 60 shots of even the best poses with the same camera settings is... BORING.

    I disagree... reasons noted above. :)

    They can, and they will... if the photographer is weak in being able to control their environment. This takes people skills, tact, and being able to set clear expectations before the shoot starts. You are talking to them already... this is nothing to add into the mix. Set expectations from the start, and follow through, and 90% of all issues are avoided right from the start.

    ... and miss out on one of the most beautiful natural looking poses around, IMHO. The tender look of a sibling or mother looking into it's child's eyes is a powerful photo. Its not the only pose by far... but don't get locked into the "everyone look at ME and SMILE" positions as being the only ones available. Even everyone looking different directions in a very casual manner can work wonderfully. Let's make a little art, not passport photos. :lol:

    The more shots you have, the more they will purchase, that should be evident.

    One "trick" I like to do at the end is to start with 1 person, say laying on the floor in a specific position (usually the eldest), then layer a person, shoot, add maybe 2 people, shoot and keep going by 1's and 2's until the entire group is there... but each person is close, tightly knit into the "family design" I create that ends in something very different each time. One cannot do that as effectively if the camera is on a tripod becuase as the pyramid of poses grows, my height and position dynamically changes to get the best I can find at that moment. I've only done this twice so far, and both times it ended with everyone smiling and laughing as we did the exercise all in about 2 minutes... its that fast (for 10 people in my experience, both times).

    Makes it a fantastic way to end the session. ;)

    Cecile B. DeMille said "start off with an earthquake, and build UP from there..." I always, always, always try to finish off with a bang that leaves them wanting more... that is how we have happy clients leaving every time so far... and wanting to come back for more. :mrgreen:
     
  6. blash

    blash TPF Noob!

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    Jerry.... according to the user's info page, the OP has a Canon Powershot and it sounds like the OP was basically thrust into taking a photo for a friend. I'm sure the OP appreciates the essay-long posts but I think the OP is looking more for something more like Scott Kelby's Digital Photography series where Kelby just says "OK, go here, do this" rather than a long dissertation on creative theory ;) Of course, if the OP could be a little more exact about what the OP is trying to do here then us posters might be able to give a more appropriate response (i.e. for all we know, the OP IS looking for this kind of long essay response, but maybe/probably not).
     
  7. MelissaMarieImagery

    MelissaMarieImagery TPF Noob!

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    Idk how old the kids are, but I work for a Childs portrait studio adn we get up to 9 kids sometimes in a sitting, and depending on the age -- it can be hell to get them all looking at the camera and smiling. I would try and get a few extra adults to come with you, and have some toys on hand if they're younger. You certainly want someone standing behind you making faces or noises or shaking something entertaining so that they will look in your direction, and hopefully get them to laugh.


    If they're all older, then at least the hard part of the job is done hahah. The actual shooting is easy, it's getting 9 kids to look at you the way you want to that's hard!
     
  8. gryphonslair99

    gryphonslair99 Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Once again, I would refer you to post #2 in this thread. :mrgreen:
     
  9. MelissaMarieImagery

    MelissaMarieImagery TPF Noob!

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    Lmao, I remember a customer coming in and after we talked about the sitting, she asked me if I had any! hahahah.
     
  10. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Yeh... #2. :lol:

    Sorry... brings back memories of trying to get posed photos of my 2 year old for the Holidays. OMG that was difficult and we were just trying to get 1 kid to cooperate.

    Went out for a beer...

    Returned and just gave him a bunch of toys to play and a box wrapped in Xmas paper. with... Pretty nice candid photos were just fine.

    I needed a valium afterwards though.
     
  11. camz

    camz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Wow it's like a war zone in here...

    I think the guys before me have given you enough of the technicals so Op I think my best advice that I can give you is to shoot during your subject's comfortable state. I think it is very difficult to poss children when the ice hasn't been broken, alot of the times it comes out very unatural and stiff especially with 9 kids...wow

    This is what I do when I shoot kids. Never start shooting without their trust. So I play with with them until they get very familiar and comfortable with me(easy b/c i'm a toys r us kid myself). At the same time it's like killing two birds with one stone because you get to know them too - the manerisms, smiles, expressions etc. Then I show the camera(with a couple of rubber band tricks w/ it too) and once they get comfy I shoot away. Not only are they in their natural state but hopefully by then they trust you...which means you can poss them and give direction much easier. Once you have the crowd control that you need, review your shot list and shoot away. I advice to shoot the more possed(probably the ones the clients requested) shots in the beginning as they easily get distracted, and take the more natural shots later.

    Happy shooting! :D

    BTW if you don't have a shot list requested from the parents or grandparents I think makes life better(I'll keep taking the more natural unpossed shots). But always ask what their expectations are.
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2009
  12. zanie84

    zanie84 TPF Noob!

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    Usually when I photograph children, I kind of "sneak" up to them while they either play in the sand or water for that matter. You will be surprised at what beautiful pictures you can take by just letting them do what they enjoy doing and "steal" pictures of them in that way. I took some beautiful pictures doing it this way.

    Hope it helps.
     

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