Family portrait photography is a time-honored tradition. I would wager that there are very few mantels and hallways in the world without this generation’s and last’s representative portrait in a frame. The process and effort however are a consummate pain in the patootie’ and a necessity for almost every family at one time or another. A group portrait is often championed by one member of the family and disregarded and shrugged off by one or more of the others. If you are fortunate some members will merely be ambivalent. Good for us that there are a few methods and ways and options that I like to implement to lessen the resistance, and they are available to each and every client that requests that service from me. With some fortune and good luck, superlative results are possible and do stand out when they are achieved. I refer to the favorite occasions when everything intersected in the right place at the right time with the right location and the least offensive wardrobe and expressions.
Meeting the family in advance is important to me. Expressing my earnest professional desire to bring a good result to the group afterward is my departure point. Coaching by words and then by showing examples is the path to having the conversation about good wardrobe choices, and the various background settings whether inside the studio or at an outside favorable location. And at the very least gathering enthusiasm not for the individuals, but more for the parent who with their heart & love is usually the one who wants the portrait in the first place. Talking it through is how I would approach a portrait with children around 8, 9’s & 10’s and through the teens. With the younger ones, the scrappy 3 to 7-year-olds an advanced introduction may instill respect subliminally directed from the parents towards the photographer. That is helpful. But the young ones are often ‘squirmy’ and ‘squirrelly’ so good thing that photoshop retouching may allow for the movement of a good expression from one frame to another. Outside locations and hopefully a nice wooden fence are your best bet for positioning the really young ones.
The next optimal approach would be to have an outside location where the group could walk up a slight incline. It takes a few practice runs to temporarily walk much closer together than normal. But once familiar with that the results are fantastic. Pick the location for lighting and setting and add your light modifiers if necessary. With the camera on a tripod, start the walk for about 5 paces. Hold them and then have them walk back to the number one starting point, backward if possible and that can add to the fun! Do your variations with who is on the left right and center and run that action about 7 to 10 more times. For a group portrait with good subjects, 50 to 70 frames may be enough. Other times you may get to 100 or more. With the camera on the tripod, you will have far more in-perspective options for making your final hero frame (with a little help from photoshop).