Family Holiday Portrait Tips For The Professional Photographer

This is a guest post, by Kaspa at Team Kubota!

Some of the best memories are made on a family holiday, as a professional photographer it's your job to capture these moment, depicting families spending time with their loved ones away from their hundred-mile-an-hour lives.

It's on holiday that we often feel the urge to take photographs so it's not uncommon to be approached by a family who are on vacation seeking to capture the magic. In fact, where better than some of the most gloriously beautiful places on the planet to take a family portrait?

If you are a professional photographer who focuses on holiday images, here are a couple of tips that can turn mundane, everyday shots into something a family will treasure forever.

The first thing to note is that holidays take place in all manner of different climates and environments so take stock of your location before you start snapping.

On the slopes

When skiing it is vital you arm yourself with lots of batteries when you are taking pictures in the cold weather, as this environment drains the camera's energy much more quickly. Secondly, don't step from the warmth of your chalet into Baltic conditions and expect your equipment to work perfectly. The shock of the cold can cause all manner of mist and water droplets to form, so give it chance to acclimatise to the weather before you start shooting. A decent camera bag comes in very handy here too, especially if you need to ski to your destination and protect it from knocks and bashes.

Ski holidays provide the perfect environment for some of the more action-packed family photographs, but all that white stuff is sure to throw your camera's exposure well off balance, which can leave snowy scene-scapes looking dull and grey. To compensate for this you'll need to increase the exposure compensation of your camera by about +1. This will ensure the background is the crisp, clean white you would expect from a snowy environment. Take some test photos to check the balance of your camera.

This might seem like an obvious tip for an old pro, but it's better to be prepared, especially if this is your first time snapping in the cold, white wilderness.

If you're looking for something that's a little different, you could set your camera to a custom setting for some interesting, off-white results. For a warmer effect in snow, take photos in the late afternoon when the sun provides a cast on the slopes.

As the professional photographer will be well aware, a white background does wonders for highlighting strong colours. The white background of snow photos allows you to focus on the bright colours of the family's clothes – so encourage your subjects to think about what they wear. A little bit of red worn by each family member neatly ties the picture together and is ideal for personalised Christmas cards. You can also use hats to great effect, they allow you to frame faces and highlight sparkling eyes.

On the beach

On beach holidays, you are met with a whole host of other issues. The intense sunlight of seaside resorts can cause problems with shadows across faces and sun-flares. If you are looking for a creative family portrait, positioning the family against the sun enables you to create a silhouette-style piece.

It goes without saying that in extreme sunlight you should make sure the sun is never behind you, unless you are hoping to capture the family looking extremely strange and squinty-eyed. To reduce the amount of sunlight consider shooting beneath a parasol or sunshade on the beach.

Sunset photos provide a beautiful backdrop for a family photo where the sun is less vivid. Try using fill flash as sunset photos are lit from the back, and this will enable you to lighten the faces of your subjects. You may also wish to try using a faster shutter speed in order to underexpose the background for a very rich coloured sunset.

Fill flash can be used in bright sunlight too, to reduce shadows on faces and give eyes that extra sparkle. It will also darken the background a little, making your subjects stand out from the scenery.

On a cruise

Cruise photography is different again. You can turn cheap Mediterranean cruise deals into a fantastic opportunity for a family photo shoot. Firstly, cruise ships tend to be white, and the sunny, Mediterranean weather can make them appear much brighter, so make sure you have set the white balance correctly by doing some test shots.

The beauty of these white surfaces is that they reflect light, which means you can use them (at the right angle) to add a little extra light to your subjects' faces – like you would use a reflector in a studio setting.

Another problem can be motion, as boats tend to rumble and shake - so use the fastest shutter speed you have if this is causing problems.

The best thing about a family photo shoot while on vacation is that your subjects will generally be calmer and more at ease than in a studio environment. So ask the family to do the things they love – this way you're certain to get the best possible pictures, without awkward poses or forced smiles. Use your environment and create one-of-a-kind images!