How to Create Real Moments During a Family Session


Today’s feature is from .

Heidi says:

“This session was a mother’s day gift from her husband. Every year this family spends time at Cannon Beach and this year they wanted to document it in photos! It’s a fun beach session with a beautiful, stylish, and fun family.”

Heidi’s Photography Tip:

My photography tip can really be broken down into four different tips.

1. Practice. My first tip is one that nobody wants to hear –  but it’s extremely important. It’s called practice…. and that’s what it takes. Unfortunately, most people who don’t pick something up right away end up giving up.

Do you think a runner just becomes a runner over night? I think not. There’s no way I could run 10 miles right now – I’d need practice first.

2. Connection. Besides experimenting with your camera and constant practice, the second most important piece of advice I can give for a family session – or for any session really –  is that you have to connect with your subjects.

Photography (to me) is about connection: the connection with subjects within a photo and the connection that a viewer should feel when looking at that photo.

You can have all the technical skills in the world, but take away that connection and it’s just another picture.

3.  Creating Real Moments

How do you create real moments that translate great in photos – images that even outside viewers can relate to?

My honest thought: you don’t. You wait and let real moments happen – you find where your light is best then you set up a familiar scene for your subjects (something or somewhere they may already be comfortable with).

That’s why I love shooting at a client’s home or, in this case, the beach where they go every year – it’s familiar. You, as the photographer, direct them with activities or change subtle angles but then let them do their thing and wait for the moment to come.

Much like a surfer waits for the perfect wave – you can’t always make this stuff happen – you have to be ready, be watchful, and wait for the exact time to click!

4. Keep Talking.

Dead air time is uncomfortable and awkward. To avoid this, talk through everything – the more you can connect with someone on any level the more they will trust you and the more at ease they will be in front of the camera.

Try and be genuinely interested in what you are saying. If you aren’t a people person, maybe come up with some set questions before a session that you can talk about with the clients. Talk while you’re shooting, or while you setting up the shot – you can even just explain to them what you are up to or what you are thinking or that they look great.

I like to make corny jokes, and I don’t care how I look to passersby or how silly I must sound making my Epic Elmo Voice. If that’s what I have to do to get kids to cooperate, I do it.

After all, it’s not about the photographer – and it should never be. (I think about that every time I pull up to a session in my Chevy Silverado pick-up truck with the dented hood… listen – it’ ain’t about me! I’m from the country and I like it that way 😉

So finally – it comes down to knowing and practicing your camera. Knowing which lens will give you what effect, automatically knowing what your settings should roughly be for any setting you encounter, etc.

If you know your tools, what they do, and how to apply them – you can focus on your connection with your subjects and free your mind to see your subject and take in the surroundings.

You won’t have to look down at the camera all the time – you’ll be looking all around you instead and finding those perfect moments unfolding naturally like we discussed above.






Heidi used a Nikon D700 with a Nikkor 35mm 1.4 lens, a Nikkor 50mm 1.4 lens, and a Nikon 45mm Tilt shift lens to capture these images.

Heidi Haden is a Portland, OR and Vancouver, WA Lifestyle Family and Wedding photographer.

Click here to see more tips on Client Direction.



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