What to capture: family reunions | Athens, PA photographer

This is part of my feature What to Capture, where I give you ideas what photographs you will want to capture at an event or family gathering to be sure you document the day for your memories.

Family reunions: The butt of many sitcoms jokes but actually a gathering many families look forward to. It’s a chance to catch up on the lives of your family members, especially extended family members you don’t have a chance to see throughout the year.
My family is small with mostly older members and family reunions don’t happen often, or really ever. But for many a family reunion is an annual event where members of their extended family gather, catch up and reminisce about each other, their childhoods and crazy Uncle Bob.
For the most part what to capture with your camera at a family reunion is pretty straight forward. You photograph the family all together in one shot.  The big, combined family photo is one of the most important photograph of the day but it isn’t the only photograph you should snap.

Here are a list of suggestions of what you should capture through your lens during your family’s reunion, or any family reunion for that matter.

First, a little advice on that big family photo:
1) Make sure you don’t let anyone leave the reunion early, before that group photo is taken. The timing of the photograph should be somewhere near the middle of the event so enough people have arrived but also so not too many have left. If someone does announce that they need to leave then that’s your cue to stop what you’re doing and announce that it’s time to gather for the family photograph.
2) Push for that photo. Having a combined, large family photograph will be important to your family’s history and future memories. This is your chance to be bold and a bit forceful (in a polite way) because you know at least one family member is going to try to duck out, hide behind a plant or whine that their hair looks horrible. Don’t get into a family brawl over it because that’s not great for family bonding, but do what you can to convince that family member that their presence in the photo is needed to show a true representation of the entire family. Remind the reluctant subject the photograph isn’t about them but about future generations knowing who their ancestors were.

3) Once you have convinced everyone to be in the group photo, I would suggest chairs for the older generation to sit in and that young children sit on the ground in front of the chairs, if that’s possible. File the teenagers and adults in a standing position behind the younger and older generations and try to group immediate family members together when possible. Do your best to layer the groups so that they don’t spread out to the sides too far. Six to eight people in a row is a good number  to avoid the photograph being taken too far back and leaving you squinting to see faces because you, or the photographer, had to stand so far away to get everyone in.
If you have risers to place the teens and adults on to keep the rows short, and make sure you can see everyone’s face, then use them but chances are most people won’t be that prepared, so improvise with picnic tables, rock walls, chairs, or benches. Just be sure all the items you stand a person on are stable because you don’t want to have an ambulance trip ruin all the fun. Should an ambulance have to be called, though, be sure to take photographs because that’s going to be an awesome story for next year’s family reunion as long as there are only broken bones and no serious injuries *wink*.

4) When you look through the viewfinder make sure you can see everyone’s face. Tell cousin Steve to come from behind the tree and Grandma to stop hiding her face behind her fan. Make sure to take more than one photograph in case someone blinks or moves or a child spits up. Ask everyone to look your way for the final image but don’t be afraid to snap a few shots while everyone is getting set up because sometimes those in between moments are the most memorable. If you have two people photographing, have one person focus on the people as they line up for the photograph. Some of the most special interactions can come while setting up for the photograph.
In addition to the family photo here are a list of four other suggested posed photographs you will want to make sure you take in between taking candids.

Immediate family units
If you have a large family, gathering immediate family members from each branch of the tree for individual images is a good idea. This would include, for example, a husband and wife and their children. If you then want to add in the parents and siblings of the spouses you can do that too, but don’t get too crazy or you’ll be taking the entire group family photo again. You don’t have to be too fancy with these photos but try to make sure everyone is looking at you and nothing appears to be sticking out of the top of their head when you snap the shutter. Pay attention to your backgrounds. Be aware that if you place dad in front of a certain background, he could end up looking like he has deer antlers unless you either move him or yourself before pressing the shutter.

Grandparents, grandchildren or great grandparents and great grandchildren
Gathering the grandparents and great grandparents together for their own photograph is a good idea. Add in the great grandchildren with the great-grandparents and the grandchildren with their grandparents as well. Depending on how large your family is this could be quite an undertaking so you will need to decide if you want to do just one large group photo or the individual photos.

New additions
Each year can bring new additions to the family whether by birth or adoption or by marriage. Be sure to grab either a standalone photo with these new members or a group photo with them and their immediate family. And of course they will be included in the larger group family photo if you don’t get the opportunity for individual photos.
Generation photos
Family reunions are a great opportunity to capture a four or five or whatever number generation photograph. This is usually a great grandparent, grandparent, parent, child and grandchild all together in one photograph. It’s important to capture these images whenever you are all together because, not to be morbid or a downer, you may not have the chance again if a member of the older generation passes away before the next reunion.
I usually have the older members of the family sit in a chair or on a couch and place the other members around them or behind them. If there are young grandchildren or great grandchildren involved placing them on the lap of their great grandparent or grandparent not only creates a nice photograph but a nice moment for the older and younger generations. Never be afraid to snap the shutter during those in between moments before you ask everyone to look at the camera. You might capture a special glance between grandpa and grandchild that will mean more to you than the photo where everyone is looking at the camera at the same time.
Don’t be upset if every child isn’t looking at the camera at the same time either. Their expression or where they are looking instead may make a more memorable photograph in the long run.  Repeatedly telling a child to look at the camera can not only create stress  for you but for them as well.
Be sure to capture candid photographs of the day. If Dad is playing a trick on his younger brother, take the photo. Capture laughter, expressions of delight as family members arrive and see each other again, grandchildren running to their grandparents, cousins talking to each other, siblings wrestling each other and any family reunion traditions that might be held.
Bonus tips:

One, don’t photograph people in mid-bite and two, limit how many photographs of the food you take. No one really needs to look back and see Aunt Ruth with a cheek full of hamburger or cousin Frank with ketchup trickling down his chin. The future generation will probably not be interested in Instagram like photos of the food either, unless someone made an amazing cake that everyone will marvel at for years to come or the dish is a special family recipe. As much as possible, try to include a person with each image you take because, obviously, a family reunion is about people and about capturing the memories for those people and the future generation.
If you take the photographs yourself don’t forget to put the camera down part of the time and enjoy yourself, living in the moments of the event without looking through the viewfinder. And don’t overthink the photographs too much and cause unnecessary anxiety for a day that is meant to be fun and memorable.

In closing, here is a short checklist of what to capture at your next family reunion:

Group family photo
Immediate family members
Great grandparents alone
Grandparents alone
Great grandparents and grandparents together
Great-grandparents with their great grandchildren
Grandparents with their grandchildren
New family members (by marriage or new babies)
Generation photograph
Candid images from the day

What to Capture: Tips for photographing baby showers

This is part of my weekly post, What to Capture, where I give you ideas what photographs you will want to capture at an event or family gathering to be sure you document the day for your memories.

To see previous posts you can see the link to the left or you can click HERE.

Your family member or friend is pregnant and you’re attending the shower. While the shower may not be as monumental as the birth, it’s still an exciting event the mother-to-be will love to have images of in the future.

We’ve all seen the photos from a similar event and usually the images are of the mama opening gifts and that’s about all. While photos of opening the gifts can mean smiles and laughs of the day documented to look back on, don’t forget the other important photographic opportunities. 

The mother-to-be may say she doesn’t want her photo taken because she feels fat. Be sensitive to mama’s feelings, but try your best to gently to remind her how much she will treasure the images after the baby is born and in the years to come. Remembering how friends and family came together to celebrate the arrival of a new baby, whether the first or otherwise, is more important than feeling fat.
If you choose to hire a photographer for the day, don’t be afraid to politely provide a list of images you would like captured from the day. If a friend is helping you, they will also appreciate some guidance on moments you would like to remember from the day.

The following list are suggestions for what to capture. These are suggestions, but you should follow your instinct on what you believe should be visually recorded from the day.

Mama with friends or family

Family and friends are attending the shower to celebrate the new life and the mama is going to want to remember that her guests felt she was special enough for them to take time out of their day to attend her shower and celebrate with her. Photographs of the mama with her guests, either individually or together as a group will create a nice visual memento of the day. You can accomplish these photos through candid interactions between mom and her guests or by asking them to take a moment and look at the camera. Either way, capturing each guest in the photos, in some way will be appreciated by your mom.

Mama with both grandmothers, aunts

Along the same lines of photographing the guests is the need to photograph mom with the grandmothers of the child and with any aunts who are in attendance. Traditionally, at least in the United States, baby showers are attended only by women, but if the grandfathers or uncles of the baby, or other special male members of the family, are in attendance then it’s important to capture them with mommy as well. 

Mama as she opens gifts

I don’t think mom will want photographs of every single gift being opened but a few images of the gift opening moments will be a good addition to the days’ collection of images. Photographs of the gifts themselves are less important than capturing mom’s reactions as she opens the gift. If a gift is especially special, either because of what it is or who it is from, be sure to capture some details of the packaging and of mom with the gift.

Mom with her friends playing shower games

If your baby shower features some fun shower games, be sure to photograph the moments of laughter that are sure to result from the guests interacting with each other. If you haven’t caught on, the theme of the day is “interactions” and “capturing them”.

Mom with daddy

If daddy attends the event, even to pick up some of the gifts at the end, a nice touch to the day would be to capture the expectant parents together. Daddies are important too, but often get left out of the baby shower phase, and in fact, a lot of the planning leading up to the baby’s birth. Remind Dad he’s as important as mom in the life of his child by including him in the celebration, even if it is only a photograph to say “he was there.”

Mom by herself

Keep in mind that for some women, being pregnant makes them feel self conscious. Hopefully it makes them feel beautiful because pregnancy can be one of the most special and amazing periods of time in a woman’s life. But if mom is sensitive to her appearance this day, be gentle and understand she may not want to pose for any photographs, especially if it means standing by herself. If mom is willing, good backdrops to a photo with her include the gifts or even a tree outside, if the baby shower is inside. If mom is uninterested in posing, capture her during the shower, instead of asking her to pose, which can often be uncomfortable, pregnant or not. Candid images are often the way to go when your attending an event, but of course I’d say this because natural and “in the moment” are my favorite photographs to take.

If you take the photographs yourself don’t forget to put the camera down part of the time and enjoy yourself, living in the moments of the event without looking through the viewfinder. And don’t overthink the photographs too much and cause unnecessary anxiety for a day that is meant to be fun and memorable. 

What  to Capture checklist, baby shower edition

  • Mama with friends and family (individually or as a group) 
  • Mama as she open gifts (it’s not important to photograph every gift she opens) 
  • Mama with the grandmothers either together or individually
  • Mama with aunts, sisters, friends, either as a group of individually
  • Mama and her friends playing shower games
  • Details of some of the gifts, little bows or teddy bears
  • Mama and daddy if daddy attends (don’t forget that dads are important too!)
  • Mama alone with some decorations or in a chair or with a pretty backdrop of some kind (even outside by a tree)

Don’t forget to print your images in some way, whether with actual prints you can place in a book, or in a photo album you can design online. Some suggestions for where to print include Shutterfly and Mpix. I make my memory books on Blurb, but Shutterfly also offers this service. Additionally, you can make books directly from your phone with aps such as Chatbook and Artifact Uprising.

Interested in other posts in the What to Capture series? Find more posts HERE.



What to Capture: Tips for photographing birthday parties

This is the debut of a new feature on my blog called What to Capture. This feature will offer tips to moms who want to document their child or children’s life through photography.

I am aiming these posts at moms because often it is the mom who enjoys capturing the everyday life of her children but these tips, of course, can be for dads as well.

My main message behind each of these posts can easily be described in four words: 
don’t forget the details, or if you are into non-catchy acronyms: DFTD.

This week’s What to Capture focus is birthday parties.

When photographing your child’s next birthday party don’t forget the details you might want to remember later. Will you want to remember him or her blowing out the candles on the cake? Certainly! Opening gifts? Yes! Playing with his friends? Of course! 
But don’t forget to get in close too. Capture her smile as she sees the cake. Photograph her hands unwrapping a gift so you never forget how little she was. Document him laughing with his friends so he and his friends have memories of their friendships.
Do you want photos of the streamers or balloons or other decorations? Probably not, unless they have some sort of emotional connection to that time in your child’s life – for example he loved batman and the piñata was a huge Batmobile
Of course you don’t want to miss out on experiencing the day yourself so if you want to live more in the moment hire a professional photographer to photograph those moments or ask an extended family member or friend to help you document the day. If you do hire a photographer don’t be afraid to jot down the checklist of images you are interested in and politely ask the photographer to capture those specific moments or items. Many photographers will not mind if you offer them your ideas for what moments are important because they understand these are your memories.
If you are the photographer for the day, making a checklist for yourself is always helpful to ensure you don’t forget any important moments.
And, remember, if you take the photos yourself, don’t forget to put the camera down periodically and remember to live in the moment, soaking in the feelings you have as you watch your child celebrate turning a year older.

Birthday party photo checklist suggestions:

  • The guests arriving;
  • The children playing;
  • Your child blowing out the candle;
  • Wider photo of your child preparing to blow out candles so you can capture faces of the guests;
  • The decorations, if they have an emotional significance for that particular time in your child’s life. 
  • Your child opening a few gifts;
  • Your child’s reaction to gifts;
  • Your child playing games;
  • A group photo of your child and their guests
  • You and your spouse and any siblings with the birthday child.’