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Creating the Elusive Perfect Family Portrait

Creating the Elusive Perfect Family Portrait

“There is no perfect.  There is only perfect practice.” anynomous


Years ago when I practiced Shotokan Karate on a daily basis my Sensi would tell us this all the time…. “There is no perfect, only perfect practice.”  Knowing that it is okay for you to give up your idea of the perfect family portrait and leave that idea to your family photographer will take the stress out of getting that perfect family photograph.  Instead, just grab the perfect family moment.   After all, capturing once in a lifetime moments should not be stressful.  Rather it should be blissful and fun and capturing your kids “in the moment and in the act of play,” it is the whole point of spontaneous family photography!  This summer, give up on your idea of perfect and let little accidents and spontaneity play a part in your family picture taking routine.  Taking family photographs should be fun for the whole family.

“Capturing your kids in the moment and in the act of playing is the whole point of spontaneous  family photography.”

[above] 2 year old’s are notorious for doing what they want when they want. Instead of trying to coral him. I just photographed him while his family were all laughing in the moment.


A candid photograph is worth its weight in gold.  Stop trying to get the kids looking at you, there’s always a time and place for that.  Getting them in action may take some practice and patience.  With the zero cost of digital “film” these days, time is your friend.  The second you stop your kids from playing and get their attention, that genuine playful moment is gone.  If you strive to capture genuine moments in your child’s life, then you’ll want to grab candid photographs.  The way to do this is to photograph lots while they are steeped in their play time and craziness.  I tend to photograph in bursts of 4-7 photographs of a single subject when I’m trying to grab candids.  I guarantee you these photographs will create richer memories for you than stopping them and asking them to SAY CHEESE!  Photo Tip:REFUSE TO SAY CHEESE!


Here’s the scenario, your at the lake, the kids are dripping wet in their swimsuits.  The sun is behind them, and, as you look at them you can only see that they are in complete shadow and the sky behind them is super bright.  You raise your camera to your eye.  Instinctively your camera’s brain says, Oops, there’s not enough light on this kid’s face.  I need to blast them with my flash.  The Result:  The kids are lit, kind of.  The back ground is kind of blown out without much detail.  Here’s why:  In order to really have the kids lit well, and detail in the back ground you need a light source as bright as the sun in the background.  The tiny little flash on your camera will not even come close to providing the light for that photograph.  The Remedy:  Move the kids so that they are not back lit.  What’s really important is that you are able to grab a great photograph of them.  For fun:  You can keep them where they are but you go out in the water, about waist deep so that they are turned toward the sun.  Or, reposition them so that they are lit by the sun.  Instead of fighting the sun, the worlds brightest object, you are now working with it.  And, the camera’s brain is less likely to turn on the flash.  I also suggest turning off the flash altogether.   If you use the sun as your main light, you will not need to use a flash.  Photo Tip:  WORK WITH THE SUN, NOT AGAINST IT!


[above] I don’t have any magical fairy dust that makes little kids giggle and laugh. I simply try to create all the conditions to allow for spontaneity. And I always capture candid moments in bursts. You simply can not plan for images like this. They just happen.


In the years to come, your family photographs will show the growth of your kids and family events and gatherings.  Hopefully they will also show spontaneous moments too.


Marc Weisberg is an award winning photographer and Sony Artist of Imagery based in Irvine, California. Specializing in Luxury Architecture & Real Estate Photography, Food + Wine Photography, and Weddings & Family Photography, he’s easy to work with and produces clean, crisp, and technically flawless images. Marc’s photography is published internationally in over a dozen books and magazines. You can contact Marc by phone at 949.494.5084…. or email.

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