It’s possible - here’s how.
Those rare occasions when everyone is gathered together to celebrate are the perfect time to capture memories that can be cherished for years to come. But getting everyone together is one thing. Capturing natural, joyful moments that come across as both spontaneous and natural is way harder. Throw in kids and pets, and the difficulty scale starts to skyrocket. Camera-shy relatives don’t help either.
But there are a few tricks that I’ve learned from photographing more than 300 families over the years that can definitely help. As a native Ukrainian who has called both India (Pune-Delhi-Bangalore-Delhi!) and Marin home, I know how wonderful family gatherings are and how important it is to be able to capture those moments when we are together in joy with our families, no matter if they include every relative on the family tree for the annual Thanksgiving dinner, or whoever happens to be in town for a spontaneous backyard BBQ.
As a mom to three young kids, I also 1000% understand the stresses of trying to get a good shot when everyone has a different agenda (my two-year-old can go from all smiles to red-faced bawling in the time it takes to turn on the camera). So say goodbye to awkward poses and hello to candid, joy-filled snapshots!
Olga’s top tips for getting awesome, stress-free pictures at your next family gathering:
Set yourself up for success: Be prepared.
If the gathering is at your home, you can prepare by checking the lighting during the event and picking out a few good spots where you know the lighting is consistent and beautiful.
Test out your camera beforehand - I sometimes get my kids to play a game or read a book so I can snap a few shots of them in the same spots and check the lighting.
Do a little light clear-up so you can focus on your subjects. (Personally, all my giant laundry piles get stuffed into cupboards during family gatherings… hey, whatever works!)
If the gathering is elsewhere, check if you can find online pictures of the place to give you some ideas of where to shoot. Or go visit beforehand if it is close and you have time.
Go with the flow:
Don’t force the situation - the best shots come from interactions. Make sure you are there when your relatives arrive so you can capture those first hellos and hugs. Hang around the kitchen so you can snap some prep shots and Auntie Bibi’s famous cookies coming out of the oven.
Shift your angle according to the situation - kids playing a board game? Get down low so you can capture the action and expressions on their faces. Is someone playing catch with the dog? Stand behind them to get some interesting shots. Don’t be static.
But Also Create Opportunities:
Get out some games for the kids to play. I like Ring Toss or even a bubble wand. Don’t try and give too much direction. Be patient. Sometimes it’s about being in the right spot and having the right moment.
I usually bring some props to help kids relax and get them into the flow of the moment. Remember, if a kid is hungry or tired - they will NOT be in the mood to take any pictures. Have some parent-approved snacks on hand, or just let them rest - a sleeping child can make for a lovely shot.
Before any session, I love meeting my families to get to know them better. All those years of experience photographing all kinds of wonderfully different families in different locations means that I can easily capture that natural joy in pictures. When it's your own family, you have the advantage of knowing everyone already, so use that familiarity to put them at ease.
Charge your phone/camera.
Forgetting to charge your camera battery or going out with a low charge on your iPhone means that you might get 4 shots before your equipment calls it a day. Not fun. I always bring additional batteries and a fully-charged whenever I’m on shoot so I can capture all the moments; that way, you and your family can focus on just being in the moment.
Turn the camera on yourself for a moment. Have a few standby jokes to tell when you can break the ice. Start a dance party for the kids (pro tip: nothing gets kids moving like the soundtrack to Sing 2 turned up at full volume!). Enjoy yourself, and make sure you get some shots of yourself as well - after all, YOU are part of the family!
Amid our bustling lives, those precious moments when the family gathers to celebrate hold a special place in our hearts. They're the snapshots of joy, love, and togetherness that we long to cherish for years.
But if it feels like an impossible task and you’re looking for someone to do the work while you relax and enjoy the moment, I would love to help you capture unforgettably beautiful pictures of you and your family. Just click below to book. I still have a couple of sessions left, but hurry, they are filling fast!
PS: Need some more ideas for at-home shots? I’ve got you covered.