Family Values and Portraiture with Melanie Anderson
I’m writing this month’s article at the beach. I took a few days with my oldest daughter, Sarah, to soak in the last few days of summer. I tell you this as a reminder to take time for you. Always take time to recharge. I find peace and clarity at the beach. It’s a place to refocus and regroup, allowing me to be all things to all those who need me.
This month’s issue is all about children and families. I am blessed to work with my two oldest daughters. In this article, I share my experiences working with them, as well as several tips on photographing children and families and the equipment I use. I hope you find this article inspiring and resourceful, and a reminder to keep family first.
Sarah and Emily
Sarah, 19, started assisting at the studio three or four years ago. Her role was to hold the reflector, greet clients and keep the studio clean. Last year, she took on more of a marketing role. Since she was the age of my senior clients, she was a valuable resource with her intimate knowledge of what seniors wanted in a photographer. This past summer, she took on the role of associate photographer. She shot 10 senior sessions, a family session, a few volume sports clients and anything else I needed.
Emily, 17, continues to assist at the studio. Over the next few years, she will be training as an associate photographer.
By encouraging my daughters to be a part of the studio and take ownership of their roles, I have given them skills above and beyond others their ages. I am challenged daily with clients, staff, marketing and finances. I include my children in the blessings and the burdens of running a full-time retail studio. It’s important to me that they hear any conflicts and understand the resolutions. These are what I call teachable moments. They have prepared them with life skills that will carry them far.
Family and Children Portraiture
Our studio here in Hagerstown, Maryland, is known for creating portraits of families and children. My favorite style is urban, either on location or in studio, and both modern and traditional. Our equipment includes reflectors, strobes and constant lights (ringlights and sweetlights).
There are a few reasons I like the urban style. First, my studio is located in the downtown arts and entertainment district. We are surrounded by alleyways, stairwells and brick walls. That’s why I chose this location. I love the textures and colors.
My location enables me to complete an entire family session in 15 minutes. My process is as follows: I shoot the entire family, siblings, mom/dad and then the kids individually. I have a system and style in place so that I can move quickly and efficiently. The images included in this segment were shot with a reflector.
My next favorite style of portraiture is on location at a park or in a field. Here I will demonstrate two styles, one using a reflector, the other with a strobe.
When photographing on location, there are a few things we need to think about. The first is the environment: Are we on private or public property? Where’s the sun? Because my choice of lighting is a reflector, I am always looking for open shade. But we need to be prepared for any circumstance. I haven’t always scouted out the location ahead of time; in fact, most situations I walk into, I have no idea what it looks like. I’m OK with that. I like to fly by the seat of my pants. So with that mindset, I always bring a strobe too. This way I can overpower the sun as needed, or add a main light to the ambient light. As I stated in the video, sometimes this choice is dictated by whether or not my power supply is actually charged. I need to be able to improvise.
When photographing families, take the time to showcase the bonds between siblings, spouses and parent/daughter and parent/son. These are such precious times to capture, and will add to the experience for the client and to your sale with additional portraits.
Get creative. Create collages and wall art with scripture or inspirational verses.
My least favorite style of photography is in-studio. Maybe because it seems so posed, maybe because I like fresh air and I feel more creative outside. Maybe it’s that I’m just not a fan of studio photography. It’s just not my strength. Regardless, as professionals we need to cater to our clients’ needs and be able to create any style of image they want. For generational portraits, I do like studio lighting, which is traditional and timeless.
I like this style because it allows for more creativity. I use a space upstairs in my studio that is painted all white with huge windows and beautiful light. I have gorgeous hardwood floors that give a timeless feel and provide additional creativity.
One of the action plans I want you to implement this month is to photograph your family. When is the last time you had professional portraits taken with you in them? I do this once or twice a year during family gatherings. I love looking back and seeing the changes in the children. Some of these images were taken with the camera on a tripod using a remote trigger. For others, we asked a random stranger to “click the button.” Do what you need to do to capture this time with your family. Don’t delay. Trade professional services with another photographer if you need to.
In closing, let’s discuss some ways to get the word out about your family portraiture business. In previous months, I have discussed becoming part of your chamber of commerce, setting up displays and networking as much as possible. Create $100 portrait credits to pass out to anyone you feel would be a good fit for your studio. Think about people at church, friends, neighbors and marketing/networking groups.
3 Action Plans
Photograph your family. Trade services with another photographer if needed.
Photograph your pastor/minister/priest/rabbi, etc. Bless them with the gift of family portraiture.
Create and pass out 100 $100 gift certificates, good for a portrait credit in your studio.
As always, feel free to reach out to me with questions, and keep me posted on your action plans.
Be sure to check out this month’s video segment, in which I walk you through my equipment and much more.