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Modern Family Niche Shoot Overview

Lesson 8 from: Find Your Niche and Build Your Family Photography Business

Julia Kelleher

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Lesson Info

8. Modern Family Niche Shoot Overview

Lesson Info

Modern Family Niche Shoot Overview

We're gonna be photographing a family today. Melissa Jenkins, who is actually one of my students, and a photographer herself, brought her family here today, so we're very excited. We have Rex and Riley, who are six and eight years old, and siblings, so they're gonna be a lot of fun. They are photographer's kids, and I know you know what that means. We have to keep that in mind. But they are awesome and I spoke with them earlier when we were on the break and they're very excited, So lots of fun. We're gonna be discussing modern families, as I like to call it. It's basically families on a clean background. This, you've seen this before, this is my set up at home, I do have a very large cyc wall, which does make things easier, however it's not impossible to do it with seamless. And we have a 12 foot roll of seamless paper, super white, here today. I am going to be photographing only on this color, and you're going to see how I can, of course, make it white, but how I can change the colors...

of it on my whim, basically on how I light it in different shades of gray and all the way, if I really wanted to, to black. I'm not sure if we have enough shooting distance and space to do black here but we can get it very very dark depending on how much we light he background. In the last segment I showed you the product the product we generally shoot for when it comes to modern families. Not always do we get that product. I mean, by all means, some families just wanna do a big family canvas on the wall and that's it. But we love to try to do the word walls or anything like that that kinda lends itself to more of a unique product. And that's how we marketed it to attract that type of client who loves that, okay? So we basically take simple clean portraiture and then combine it into a display piece with other text. So this can switch out, so it doesn't have to be necessarily two gallery wrap canvases and two mounted frame canvases. You can make the actual text in gallery wrap and the images framed, you can mix it up. The point is is that you add some kind of words to the images to create a design decor piece, a very modern farmhouse style. We do most of the fulfillment through Miller's Lab. Miller's Lab is my lab of choice and we do the framing finishing in-house. And then, like I said, you can do multiple configurations for this, it doesn't have to be married to this style. It can look different in a lot of different areas. And really the whole goal is that it's designed specifically for the space in which it will be displayed. So remember in the last segment we talked about the product within the product. Yes, I niche in families, I niche in studio families, but I also niche in a modern family product line that has a specific word walls product associated with it and we're gonna shoot that today. Just a reminder, the next segment we're gonna be talking about siblings, soulful sibling images, or just the soulful images, the no smiling type black and white images, and then also real kids, we're gonna get a little bit crazy. So, of course, what this means is that you have to pre-sell the product. So how do you prepare your client for this type of purchase? The consultation, so key, okay? You must do a pre-consult. And I don't care if you do it on the phone, I don't care if you do it in person, but the point is to plant the seed of the sale. That is your goal as a business owner. The goal for the client, the impression you want to give them is, "We're doing the pre-consult to tailor this to you. "To make sure your needs are being met. "To help you understand the process. "To help get the creative killers out of the way, "and to educate you on what's going to happen "and make you feel comfortable with being photographed." That's how I market the pre-consultation to my client. But really my goal is to plant the seed of the sale and shoot for the product the client wants. So I have to do some kind of pre-consultation in order to understand what they want the end goal to be out of this. Where do they wanna put a portrait? How do they want it to look? What do they hope to get out of it five, 10 years from now when they're staring at it every day and their child has changed and grown? So we want to educate the client, we wanna get those creative killers out of the way. We wanna make sure that they don't wear something weird. I don't want 'em to wear something weird. So it gets that creative, 'cause there's nothing worse, nothing worse, your client walks in the door and all three of them are wearing different colors of plaid. And one has a Harley Davidson shirt on. I mean it just doesn't, and one has a Polo with the logo on it. It's just, when they don't have guidance they don't know what to do. And they will, if you leave that to chance, sorry on you, it's your fault. You must educate the client on what to wear, give examples on your site. Pinterest has great outfits that you can put together. Do that with your own wardrobe, literally, with your own family's wardrobe, put it on white and get on a ladder and shoot it and say, "Oh this is a a great example." Give people feelings for what to expect and what to wear, then they'll know. If you just tell them, most people are visual people and they need to see it, okay? So if you make sure they see it you're gonna get those, what I call creative killers out of the way, the things that kill your creativity. And the finally it really helps you to get to know the client. I have made phone calls with every single person we're going to be photographing today. Every family, every child, every parent, not every child but every parent I have spoken with about their child. I want to get to know that child on a much deeper level so I can use these little nuggets to help me in the session connect with them. I want to build the confidence in the client that they are assured that what's going on, it sets the expectations for the session. It makes them feel really good about what's about to come. "Oh yeah, we could do this." And a confident client is a happy client and a client who has an amazing experience in your camera room. And when your client has an amazing experience in your camera room they're gonna remember that every time they look at the images. So that's the single most important thing you can do is prepare the client and get them comfortable with your process before you get there. So that when they look at the images they'll go back, I mean, why do we take pictures on vacation? To go back to the moment, right? It's a return ticket to a moment otherwise gone. Katie Thurmes I think said that. And it's true. They remember how they felt the moment the image was taken. So you want association with that image to be a positive one. So if you have a client who has a bad experience every time they see the images they're gonna think of the bad experience, which is not what you want. So when I'm preparing a client I always ask them, "What is your goal for the session, "what do you plan to do with the images?" "Ur, ah, I just want the digitals" Right? "Ur, I dunno, we just need some pictures of Donnie." That's the classic response. "How do you wanna see them five, 10 years from now? "Where do you plan to display a portrait?" Notice the questions are all who, what, where, when, why? Open ended questions, let the client talk. "Do you wanna hang one in your house?" "Oh no we don't have wall space." "Where would you like to hang a portrait in your home?" "Oh I don't really have a wall space but where", they start envisioning where it could hang. "I dunno, I suppose." "Where could a portrait hang?" Suggestion, possibility, get the mind thinking, give them ideas. "What product are you commissioning us for? "This is a commissioned art piece, "what product draws you in, "what product makes your heart sing?" That's why I actually prefer to do pre-consults in person at the studio because not only can I impress with the brand but I can also impress with the product and get them excited. I mean you know when you go shopping, I love antique shopping, you go antique shopping, and you're like, "Ahh, it's pretty." Especially when it's merchandised really well, you're like, "Oh I could use that and that's so pretty." It's like you wanna buy. We're programmed, us women are programmed to do that right? So if we put them in an environment where they see pretty things they get a little money happy. And that's exactly what we want is for them to pull that trigger, okay? So in person consultations are the best. The second alternative is to do a Skype, a video Zoom conversation with them. So they see your face, can to talk to, see you in your environment, and that helps to get to know you a little bit better and it's a little more intimate. So, "What product are you commissioning us for?" I also ask things like, "Why a session now?' Especially for families, this is a great question. Obviously with a new born, duh, "The baby's young, and fresh out of the womb, "I want to take a picture of it." Right, okay, that's being a little crass and blunt but it's true. With a six year old why now? You will get the most unique, beautiful answers. Sometimes it's as simple as, "I'm not really sure "but I know I need to do it." And you just have to explore that, "What triggered that feeling? "What's happening in your life right now "that makes you feel the need for that? "What are your goals for the session? "What do you want to come out on "the end of this process with? "What's important in your child's life right now? "What interests them? "What fascinates them, what would they spend all day doing?" When I ask questions that start to get more into the child itself and kind of getting deep into the heart of who the child is, the client, it makes an impact on the client. They go, "Oh, wow, she really, she really cares." So what to wear, the big thing. We are getting there, I'm moving forward, yes, I'm getting there. The client's biggest pain point, and it's important to process, the client's biggest pain point is what to wear. So dress for the space, we talked about this a little bit more in the last segment so I'll kinda breeze through this. I always tell them to pick neutral colors, warm or cool depending on the space they're putting the portrait in. Not too matchy-matchy, different cuts, different styles, but similar tones, that's what actually helps the most. So what I really want you to focus on when you're shooting is the big three: camera angle, lighting angle, and posing angle. You're going to hear me drill this into your brain a ton. I am moving faster than my poor clicker can keep up with me. So, camera angle, lighting angle, and posing angle. In a commercial look camera angle is critical. I tend to shoot fairly low. It makes kids seem larger than life, it gives a very commercial look, but you have to do it with the long lens. Why? Compression. If I do a wide lens, down low, I'm gonna distort my family, a lot. And because I tend to shoot in an L-shaped format, not always, but I shoot in the L-shaped format, and I'll talk about that in a little bit. I have to have a long lens to make it look like they're all on the same plane. I'm shooting at F8, F9, F16, so the focus is not an issue. I'm in studio using high powered strobes. So the commercial look kinda has a low camera angle, it doesn't always, and especially with different body types if you have a very heavyset family you probably don't want to shoot them from a super low camera angle 'cause that'll make things look a little weird. But a higher camera, with that being said a higher camera angle can sometimes slenderize bodies. Anything closest to the camera is going to appear larger. So if you're down here on the floor, someone's hips are the closest to you, if they're a heavyset person it's not the greatest idea in the world. But if they're a pretty normal body type you can get away with it. If they're heavier set I'm gonna hop up on a higher angle and shoot things with a little bit more flattering body line with the shoulders, and the breast line, and the face coming up first to the camera, then the hips getting slenderized as we go down. I do this all the time with new mommies, 'cause I mean, come on, no new mommy, we all have bellies and hips when we just give birth. So almost always I'm up shooting over a new mommy or a parent. Not dad, usually dads are, unless it's sympathy weight, right? My husband did the sympathy weight thing. Bad. Okay, so, a low camera angle lets kids kinda be larger than life. It kind of empowers them, I love that about the low camera angle with children. And it gives a very high end look. This is all a style thing, you really have to pick what works for you. But with the lighting angle this is also critical. Not only posing angle, or camera angle, but lighting angle. I do almost nine times out of 10 an overhead type of look. It has a very north light feeling, open sky type feeling. And it's almost always flattering on a subject. When I worked in TV news and even here they give this overhead butterfly lighting, they just want you to look thin and pretty. I mean it's automatically flattering that's why all the lights here at Creative Live, or in any video studio are up high. To give that slenderizing look, shadows beneath the nose, beneath the chin line, beneath the lip line and beneath the chin line. So my overhead angle tends to be more at an angle. We're gonna do butterfly lighting like this when we do it for kids and you'll see the difference. But for the most part it's kind of a north light 45 angle you'll see as we work with the big soft box here, and I'll tell you all the equipment that I'm using et cetera et cetera as we move along. I also wanna make sure that my light is equidistant from the subject. I want to get the catchlights in the eyes, okay? And remember the fall off-rule. Do you guys know the fall-off rule? It's not hard to think about. The closer a subject is to the light, the faster the fall-off. Light fades, right, as it moves away from something? If I'm super close to the light it's gonna be bright here and dark at my feet. If I'm further away from the light the fall-off distance is greater. So it falls off at a slower rate. So that's why a lot of family shoots you'll see the light like way out here to make sure everybody gets lit. Have you ever lit a family and the first subject is over here super close to the light and they're all hot and this person over here has nuthin' on 'em? That's the fall-off rule, okay? So by keeping your light equidistant from your subjects and determining playing around with the fall-of distance you're gonna get a more evenly lit family. Super important. Overhead light, it captures that north light feeling. Also what I wanted to make a point on was the fact that with studio light shooting on white provides the most versatility. I can shut off those background lights and turn it dark gray. Or I can put them at a stop or two above my main light and turn it high key. So I have three different looks on one background to give variety to the family, okay? So finally with posing angle. Posing angle is probably the hardest thing for photographers, especially in big groups. Posing a group of four, five, six, seven people can get really intimidating. I actually love it now. Three? Urgh, boring, it's really boring. Four, five, or six, now we got some fun. 'Cause it's just making everybody different. I'm only gonna give you a few rules here but if you make everybody different it'll look good. Nobody should be the same. It is hard but think of this rule that I'm about to instruct you on, it's the rule of triangles and offset heads. Now I'm not a stickler to it, and you'll see me do things here that break the rules, but if you think about this it will help you visualize it when you're standing here under pressure. So, what the rule of offset heads is, and I've taught this before but it's been a while, is if you notice a family portrait no two noses are on the same plane. See that? So if you draw a line down mommy's nose, baby's nose, daddy's nose, the little kid's nose, there's three distinct lines. Vertically and horizontally. See that? So everybody's in a different spot on the plane and your eye, and because the arms, go back here, because the arms are in this circular, your eye goes wshooooo, see that? It's good composition. So by putting everybody, by thinking about everybody's nose on a different line, vertically and horizontally, you're gonna make your life a little bit easier. The other way to do it is to think of it in terms of triangles. You should always make triangles with everybody. The next thing you need to think about is the body parts. Now, again, rules are made to be broken, this doesn't always happen as long as you have a pleasing overall look to the image it doesn't matter. So don't, posing is important but don't sacrifice posing for the image, for the emotion in the image. If you're so bent on getting the pose that you don't get expression or fun or beauty in the personalities of the people then you have a failed image in my opinion, just my opinion. But, try not to sacrifice posing for the spontaneity of the image, if that makes sense. You'll see a lot of spontaneity here, okay? The chin and the nose. You don't want to ever really look up someone's nose heavily and when we're shooting on a low camera angle that can sometimes be challenging,. And sometimes you'll see high fashion models they purposefully go up into the camera like that. They also have gorgeous faces with slender nobody else has that kinda stuff. So, again, a rule made to be broken but keep it in your mind, no one likes to look up someone's nose. They don't wanna, you don't wanna see my boogers right? Same with the chin. If the chin is too far back everybody's gonna get this. If it's up you look silly right? And you're up the nose. It's forward and down. Push the chin forward and down. But you don't wanna be a chicken neck either. Okay? If there are two of them the general rule is they should not be on the same plane. What does that mean? Shoulders, crick. Elbow down and up. If you see I'm saying I'm trying to put things on different planes. Legs, this is boring, this is more interesting. Okay? So by kinda thinking about it, it's hard when you have one person, there's two of a lot of things. On six people there's like 12 of everything. So it can be very intimidating but again don't sacrifice connection for the pose. Now the upside down L rule I really love. It is when you kind of make the subjects in an L shape on your background. It's a very slight thing. The way I have it here is a little dramatic. But what you'll see is I've got a subject here, a subject there, and a subject there. Notice there's a little L-shape to what I'm doing? My light's not in the right position at the moment but what that does is it makes everybody generally equidistant from the light depending on their height. Which makes my fall-off a lot more even. And I can also get nice soft light because the light's close to them. The further I move the light away the harder the source, the harder it gets. You want the soft pretty shadows. So if you can kinda use the little L rule. Now first thing going through your mind is, "But Julia, if not everybody's on the same plane "they're gonna be out of focus." Not if I'm shooting at a closed down F-stop right? F8, F10, F16, somewhere in there they're all gonna be sharp, tack sharp and in focus. And with the strobe that helps me even more.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with RSVP

Bonus Material Instructions

Ratings and Reviews

Courtney Ranck-Copher

I own I think all of Julia's classes. This is probably my favorite. I will say that it's because its exactly the type of photography I have been wanting to focus on. So the information was extremely valuable to me. But I do love all of Julia's classes and you can learn so much from her as a mentor regardless of the type of portraits you shoot. Thanks Julia for a wonderful class I have watched it multiple times!


As always, Julia never disappoints! It has been so awesome to watch her work with such incredible intention, from concept to session to sales. Her energy and strategy are so motivational and very, very creative! This class rocks from start to finish, and is a perfect addition to my Creative Live business arsenal! Five stars all the way!!!!!

Amy Vaughn

My favorite part was seeing how Julia's business evolved over time and transformed into what it is today. Good tips for finding inspiration to develop a niche and practical marketing advice. I'm glad I took this alongside Tamara's business class - the two photographers had very different approaches to their business and shooting family photography in many ways, but it really illustrators how there's no one way to do everything. I learned so much from both of them.

Student Work