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Planning a Story-Telling Portrait Session - part 1 of 1 2 3

by Alison Carlino Published 01/01/2014

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How do you want to remember your family in 50 years? That is the question I ask you to really consider and it happens to be the topic of one of my three classes at The Societies' 2014 Convention. While there is a place for traditional 'smile at the camera photography', I want to encourage you to photograph how families live, what they do together for fun, and how a mum sees a child through her eyes. This is a more custom-designed portrait shoot that includes a planning process that will force you to get to know your clients on a much deeper level, creating a connection that will keep them returning to you for years to come.


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As photographers, we have a natural instinct to want to tell stories. Families have older generations that need to teach the children time-honoured traditions such as baking, woodworking, rebuilding cars, sewing, gardening, farming and so much more. Getting to know your client's personality and hobbies will guide you in planning the location, clothing and props needed to create a snapshot in time of what's truly important to their lineage. How do you begin the journey of capturing more of the fun, emotional and relationship-based portrait? You plan!

First, ask about their careers and hobbies. Their line of work can give you hints for locations, maybe not even for their session but thinking to the future for access to other great spots! If they truly enjoy what they do, that could be a strong element of the session. For example, if Dad is a pilot, you could shoot at a vintage airplane hanger, using the outsides and insides of the building, and the planes. If mum is a baker, the whole family could bake cookies or other sweets. One of my favourite memories with my grandmother (who was Czech) was preparing and baking kolaches. I only wish there were more images of that process as we'd spend sometimes half a day prepping and baking. She and I also picked vegetables from her vast garden and shelled peas on the screen porch together.


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