It was minus 30º Celsius, a finger numbing, biting cold but I knew with a chinook around the corner this might be the last chance for family photos. For a number of years I’ve taken our own winter family photos. If you’ve got a tripod you can save yourself a bundle by taking family photos using your camera’s timer.
To begin, plan the clothing you want your family to wear. It helps to look on pinterest or google search for “winter family photos”. You’ll see the combinations that professional photographers use. This is where I got the idea to dress our family in navy, black, white with a bit of red for contrast. I love how these colors look highly contrasted against a snowy background.
The next step is to choose the setting for your photo shoot. One of my favourite photos of my two children was taken when they were younger. The trees were covered in hoar frost and we literally just pulled over to the side of the road. I had them stand behind some branches and you’d never know we were near a busy street. Once you zoom in, all you have is a snowy background and colourful clothing in view.
We have a beautiful yard across the street from us that is filled with trees and buried in a winter wonderland of snow. It is critical to shoot on a cloudy day. If you can’t plan that in advance (who can?) then make sure your chosen setting is in complete shade. This photo illustrates what happens to photos taken in sun. The sunlight casts a distinctly yellow tint on everything it touches and yellow can be unappealing against the crisp, almost blue tint of snow. It also casts harsher shadows on your subject’s face.
This is much better, don’t you think?
I think kids are so much more relaxed and photogenic, after all, they take selfies on their phones all the time! I’m still a bit awkward when getting photographed.. I much prefer to be the photographer!
Set up your tripod, put your camera on Manual and take a few initial photos to look at camera settings. The aperature (or f-stop) was set low to f/4.5 to create less depth of field, thus allowing the background soften and blur. I love this sort of photograph because then the people become sharp focussed in the picture. I always choose the f-stop first, then from there can determine the shutter speed that accommodates the depth of field I desire. If I took these another time, I think I’d have a higher number f.7 perhaps, because it seemed the person slightly behind the person in front was a bit soft focussed. Although that’s not necessarily a bad thing if it’s me in the background;)
My camera speed was set to 400, a bit faster than my usual 100 that I use for still life photography. I was hoping to catch our Bella’s restless movements without blurring. I should mention a calm day is always best.. there’s a little blowing hair in some of our photos.
Finally the shutter speed was set at 1/125, just allowing the right amount of light in for the aperture that was chosen first. I always take a few quick photos, adjusting the shutter speed until the resulting photographs are the right exposure, deleting my mistakes as I go along. (i.e. not too light or too dark)
I used to have a shutter remote, but damaged it a few years back. Those are fantastic because you can just pose and click away to your heart’s content and be in the pictures you take. Without it, I just get everyone in place, set the automatic timer and jump in to the picture. A bit more of a hassle but it works well nonetheless.
If you don’t have photoshop, Picmonkey is free and has sufficient software to do small adjustments. I found just a 3-4 levels up on “Sharpen” made a subtle but noticeable difference to the details shown in the photo. Another small adjustment up in Exposure then Contrast, seemed to add a slight pink to our cheeks.. perfect for a cold winter’s day!
Picmonkey has some cool Themes that let you add snow and text as well, very fun to play around with!
I encourage you to try.. it’s easier than you think. The most difficult challenge was getting the family all together in one place at the same time and getting Bella to look at the camera. I also think it was so cold, sometimes the shutter didn’t close quite fast enough to get everything in good focus! These by no means replace a professional photographer’s talents, but work well enough for a busy family who just need to get that photo taken.
This winter I hope to find a pretty rural setting along side a river and take a few more photos of my kids..