Embracing the chaos is the only way to go into a session with big extended families. With any large group, there is bound to be a bit of chaos, especially with young children. The key is to just go with the flow, and that advice is more for those in front of the lens. From what I’ve seen with extended family sessions, there is extra pressure on the parents to get that shot where everyone is looking at the camera and smiling, especially since those moments with the grandparents and everyone together may not happen often. I don’t want families to feel that pressure though because even if your kids aren’t in a happy, smiley mood, I literally only need that look and smile for fractions of a second at a time. And whether or not the smiles come, I think we should embrace that moment’s authenticity, whether that comes with smiles or frowns or tears. Regardless of the expression, the most meaningful moments of an extended family session aren’t the ones that are posed. It’s those in between, transition moments where the families are moving and interacting with each other. That’s where the authenticity and connection live and I will always strive to capture those moments.
This extended family session included two grandparents who were visiting from the East Coast and their two adult sons and their families. The youngest son and his wife have 1 son. The oldest son and his wife have 4 daughters and 1 son. The youngest two daughters are twin girls and they were so much fun. I always arrive to family sessions knowing everyone’s names ahead of time, so it’s just a matter of sticking a name to a face. If I have to direct someone to move or turn their head a bit, I’d rather call them by their name, instead of “you, in the blue shirt.” Going into this session with twins, I knew I would have to figure out a way to distinguish the two. When I got to the session, the identical twins had the same hair cut and same dress, but (thankfully for me), they were wearing two different pairs of shoes. So I quickly associated one name with one pair of shoes and the other with the other pair, and had it down, and off we went.
We shot the session during golden hour in Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve. It was a gorgeous day and during that hour, the light was so beautiful and hit so lovely against everyone and the surrounding tall golden grass. I would highly recommend going out to that location for future sessions, or just to enjoy the trails. I shot each family unit individually and then brought everyone in for the big group shots. When they are huddled in together, I like shooting in closer on 2 or 3 of the family members, after shooting wider. And then of course after we get the group shots, I like letting the kids go and just capturing it as it comes. Hope you enjoy these as much as I did in capturing them!