OK, maybe not right at the camera. And I know, I know, we shouldn’t encourage small children to throw stuff, especially at expensive cameras. But let’s explore the idea, because by using the natural environment, readily available props and gravity, you can add color and movement easily to your next family photoshoot.
There’s a lot of fun to be had tossing stuff into the air for a family photoshoot. Petals, confetti and bubbles have long been a staple of the wedding ceremony exit, but why should the bride and groom get all the fun? This easy trick adds a lot of pizzaz to any photo session. It works for families with kids all the way up to really large groups. It’s all about capturing those expressions of joy!
Get your camera ready to capture moving particles
Have your camera ready with settings suitable for capturing fast motion. For larger groups remember a decent depth of field will be necessary, especially if the group is spread out and moving around. You’ll need:
- Fast shutter (higher than 1/200s unless you are using a flash; experiment with how fast the material being thrown moves).
- ISO as low as possible for the light while still keeping shutter speed fast.
- Shoot in burst mode to catch best moment.
- Use continuous focus mode and focus on the eyes of the central person.
- Use a flash to freeze motion at slower shutter speeds.
Cue the group with what you want them to do, then shoot continuously through the action. Review what you captured and repeat until you achieve the effect you’re looking for.
An on-camera or off-camera flash with a fast recharge and a diffuser is an excellent tool for this idea, because it will allow you to freeze motion even at lower shutter speeds. Check out this article on what I’d buy if I was getting started in off-camera flash. Don’t be scared by flash: It’s easy to do and there’s not much finesse required with these ideas. One flash on-camera, bounced off a wall will do the trick. Or just blast flash straight at your subjects for extra drama and contrast! It’s all good when creating fun family photos.
Idea 1: Throw what you can find in nature
Group the family facing the camera, either standing or sitting, tell them to grab handfuls of natural elements (such as hay, autumn leaves, snow, flowers) and on the count of three throw the handfuls up into the air.
Idea 2: Throw color with easy-to-find craft supplies
Use confetti, fake feathers, colored pom poms (the kind you find at a craft store), torn-up pieces of scrap paper (e.g. old product catalogs), colored scarfs.
Throw balloons! Load up a sheet with balloons on top, get all the kids underneath with the adults holding the sheet taut, then on the count of three, whip the sheet up and away so the balloons fly up and land down on the kids.
Idea 3: Throw (carefully) at the camera
Group the family tightly, and have them throw multicolored paper planes toward the lens. Or try shooting party poppers toward the camera (note: these are difficult to freeze without flash).
Dandelion seeds are one of my favorite! Send the kids off on an adventure to gather as many as they can from the lawn and then line everyone up on the ground. There’s so much magic to capture in seeing those little seed heads take flight.
Blow glitter toward the camera: Hold it cupped in hands and blow it gently. But please: Don’t do this inside your house. Or in someone else’s house. You’ll regret it. No photo is worth living with glitter all over your everything for the rest of your life. Don’t forget to use a zoom lens to keep that glitter off you!
Get creative with capturing color and movement for fun family photos
Experiment with capturing the whole scene versus the tight details of faces behind the falling leaves, hands holding dandelion, etc. You could lie on the ground to exaggerate the height of the falling materials. Another experiment to try is playing with freezing the motion versus letting it blur. Try out capturing faces in sharp focus while the particles are blurred, and vice versa.
Whether you’re working with your own kids, breaking out of the standard with your clients or growing your family photography portfolio, try this out at your next photoshoot. I think you’ll like the results! For more ideas like this, check out my photo prompts blog. There are lots of ideas for fun family photos, playful ideas and more over there.