From the very beginning, every family session I do ends up feeling like it’s an impervious bubble of perfection — an hour or two of harmony, separate from the bustling vacuum of the real world.
I get sad when the bubble bursts. Because I know what I’m doing in this bubble. Somehow everything works out, and everything feels right. I’m not sure how it happens, and I don’t really care how, but I figured it would be interesting to look at how a family session actually happens.
The first thing I do is take photos right from the get-go, right after I introduce myself. I must! It’s exciting to be there! I can’t help it. And it seems to get everyone in the mindset that this Jim Dierking character is high-energy and will be taking candids throughout the session. Here’s one such “get-go” photo. Not totally awesome but it sets the scene.
I tend to tackle the first big set-piece photo or two immediately after that. The correct pacing during a session is vital. It should feel like we’re taking our time, when in reality my brain is in overdrive and I’m thinking a dozen photos ahead. I want my sessions to feel dynamic; a journey of discovery, where any moment can become an “I have an awesome idea!” sort of moment. We simply must be patient, take our time, and let those moments come. They always do!The Kwokas nearly posed themselves! They were awesome. And they aren’t alone — most of my clients pose themselves. I simply give them the general idea of what I want from the photo and let them interpret it. I then refine and make adjustments, like moving Mr. Kwoka to the left side of the tree, to better balance things out. In the process I got the kind of photo that made me want to do family sessions in the first place — “the posed-candid that captures the character of everyone at that moment” photo!
20 or 30 years from now, I imagine that these “imperfect” candids will be just as important as the posed photos. I love that they show a real moment in time… a rare occasion when a family gets together on vacation to be together. Even if they are looking in different directions. It’s all good. It’s family.“Alright, lets go over there! We might see a sea-turtle! Oh, bring your footwear, we’ll be walking on rocks for a bit.”I ran ahead to get some “reaction” shots. Thankfully there actually was a turtle!Pacing. Always pacing. I figured it would be good to have them relax for a couple minutes and enjoy themselves, breathe the air and feel the sand without a camera snapping away. Hurried people do not make for good photos. Walking in the sand can be tiring anyway. Good to take a moment to rest while I take a look around for cool ideas.
For the Kwoka ohana, I knew I wanted to continue down the beach to look for a nice place to do individual family portraits, so I ran far ahead to look around. Also a good opportunity to get a quick walking-on-the-beach shot!
And that was it! With the group photos done I told them to head down to the water and just hang out, have fun and “talk story”. And whoooaaa did the Kwoka family talk story!There was this awesome, awesome moment where one of the Dads and his two kids were standing on that rock, looking epic, and someone laughed and yelled to the Mom to “OH WOW get up on that rock with your family! Go go go!”.By that time it was starting to get dark. It was so cloudy that we couldn’t even see the sunset, but those same clouds were situated in a way that made the light ridiculously nice for portraits. I had always wanted to do individual photos of each family member and this was the perfect chance to do it!
What is mystifying to me is that all of this stuff — the pacing, the “set-pieces”, the candids; everything — it doesn’t enter my mind out there. It all just happens. I just arrive and be myself. It all seems to work out. I have no idea how. I only know that I love it, and that I want to continue doing it.
I guess that is why I get sad when the bubble bursts.
PS. One more thing. I feel bad when I do this but I love the photos that come out of it. I tell people to look at non-existent airplanes just to get a shot of them looking up in wonderment. Huge thank you to the Kwoka family for leaving me in wonderment for an entire hour!