Jul 20, 2011

wednesday's {eye candy session}

happy wednesday everyone!

we have chosen wednesdays (sprinkled here and there) to be our eye candy day...with a twist.
we will not only share an amazing, crazy inspiring session we have come across...you know the kind, where you're eyes are glued to the screen, your mouth is open and you're thinking...omg!!!
...but some of the thoughts and processes behind the session.
beauty + brains. perfect.

i am so excited to start our first wednesday's eye candy post with a photographer who captured an almost
'i can't believe it' family session that i came across a few weeks ago.  i think you will agree...amazing on every level possible.

first, lets talk a moment about...family sessions.  how many of you cringe when you know you have one to shoot? be honest. i think we can agree, they can be...hard, posed, uncomfortable, stressful...
i'll stop now.
but, have you ever stopped to think why? what is it about them that makes them so difficult?
when you see the images from the session below,  i think you'll immediately see what made this family session so amazing and out of this world and hopefully ignite some new ideas and inspiration into your next family session.

so, who are we talking about here?
her name is sarah wert and well...she is amazing! a little side note...she already had me when i first saw the images, and then when i saw the session was shot on film...unbelievable.
i'll let sarah tell you a little bit about herself and share some of her thoughts with us on photographing family sessions.

welcome sarah!
About Me:
Hello, my name is Sarah and I own Modern Kids Photography. I live in San Francisco with my husband, Joe. I'm a portraiture photographer but I also shoot commercial and editorial kids photography. If I wasn't a photographer I'd probably be a chef. I love food and San Francisco spoils me! Right now, I'm obsessed with Pinterest because my husband and I are renovating a house.

My approach to family shoots:
I adore family shoots. They aren't always easy but they can be very rewarding. There are a few rules to live by in making them go as smoothly as possible:

Gain trust quickly: It's incredibly important to gain the trust of the kids and the family as soon as possible. I like to briefly say hello to parents and bigger kids then do my best to spend time with the little ones (secretly I'm also taking note of light in the home and looking around a bit). I will almost immediately drop to my knees to be at a child's level and follow all of their cues on how comfortable they are. If they still seem a little shy I'll back off and talk to the bigger kids for a bit. Every child is different so respect that. Also, avoid making wild gestures or being too loud with a child right away. I often find myself talking a quiet voice and sometimes I'll even whisper. I will also sometimes ask the kids to give me a tour of the house so they are immediately engaged with me. If you win the little ones over the rest of the family should already be quite relaxed.

Make sure everyone is engaged: For the Blair Family I was particularly worried about photographing such a large family. I've done it many times before but you really need every family member on board otherwise the energy can crumble. I quickly realized that the Blair kids are exceptional and incredibly sweet and hospitable. They were genuinely interested in me being there and were well prepared for the shoot by their parents (which is another important factor). Also, I think my American accent helped as well since they were used to everyone speaking French. I was immediately familiar to them. If the kids aren't quite prepared to take direction from you, then involve them in the process. Talk to them about what you're doing. Show them how to take photos and have them do your meter readings. You will quickly win them over.

Try new things, fail quickly, and move on: Once you gained trust with everyone the real hard work begins. Family shoots require quick thinking because you're in varied lighting scenarios (indoors, outdoors, shade, full sun, etc.). You have to be constantly going over the photography compromises in your head (e.g. do I have enough light to pull my f-stop up so everyone is sharp, where to meter, when to direct and when not to, etc.) all the while maintaining a rapport with with family. For instance you may have a large group and it's important to find the best light quickly. Do not be afraid to make mistakes and correct quickly. If the light you chose is not working do not be afraid to say "Never mind, I like this other spot better" instead of shooting through bad light. Move everyone along to the next spot. You can't always be right when shooting. Photography is a game of constant compromises and the best photographers I know try new things but move on if things aren't working.

Good luck and have fun on your next family shoot!

thank you so much sarah for taking the time to share you insight and approach with us.
and now...the gorgeous images from the blair family session that took my breath away.
{get ready...there are a lot!} 


i love how sarah captured everything from a sense of place, to individual shots, playfulness, quiet moments, details, and of course, the coveted group family shots.
thank you, again, sarah.
simply lovely.


  1. I am in ahhhh!!! These are amazing and beautiful! I only hope I could one day produce images like this! Again, simply amazing!!!

  2. This family looks so familiar! Where they on an episode of House Hunters International? I swear I remember that amazing little tree house in the yard and a bunch of adorable well behaved kids...Oh and the shoot was gorgeous! Loved it!

  3. Oh my, yes, these photos are absolutely sensational! What a very charming family as well. Great post!

  4. lovely, just lovely!!! great looking family and amazing outfits and location!

  5. Thanks again, Gina! I forgot to mention a few things. First the styling was perfect in my mind. That was all Gabrielle (mom) and she posts a bit about it on her blog (DesignMom.com). Collecting the rose petals and interacting with them was totally impromptu. I guess the kids had been doing it all week. Betty one of the youngest told me she had some in her bath! I lucked out with great styling and that one fun activity. That makes a big difference. Also, the session was shot on my Contax 645 on 220 Kodak Portra (the new stuff meant for scanning). The black and white is a filter over the film. It's Alien Skin's Exposure 2 Calotype Filer. The setting and the muted clothing made me want to add a little something extra that could place these kids in another decade. Finally @Shawna they were on House Hunters International. Great guess!

  6. Oh my Sarah! These are exquisite. I saw some on Designmom...but I love that you showed us even more. You are very talented and I am happy I bumped into you a few months ago. Inspirational.
    Thank you for the useful tips :o

  7. I loved this session too . I have half of it on my interest inspired photography board!

  8. sarah, i'm so glad you added about the styling. it's such an important element but what i love most about it in this session is that i was unique to their family shoot. and...it didn't take away the focus on them, just enhanced it.
    and adding that this was shot on film...making you step back and really think about each frame as your making the image.
    and lastly, i'm giving a double shout out to alien skin...i have 3 and use it all the time.
    oh...and can i safely say we are all addicted to pintrest;)?!

  9. sarah is extremely talented
    AND all on film. no wonder they look AMAZING

  10. BEAUTIFUL!!!! where were these taken???? I need to move from the boring desert! :)

  11. Ha Allyson! They were shot in Normandy!!

  12. This is my absolute favorite family photo shoot. Beautifully done, Sarah! I am so inspired by your work :)

  13. I might have even teared up. These images are so beautiful. My all time favorite family shoot. Almost made me want to have six kids. Almost.

  14. Wonderful photographs!

    I also really love your comments in the "Try new things, fail quickly, and move on section." You perfectly articulate how I feel during almost every shoot. I had one of those "Ah Ha! That's it!" moments reading the comment about photography being a game of constant compromise.

    Thank you for sharing. Fabulous work!

  15. I've never wanted to go back to film until I saw this shoot. Absolutely beautiful:)

  16. Really very good post and blog too