November 4, 2018

Photographing Families and Capturing the Magic - Quickly! - Elizabeth McQuern Photography + Film

There's nothing like the color and splendor of Autumn in the Midwest. And lucky me, I live in Chicago, right by Lake Michigan, and one of my city's countless beachside parks. Wide open green space, tall grasses, gorgeous multicolored trees, the beach, the water, and an awesome playground.

One of the first things I learned about getting good photos of young children is not to ask them to pose, but to get them involved in activity they enjoy, and capture those spontaneous, unselfconscious moments.

Sometimes families do want the "Christmas card" type pose, and we pull them off, but they usually require a stimulating, new toy - something as simple as a balloon will do - and then I snap off as many photos as I can before the novelty wears off and the kids are tired of sitting still and being encouraged to look at me. And who can blame them? How could me behind my camera possibly be as interesting to look at as their balloon?

A few weekends ago, I did a super fun outdoor shoot with one of my favorite regular clients, family friends Amanda and Mike Maxwell, and their darling little boys. We took full advantage of the beautiful, clear, sunny skies, the colorful Autumn foliage and moderate temperatures, and caught the magic as long as it lasted.

I've learned that all clients, kids and adults, have a certain amount of energy and focus for a photoshoot. Early on in doing photography, I thought that offering clients long photoshoots - 2+ hours - was a benefit to them. More photos to choose from has to be a bonus, right? In my experience, not really.

Before long I realized that everyone has a threshold where they're just out of smiles, where more is too much, and frankly, I also hit a wall at some point, too, where my energy levels are depleted. And after that point, the law of diminishing returns kicks in.

And as my familiarity with my equipment grew, and my technical skills improved, I was quicker on the draw - I spent less time fiddling with my camera settings, less time second-guessing my creative choices, and learned to think ahead and really plan and visualize the shots I wanted to get, and how to get them.

Thanks for reading,  enjoy your Autumn, and don't forget to check out more of my work at!