Summer is a time for family reunions, and many take place a home or cottage. And since everyone is in one place, it’s also an excellent opportunity to have large generational family photos taken. They can feel a little overwhelming to think about, but I promise that these sessions do not have to be stressful or overly planned. Simple coordination does help for a cohesive look. You can do that by choosing a couple colours for people to stick to along with neutrals. And an experienced photographer will keep things fun! They’ll move you through the various groupings efficiently and with plenty of direction so that you can get back to having fun.
I love photographing extended families and seeing the different generations interact. As a kid I looked forward to the noise and energy of big gatherings and that hasn’t changed a bit! And while photographing people at a meaning location like their home or family cottage can come with its technical challenges like uneven ground or tricky lighting, I know that the sentimental value of the location is more important.
The Ross family has a cottage on a lake in the Leeds and the Thousand Islands area, near Charleston Lake, and it’s not often that all of them get together. This summer all three generations got together for a week of swimming, bonfires, and running through the woods. They wanted their family reunion portraits done at their lakeside cottage, and we made it happen.
Tips for large group photos
Like most big families, they were concerned that the young kids might not have a great attention span for portraits. But I’ve got a lot of experience with fidgety children and large groups, and we photographed quickly while giving the boys short breaks to run off their energy in between groupings.
Depending on the size of the group and how much time we have, typically generational family portraits start with the big family photo and then break into smaller groups, starting with a photo of all the children, the children with grandparents, and then individual family units with and without grandparents. Those individual family units include individual portraits of each person, any couples, kids by themselves, kids with parents, family with grandparents, etc. And I always make sure to get a photo of the adult siblings together without spouses, and with their parents. If there’s time, and kids are coorperating, the combinations can get even more granular: dad with one kid, dad with all kids, adult son with father, female grandchildren only, grandparent with each grandchild, each adult child with parents, and so on.
The Rosses did their portraits in the morning while the kids were still fresh and before it got too hot. The shade from the trees was an idea location for a big group given their property. Cottage lots can be small and flat, large but steep, densely treed or on a beach. Being flexible while communicating what you’d like images of ensures you end up with great photos that you love.