Family, What’s More Important?

A portrait of my sister Gabrielle Luhrs and my mum, Mary Guy, on a sunny day under the verandah at home.

Family, there's nothing more important is a saying that's particularly relevant to photographers. But the clock ticks for all of us and my advice is to make those family photos, while you still can.

Being able to make photographs of your loved ones is a privilege for the enthusiastic photographer.

The older I get the more importance I place on making these pictures and the happier I am to share them with my family.

However, it’s not always easy to photograph family members. Here’s a few reasons why that’s the case.

  • Your usual position in the pecking order may make it hard to gain the cooperation you need

  • The fact that there’s no financial transaction (from them to you) to motivate your parents and/or siblings to do what you need them to do to make really great photos

  • It’s often more difficult to get family members to do what you want or need them to do, compared to what’s possible when photographing paying customers.

My point is that, while it may not always be easy to photograph your own family, it’s absolutely worth the effort.

The above image features my dear old mum, Mary Guy, and my younger sister, Gabrielle Luhrs. The photo was made, at home, under my parent’s front verandah in Hamilton, Australia.

The house was sold recently and the new owners are due to take procession in a few days time.

Having Fun On A Trampoline

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How I Photographed The Two Girls

I remember making the photo of my mum and sister on my then Canon 5D camera. I employed a Canon 85 mm f/1.2 L series USM lens at the rather moderate aperture of f/4.5.

I utilized the overhanging creepers and shrubs, which I rendered out of focus, to fill the surroundings and allow the eye to travel easily towards the girls.

A very subtle vignette and a lovely warm tone were applied to further enhance the photo.

Image processing was conducted in Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop.

It was one of those bright, sunny days when folks are happy to go outside and be photographed.

The problem, of course, is that bright light spells death for the portrait photographer.

Christmas at grandad and nana's house with Anna, Jessica and Rocky, the Wonder Dog.

It’s Easy To Make Great Portrait Photos Outdoors

To make a good picture under bright, high contrast conditions you have two options:

  • Use a diffuser and/or reflector or flash to control brightness and contrast.

  • Move your subjects into softer, more flattering light.

Over the years I’ve employed all of these techniques but, these days, I usually favor moving the subjects into open shade where the light is less harsh and they can more easily open their eyes.

Of course the great advantage of this approach is that you don’t need accessory stands and/or assistants to better control the outcome.

What’s more, if you have a mirrorless camera, you can more accurately assess the brightness, contrast and color balance of your photo through the camera’s viewfinder, before the shutter has been released.

No more trying to make decisions, after the fact, by looking at a washed out image on your camera’s LCD screen in bright sunshine.

Now that’s what I call freedom.

Why Do You Use Lightroom Or Photoshop?

Don’t overly rely on applications like Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop. Sure, they’re part of my usual workflow. But I employ them to enhance an already good photo, not to fix loads of bad ones.

I just don’t have the time nor the energy for such non-creative pursuits. That’s right, for the most part I see image enhancements as a creative pursuit and fixing poor quality images as drudgery.

I hope you do to, because that’s the kind of attitude that will make you a better photographer.

If it doesn’t look right in camera, particularly when you’re using a mirrorless camera, something’s wrong and you need to act before you release your camera’s shutter.

Some members of the Guy extended family at the Botanic Gardens in Hamilton, Australia.

What I Don’t like About Flash Photography

When using a flash you usually have to make one or more test images before you’re confident you have the right brightness, contrast and white balance.

Personally I find working with fill flash to be a little stressful. I’m perfectly capable of doing it but, for the reasons I mentioned above, I just don’t like it.

There are other, quite technical reasons why fill flash can be problematic, but that topic is for another day.

Nonetheless fill flash can really save the day when the lighting conditions are against you and you’re unable to move your subject/s to an environment where the lighting is more conducive for pleasing portraits.

There have been several commercial jobs where my understanding and application of fill flash really saved the day. I don’t like it, but I’m glad I know how to use fill flash.

A photographer’s bag of tricks, is a bit like Batman’s utility belt. It isn’t for everyday use but, when the going gets tough, you’ll be glad of those gizmos assuming, that is, you know how to use them.


A black and white photo of my mother, Mary Guy (OAM), at home in Hamilton, Australia.


A Key To Powerful Portraits: The Eyes

Referred to as windows to the soul the eyes are probably the easiest way by which the viewer can interact with the subject in your photos.

What’s more, when the eyes are open, their color is revealed and facial wrinkles are often reduced.

The best way to ensure the eyes are well illuminated and facial wrinkles are diminished is to do the following:

  • Get your subject out of bright light

  • Ensure the background is no brighter than your subject

Is it possible to make beautiful portraits of your family and friends?

Absolutely! And it’s easier than you probably think.

If you live in or around Melbourne, Australia and you need some private, one-to-one coaching feel free to contact me directly so we can discuss the options that will best meet your own specific needs.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru