5 Unconventional Places to Shoot Great Family Photographs

It’s common for a lot of family photo shoots to happen in people’s homes, for a good reason. Your home is probably where your kids said their first words, where they learned to crawl and take their first steps, where they did something that should have made you mad, but they’re just so gosh darn cute that you can’t help but laugh or scoop them up and spin them around. Home is definitely where the best memories happen, so of course people want to get photographed in a space that they’re comfortable in.

But what if clients throw you for a loop and don’t want to take pictures in their home? Or what if you’re feeling a family’s vibe in a consultation and you want to suggest that you shoot them somewhere else? There are a lot of great options for shooting family photographs outside of the home, like a park or a school, but those options are expected. Why not push the envelope a little bit and try one of these new locations?

1. The Library

The library is one of the most underrated places to take great family photographs. It’s polite to call ahead and ask if it’s alright for you to shoot photos in their space, but most libraries say yes (as long as you’re quiet. After all, that is the number one cardinal rule of every library). Because they have to serve people of all ages, from pre-schoolers who are learning to read right up to senior citizens, most libraries now have several areas where people can play, read, and even surf the web, and all of these areas are potential shots waiting to happen. You can get great photos of the kids sliding down a slide or running through a house. There’s potential to catch a parent kneeling with their son or daughter to help them choose a book to read, and there are some beautiful guaranteed shots of parents reading to their kids here.

Photo session in a library - mommy and me

2. Airport

The airport probably sounds like a nutty choice to take photographs, but bear with me. My mother worked as a travel insurance agent for many years and sometimes, I’d have the pleasure of going in to work with her. This was in a time before the internet was in every home and definitely before Expedia automatically offered you a travel insurance upgrade. Being able to walk around the airport with her in non-secure areas as kid gave me a real love for the airport and I still walk into every airport with a kid’s perspective. Airports are a place to be explored and there’s a lot of great areas that you can take photos in before you ever hit a security checkpoint.

Think about it. There are always areas in the arrivals and departures sections where you can good a view of the planes coming or going. There’s only a few things more exciting to a kid than getting to see an airplane take off or land in an airport. I wasn’t the only kid who sat there transfixed for hours, and I still see it all the time when I fly. Kids have an inherent fascination with planes and you’re going to get some adorable shots of them being excited.

There’s also usually a lounge in most airports for passengers who arrive way too early for their flights – you know those people, the ones who arrive at 9am for a flight that’s at 2pm. If you ask the parents to bring a few toys from home for the kids, these spaces are the perfect impromptu location for a playdate. It’s out of the way of travellers and it’s unlikely that anyone will pay attention.

Most airports also have art collections now, and at least a few pieces will be on display in the pre-checkpoint areas. You can walk around looking for these and ask the parents to point them out to the kids. You’ll get a ton of great reaction shots.

3. Arcade

Arcades are prime family portrait session gold, whether you’re going to Chuck-E-Cheese or a standalone arcade. There’s a bunch of fooseball and air hockey tables, classic games that will make the parents excited to play, and there’s a ton of potential for really cute shots. I can’t count the number of times that I had to sit on my dad’s lap when I wanted to play a car racing game at the arcade because I couldn’t reach both the steering wheel and the pedals at the same time. He would do all the gear work – and, more often than not, help me avoid disaster because I was a seven year old trying to win a NASCAR race – but we would celebrate our wins in style with dances or high fives after we won.

Because arcades already have built-in fun, you’re going to be able to get great shots of the family laughing and having a good time without having to ask them to loosen up too much, and it’ll make a great conversation piece when the family has people over because the photos already start to tell a story just by your choice of location.

4. Baseball diamond

You need a bigger family for this one because that’s the nature of the game, but a baseball diamond is a great opportunity for a family that really likes being active to get out and run around for the day and get some great shots in the process. If you can pitch a ball, you can even set yourself up on the pitcher’s mound to get some fantastic shots of the whole family going to bat.

If the family has some youngsters, you might want to consider a softball field as an alternative since the distance between bases is much shorter.

Regardless of what you choose, you’re guaranteed to get some great shots of the family running, pitching, and laughing with each other. As most kids like to do the famous “slide” into a base, you’ll also have some great opportunities to catch some awesome action shots.

Just one reminder: Bring comfortable shoes because you’ll also be running around to keep up with the family and get great shots.

5. Town Fair

The town or state fair is one of the greatest places to take unposed family photographs. There are few family events that are anticipated more than the fair: it’s the perfect blend of the arcade, the theme park, and street food to make kids and their parents happy. Think cotton candies almost as tall as the kids, victory as the family rocks at the arcade games, and much more fun.

The bigger the fair, the more opportunities. If you’re not prone to motion sickness, you can even catch some great shots while you’re on slower-moving rides like teacups or bumper cars. Take a seat in one of the cars and go for a ride with the family. You’re guaranteed to get joyful shots of the kids bumping into their parents and the parents making funny faces at them.

A bouncy castle can make everyone feel like a kid again – even you. Aim for that awesome mid-air shot that will capture the true joy of flying for a brief second – but do it before the fried food or the sickness-inducing roller coasters. Nobody needs to be green in the face!

B. Claire Photography // bclaire.com

Image by B. Claire Photography

 

This is just the tip of the iceberg for location ideas… in fact, Fearless and Framed has an entire book dedicated to coming up with outside of the ordinary photo session ideas: Session Sparks. This book comes complete with 160+ photo session ideas + descriptions to help trigger your imagination of how you can shoot them. It’s not just for you – this is a tool to use during consultations when clients are like, “I don’t know what we should photograph.” Boom – you’ve just handed them a loaded book of inspiration. Click to buy the book here.

What’s your favorite unconventional place to shoot family photos? Share it with the community in the comments below!

Author: MarieMasse

I help client documentary photographers fine-tune their workflow + marketing game, so their work is filled with sessions that represent their voice + client values while earning a living. I shoot undirected, off-beat stories that aren’t preserved often enough (like the story of couples before starting a fam or becoming empty-nesters – a dream project of mine), so my clients’ old box of photos is a meaningful, visual diary of their life + legacy to leave behind.


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