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Isn’t Life Grand? Including Grandparents for More Memorable Family Portraits

If there’s anything to learn from watching the years fly by, it’s how precious each moment is. That’s why it’s so important to capture those special moments to look back on forever.  But quite often, a key missing component in memorializing families is grandparents, typically because they are unwilling or unable to participate in photo shoots.

Recently, I have made a special effort to offer and create touching portraits of grandparents and grandchildren spending quality time together, something not often seen in family-centric photo shoots.  Overall, it has been a wonderful addition to my business and an honor to shoot.  You too can expand the beauty of your family photography by including cherished grandparents and great grandparents.

Four generations of women in a single frame is a wonderful thing!
SIGMA 105mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art on Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Grandparents Can Make Your Family Photos Extra Special

Grandparents are often reluctant to participate in family portrait sessions. They worry about how they will ultimately be portrayed, how they look, and the energy it will require to get dressed and ready. Family members worry about the extra effort it will take to pick up grandma or grandpa and transport them, as well as their safety.

But if you can find a way to not only include grandparents but make them an integral part of the shoot, you’ll find that most families will be beyond happy to finally have photos of their elders to share and enjoy for generations to come.

It’s hard for Grandpa to sit out a photo shoot when he gets to horse around with the kids!
SIGMA 105mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art on Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

What really makes photographs like these extra special is how they span multiple generations of the same family, from great grandparents to tiny tots.  In fact, the opportunity for grandparents to act silly around their grandkids (and possibly embarrass their own children) is a great way to convince them to come off the sidelines and join in the fun!

Making special accommodations for older people is worth the effort for moments like these.
SIGMA 105mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art on Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Tips for Photographing Grandparents

It’s especially important to take into consideration the location and topography when including senior citizens in portrait sessions. I typically keep in mind the distance from the parking lot to the actual site. The ground should be relatively flat and easily accessible for walkers and canes.  

When it comes to lighting, golden hour or soft, diffused natural lighting is always my favorite no matter the subject, and if an outdoor location is possible, this can cut down on setup time, allowing more flexibility for capturing those wonderful moments with the family.

Shooting outdoors in diffused natural lighting helps families feel comfortable (and look great).
SIGMA 105mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art on Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Posing is another important thing to consider.  Looking straight into the camera and smiling is personally my least favorite situation, but most clients will want a few of these more traditional shots.  For me, having grandparents interact with grandchildren and adult children feels much more natural, and those are the moments worth remembering (and are usually my clients’ favorites).

Traditional portraits are great, but moments like this are especially rewarding to capture.
SIGMA 105mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art on Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Your choice of gear is important depending on the type of look you want to achieve.  My personal favorite lens for family portraits is the SIGMA 105mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art lens, which provides sharp details, gorgeous background blur, and a long working distance so my clients can interact naturally without a photographer hovering too close.

When the time comes to edit, special attention needs to be given to smooth some wrinkles and age spots in order to portray grandparents in a way that will flatter, however, it’s important to avoid overdoing it.  While most people say they want to look younger, it’s also important to celebrate the beauty of aging, and if handled tastefully, most clients will appreciate a more authentic edit that doesn’t hide who they are.

A perfect moment between Grandma and toddler!
SIGMA 105mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art on Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

These Photographs Can Make a Difference

In my experience, the most reluctant folks to agree to jump into the portraits are grandparents. My objective is to show this hesitant group that images can be created that are flattering and capture the beauty of that special relationship between grandparents and their families, especially their grandchildren.

A little creative framing and a nice long focal length, and this simple moment really comes to life.
SIGMA 105mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art on Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Whether you’re a professional family photographer or simply taking photos of your own family, think about bringing grandparents and great grandparents into the mix for your next session. When families call me to book, I simply mention including extended family/grandparents as an option, and I let them know the special considerations I will take to accommodate and make them comfortable.

These memories are priceless now and for generations to come. I’m on a mission to demonstrate these portraits can be done in a way that is artistic, candid, intimate and full of emotion, celebrating that magical connection, and you should consider it, too!

Getting the whole family together can be a challenge, but it’s worth it!
SIGMA 105mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art on Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
Comments (1)
  1. Beautiful photography. Living and shooting on the beach in North Florida doesn’t give us very oftern the beautiful soft difused light.

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