The Way Family Photos Should Be: The Hwang Family

UPDATE: We’ve had an overwhelming response to this post.  Thank you.  Many of you have asked if we are coming through Boston, Denver, Washington, LA, Europe, Hawaii, Houston, New York etc.  The answer is YES, and we would be happy to connect with your family.  We typically just plan a few days for a visit once we get enough families organized in your area.  That makes it affordable and convenient for everyone.  Let us know via our contact page that you’re interested and we’ll tell you when we’re in your town next!

The complete set of photos are available for viewing/ordering online here.  We’ve already posted all these blog photos (and plenty more) to our Facebook page, so there are dozens of photos ready for you to tag & “like” as you wish.

I feel lucky to receive lots and lots of requests to photograph families every year.  Though I’m grateful for the opportunity, I’ve often watched as children squirm, parents sweat through frustration and families become exhausted in a matter of minutes because of the formality of it all.  So for years we’ve tried something totally different: we gave up on the old school rigid photos, we went back to our roots of storytelling and photojournalism.  We got out of the way and let the fun back in.  Not surprisingly, we hit on another very basic, very simple concept: everyone just looks better when they’re happy and comfortable.

Luckily for us, we have wonderful clients who trust our creativity/skills… and even better, we have great friends who are also our clients as well as being absolutely beautiful inside and out.  This is the Hwang family.  They’re awesome.  They’re fun, they’re real and not surprisingly… their kids are too.

Megan and Ryder at Sunset.

Ryder and mom by day.

As I watch my friends “grow up”, get married and have kids, I’ve also watched them adopt some of the old school traditions of organized family photos.  That can be great: for some families that’s exactly what they need, but for so many others, I see photos of children barely tolerating the photography process, and I know the parents aren’t loving every moment of it either.  It doesn’t have to be that way.

He’s pretty cute isn’t he? Wish I could take credit for that… but it’s all him and his parents.

So what if we let kids be kids for a bit?  What if we document the awe and wonderment of a father like Frank watching his super stoked daughter “skateboard” the sofa?  There’s a story here.  There’s something real… it’s interesting, funny, and more importantly it allows kids to relax and have fun with the process.

This is Callen, (AKA “The Bean”) at a moment of rest. Shots like these don’t come quickly… you have to allow for the dancing, sofa skateboarding, jumping, and snack breaks before you get this.

The Bean being The Bean. Why fight it? Embrace it!

Incoming…

My point is that photos like the one above come with time… when the dogs have been played with, when they know the photographer is cool; when the kids are momentarily stationary, and the parents are comfortable with the process.  These shots happen naturally.  They can’t be forced.

And yes… dogs deserve portraits too. I have so many from this shoot, but I actually liked this fun perspective because it’s different.

So our recommendation for photographers and families alike: plan an activity, go to a place that inspires wonder, fun and make sure it’s a place you can let your guard down, knowing that that the kids are safe.  Do something that’s relaxing and real… something that doesn’t have a time limit on it.  When a moment comes by, document it.  When it has passed, recognize that, move along and let it come back to you.

Dad and Ryder. One of the more difficult and dangerous shots of my life. Forget my assignments that involve climbing or rioters or third world criminals and corrupt politicians. No, no: this photo was created by enduring the love and torture of The Bean herself!

She looks so innocent and sweet… but it’s her persistence that will get you!

Ahhhh… but when it’s summertime, and you’re still young enough to roll around on the grass laughing… it’s just beautiful.

And another deep thought about Awesome Family Photos (AFP): have multiple, nearby locations available.  A change of atmosphere, a change of light and better yet: a change of activity always helps keep the energy going.  All my friends that have a deep love of playing in the outdoors… let’s bring that back to family photos!  If you’re happy, chances are your kids are too.

A simple, real moment. It doesn’t have to be complicated.

I have no idea what Ryder is trying to say… but there’s some form of happiness in that expression.

Oh! Yeah! Action is always great. If you love doing something… and if your kids love doing it too: photograph that!

Sunset with Dad. This is timeless.

Ryder and the rocks. Love his expression!

This is one of my favorites. The contrast of color, texture, line and scale are wonderful. So tiny. So colorful.

And while you’re at it… hire someone that has the skills and equipment to capture a story that involves dirt or wet.  When I was a kid, swimming with my family was a joy.  How many kids have photos of themselves IN the water?  Just another fun element to add.

Frank and Callen going in for a dip.

stoke.

Callen hauls out and takes a break.

Frank and I just go with it… and play in the waves. No sense forcing the kids. They’re allowed a break too!

Frank, waiting for the monster set.

Meanwhile, back on the beach… Ryder has bounced back and is ready for more fun.

Ok, lets be honest… the killer surf never arrived, but it was fun trying!

You know you’ve had a great shoot when the shy girl you just met hours before comes over to you and just stares up wondering what we get to do next.

Such a great family.

Frank and Meg: thank you for sharing your family with us!  Thanks for your patience and willingness to let the fun in.  We had an absolute blast with you.  Can’t wait to see you again!  Soon!

The complete set of photos are available for viewing/ordering online here.  We’ve already posted all these blog photos (and plenty more) to our Facebook page, so there are dozens of photos ready for you to tag & “like” as you wish.

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