Extended Family Portraits : The W Family


I used to be scared of extended family (multi-generation) portrait sessions.  I mean you are talking about 10-20 people that you have to coordinate, pose and just keep their attention in general.  Plus you can’t take too long or people start getting distracted, kids start to get bored and things just head downhill.  On my first large family portrait session I realized that it really wasn’t that hard and several years of photographing weddings had me totally prepared for this type of portrait session.  I mean I regularly handle multiple family groups and large bridal parties in a short amount of time so I’m kind of perfect for large family sessions!

I always chat with my clients to get to know the family better so that way I can game plan before the session.  For the W family they wanted a big group photo for Grandma.  So this involved 3 separate family units and then of course Grandma.  To keep the kids happy I started off with the largest group photo first, this ensured they were all fresh and not tired of photos yet.  We did a few different locations and poses and then I moved on to the individual family units.  I like to get a photo of each smaller family unit and then break it down further to mom and dad and then kids and then depending on time and moods each parent with each child.  I find you definitely have to be flexible when it comes to kids, forcing them to do anything they don’t want usually doesn’t pan out very well.  After I did each family unit we did some extra combinations like Grandma and all the grandkids and Grandma with her 3 daughters and of course the three sisters together.  We even did a shot of all the women of the family which was fun to have 3 generations in one photo.  By creating a game plan before the session I was able to move quickly and finish the entire session in less than an hour which kept everyone happy!

Gari Melcher’s Belmont was the perfect location for this shoot as there was enough wide open area to do the large portraits and then smaller pockets of garden areas for more individual shots.  In the end we had several beautiful images that would look amazing hanging on the wall of Grandma’s home!


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    Melissa Arlena is an award winning Richmond and Charlottesville photographer. She recently earned her Master Photographer Certification in the Maternity, Newborn & Family categories from the National Association of Professional Child Photographers. Melissa offers maternity, lifestyle newborn, and family photography in her relaxed, natural, and joyful style.


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