Family Session Chaos!

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The obstacle: shooting 17 family members in the same shoot! The solution: embrace the chaos. For the second year in a row, Amanda and family have elected me as their family photo session photographer, and this year we headed up to Echo Lake for some outdoorsy, mountain terrain. Last year, we took photos in downtown Denver, but this time around the family wanted to incorporate some woodsy scenery, and I knew just the perfect place.

I’ve been to Echo Lake a couple of times previously for photo shoots, and it never disappoints. Honestly, it was the first location to come to mind when Amanda mentioned the theme of the shoot to me. Initially I thought it would be a hassle to round up so many people about an hour away where there’s no cell service. Luckily, no one was lost along the way.

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Although it had been more than a year between sessions, it felt like I hadn’t lost touch for a second with the family. Everybody has a great sense of humor and is not afraid to show their true selves, a perfect recipe for a memorable and beautiful photo shoot. Besides getting so many people in one spot for a shoot, we also had to battle another fiend: harsh lighting. 

I was lucky enough to have my wife along to assist with the shoot, and we came up with a lot of solutions to battle the sun high in the sky (the shoot took place around 10 in the morning.) The first solution was to bring along some reflectors. Using reflectors, you avoid photographing the subject with the harsh light directly on their face. These types of photos can come out looking very bright, not to mention results in a lot of pics with closed eyes because of the harshness. Using reflectors, you’re able to use the sun as more of a backlight or rim light, and reflect some softer light back into the subjects face to get a nice looking photograph.

Another solution to the harsh light was mother nature herself. Echo Lake Park is abundant with large trees, which cast plenty of shadows as you venture into the forest. As a result, the trees were working double duty, providing beautiful, lush backdrops as well as giving us some soft, diffused light. Win-win all around.

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One of my favorite parts about photographing families is the candid nature of the younger children during the shoot. No more than five minutes have to pass before a child does something cute or funny, and luckily it was not hard to get them to smile and laugh on this day. I know that for a lot of sessions that isn’t the case, but the photo gods were on our side for this shoot. 

Although I didn’t utilize it, I had also brought along my on-camera flash in case we needed some additional light. This is another great way to combat harsh light. Simply shoot darker, shaded areas, expose for the background, and your flash brightens up your subject to give you that perfect focus and exposure. We simply didn’t use it because we were happy with the results we were getting with the elements we had at our disposal already.

Echo Lake provides a diverse set of backdrops and environments to shoot in, and the walk isn’t too hard on the feet either, which is why I recommend it every year for an amazing outdoor shooting location. Don’t get me wrong, downtown Denver provides lots of options as well, but it’s nice to get away from the city, so I always jump at the chance to show this beautiful spot to my photography clients. And believe me, an hour goes by so fast when the environment is working with you because every 100 feet or so the landscape changes and you just have to get a pose in the new location. Photos in Echo Lake are never a bad idea, and whether you’re visiting as a tourist or as a photographer, the beauty of the location will definitely leave an imprint in your mind. 


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