Photo Session Guide

This page hopes to add more background to how my sessions work.  Hopefully some of the information here is useful to someone thinking of booking a session.

Of course there is no such thing as a ‘typical session’  – and nor should there be.  For me, the objective of any photography session is to try to capture something unique and personal to the people in the picture.  So the sessions are designed to be reasonably dynamic.

Most people have an idea what groups or individual pictures they want to be taken and I would encourage everyone to talk to me about these before the session so that I can make sure everything is covered.  But I also want to cover the spontaneous stuff that goes on as well.  I’ll shoot before, between and after the more formal groups and portraits and we can go through how those pictures may be used after the session.

Indoor Sessions

Window light works well for everyone
Window light works well for everyone

I work indoors a lot.  Sometimes out of necessity (this is Ireland) but more often out of choice.  I make as much use of the natural, available window light in any interior.  Diffused light from a window has an amazing quality when used correctly in portraits.

Generally the first thing I’ll do is roam the house looking for ‘good light’.  Some people are surprised where I find it!  Of course you need to comfortable about where you’re being photographed but remember what I see through the lens may be quite different to how you look at your own home.

I will bring additional lights, reflectors and a diffuser to all indoor sessions.  It is important that larger groups are evenly lit and that shadows are adequately controlled.

Don’t worry about clutter.  If you take a look at the style of my work on the web galleries you’ll see that although the home is a backdrop to my portraits, little of the detail invades the picture.  I may move brightly coloured or reflective items but I like my backgrounds soft and not distracting.

What’s more important is that the backdrop renders some form of context to the portrait.  So even if it is out of focus, it can be clear that the sitter is in a distinctive and personal space.  For me, a plain white background is just that: it conveys no context of when and where the portrait was made.

Logistically indoor portraits work for many people;  I would tend to take pictures of very young kids inside unless it is warm enough outside not to have them ‘rugged up’; some toddlers need the boundaries of an interior space; others are frustrated by it.

Back Garden Photographs

Some kids prefer to be outside
Some kids prefer to be outside

Many people ask about going out into the garden.  This works well for a lot of people: young kids and teenagers often feel more comfortable outside; adults tend to associate the garden with being relaxed.

There are also generally lots of places to form more naturally posed groups using steps, garden furniture, trees etc.

But there are things to watch out for.  Direct sun is just a pain for portraits.  There are things you can do to avoid squinting and dark shadows when photographing in full sun but its easier (and more pleasant for everyone) not to.  I will look for bright shade out in any garden on a sunny day and start from there.

There is also less control over the backdrop outside.  Your garden may look like Fota but if your neighbour’s swing is orange it will be distracting if it cannot be removed from the background.

I do feel it is important that a picture has only one subject. In the case of a portrait, that subject is a person or group of people.  Gardens often make great backdrops for portraits but sometimes they can be distracting as well.  If you want me to photograph your garden we can do that as well – and use you as context for the picture.

Out in the Wild

The other option is to go somewhere else to take the pictures.  This could be a park, a playground, the beach or pretty much anywhere.

These work really well for very active young kids: boys who like to climb trees and run wild, for example.  But equally work for girls who like to sit and make daisy-chains.

It is an opportunity to include a special place in a portrait as a backdrop. Somewhere which has fond association with this period of your life is really good.

Obviously the weather effects this type of session: rain can be a problem (although not necessarily so); full sun again isn’t ideal.  But my job is to make these sessions work whatever comes at us and there are lots of things that can be done to vary the session whatever the weather.

Some kids just love to run free
Some kids just love to run free

Of course ‘somewhere else’ can also include a location inside.  Generally you need to make sure that we have permission to use the space to take pictures (I am fully insured for this kind of thing) but there are lots of places with great light and really nice backdrops that can be used for making stunning portraits.

So pretty much ‘anything goes’.  Some situations work better than others and the factors vary with the weather and the age and dynamic of the subjects.  The ‘best place’ is different for everyone.  Ideally it would have good light and be somewhere that has some personal significance for the family being photographed.

But where ever you choose, you’ll have a relaxed and fun photo session – and of course some beautiful pictures to look back on.

2 Replies to “Photo Session Guide”

  1. I was thinking of buying a family portrait for my brother how much would it cost to have a family portrait done.

  2. Hi Anne, I family portrait session is a lovely gift.

    You might be best giving your brother a gift voucher for the session so that he can book it when it suits. Gift Vouchers start at €80 which covers the session in the Cork area and one 8×12 print. You can increase the value of the voucher from there to provide your brother with more options for print, framed prints, storyboards etc. Naturally he can also buy additional prints himself if he wants to. I can email you a more complete price list and more info if you drop me a line at or call me on 021 4293714.

    Thanks a mil


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