Boise, ID photographer
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Photography Education

Level Up Your Family Photos

February 29, 2024

Level Up Your Family Photos // Family Photography Education with Hannah Mann

As a photography educator, I have the privilege of doing in-depth portfolio reviews for many of my students. I LOVE doing these reviews! While it does require some vulnerability to share your work for critique, it’s actually one of the most transformative experiences that I offer my students. I consistently hear how powerful these reviews are, and how much confidence they give my students.

Interestingly, I find myself giving many of the same tips over and over again, regardless of a student’s style or level of experience. Yes, these reviews are fully individual – but there are a few mistakes that photographers make that are extremely common and easy to overlook. Below, I’m sharing three of the most common critiques that I give to my students!

1. Work on varying your angle and distance.
I very frequently hear from photographers that they feel their galleries lack variety and interest. And usually, this is the mistake that causes that lack. Most photographers haven’t yet connected the dots on the actual root cause of this problem, though. Instead, they tend to think they need more poses or more interesting prompts (and they might need to work on this too), but the underlying issue is that they’re shooting the majority of their photos from the same angle, and only somewhat varying their distance.

It may take a bit of practice, but really this is an easy fix: just keep moving! Shoot from further away and closer up than you ever did before. Walk from side to side around your subjects. Crouch down and shoot upward, or have hem lay or crouch while you shoot down. Anytime you feel a little stuck or uninspired, simply start moving yourself around and you’ll be right back on track. This kind of variety will elevate your portfolio enormously!

2. Don’t default to backlight.
When we’re outdoors in bright light, backlight can be our best friend. It’s gorgeous! But the same principle does not apply when we’re shooting on a cloudy day, or in the shade, or indoors. In these situations, backlight tends to make for dull skin tones, unflattering shadows on our subjects’ faces, and images that are surprisingly tough to edit.

In my experience, many photographers aren’t taught anything beyond backlight, and don’t realize that in many situations, their best option is actually to light their subjects from the front.

To improve in this area, it’s time to break the backlight habit. If you’re not shooting in bright sunlight, simply try front light first. Pay close attention to how your subjects’ eyes are illuminated, or if they’re shadowed. Thankfully, experimenting with light is FUN and can make for magical results. All you need to do is remember to try something new.

3. Stop cutting off feet.
I know, I know – it’s such an easy mistake to make! And so many other photographers are making it, too. We get in the moment and are focused on the cute scene happening in front of us, and feet don’t really register.

In my experience, many photographers truly don’t realize they’re making this mistake, even as they edit and deliver a gallery. Feet simply aren’t on their radar. It isn’t until the cut off toes are pointed out that they realize they’re undermining their own beautiful images, and that they’re overlooking this simple compositional guideline.

You already know how to fix this of course – just back up! The trick is remembering to do that while you’re caught up in the moment. In the end, it simply takes practice… and catching your own mistake enough times to drive yourself a little crazy. Ha!

Level Up Your Family Photos // Family Photography Education with Hannah Mann

I’m a family photography educator based in Boise, ID. I am passionate about equipping my students with transformative, actionable education. I believe that anyone can succeed in this industry with the right tools and knowledge, and I love to equip others to have thriving businesses.

Interested in more? Browse my free resources, get to know more about my educational offeringssign up for my newsletter, or get to know me. I’d love to work with you and support you in your growth!

Level Up Your Family Photos // Family Photography Education with Hannah Mann

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i'm hannah

I'm a photographer and educator based in Boise, ID, where I live with my favorite guy ever and our two boys + two girls.

Since founding my business in 2014, I have relentlessly honed my craft and the experience I offer to each client I work with. My commitment is to always deliver industry-leading artistry and quality. READ MORE...