What is adventure family photography and why is communication so critical for this style of photography? How do I maintains creative control of my sessions while still making each experience laidback and enjoyable for my families? Here, I answer these questions and more so you can decide if this genre of photography is right for you.
Why I decided to offer adventure sessions
About a year and a half ago, I was getting really frustrated in the locations that my photography clients would choose. I didn’t want to go to the boring park down the street, I wanted to go to the beautiful and wild locations that we have here in the Pacific Northwest. So I came up with a solution: Adventure sessions! I decided to start offering only these adventure sessions, rather than just regular family photos, to get people to choose my locations rather than the convenient parks close to their homes. And it worked!
What exactly are adventure photo sessions?
To me, adventure photo sessions are all about the location. I scout locations that have an element of adventure and fun, as well as beautiful landscapes if I can find them. When I am scouting for locations, I am looking for places that provide opportunities for interaction. For example, a river to throw rocks into, a large log to jump off of, or big boulders to climb around on. By selecting locations like this, it will make the session feel more like a fun family adventure for the clients who book with me.
Posing (or non-posing) for adventure family photos
My approach to family adventure sessions is to have the family naturally interact. That is my ultimate goal so I will start out the session by giving them lots of direction. We will play lots of games and I will have them do fun and silly things to make everyone feel comfortable like walking while holding hands, and bumping their hips into each other.
[Read: What is Lifestyle Family Photography and How do You Shoot It?]
Then, as I notice that the family has loosened up and gotten more comfortable with the camera, I will step back and give them space to be themselves. The way that I do this is to suggest a few options for them to go do, so they can choose whatever feels the most natural to them. If you just tell a family to go act natural with no direction, they will be worried tha they aren’t doing the right thing. So instead, I might ask the family to hang out in a specific area and explore but to try and stay connected with someone while they do it. Some ideas for what to do could be holding their kids hands while they walk, or looking for rocks.
Basically, I just want them to do something together and have fun while they are doing it. So if the kids are not interested in one idea, there are other options for them to do. But while they are doing these things, if I notice anything that needs to be adjusted, I will let them know. Sometimes a parent is standing in front of their child and blocking them from my view so I’ll just ask them to change places so I can see them both. Or if my mom’s hair is hanging in her face and I can’t see her face, I’ll ask her to put her hair behind her ear. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with giving them a little bit of direction if I see something that needs to be changed, but for the most part, I stand back and let them do their thing. Or I might get in close for some detail shots, but usually once they’ve gotten into the groove.
Lighting and locations for adventure sessions
I am very picky when it comes to the locations that I use because of the light that is available. I personally don’t like shooting deep in trees, or anywhere that isn’t going to give me beautiful back light. So I am looking for wide open spaces where the sun is setting behind a beautiful scene. I am also looking for natural elements that I can use to partially block the sun when it’s higher up in the sky, as well as open places where I can catch the sun as it is setting.
[Read: Creative Lighting Techniques for Portrait Photographers]
I can’t always find a location that has all of these things, but these are what I would look for. A common misconception when it comes to adventure photography is that you have to do a ton of hiking. It definitely depends on where you live and the locations you find, but I am typically looking for locations that require less than 15 minutes of walking to get to. Especially when you are photographing families, you don’t want to make them walk too far. Almost all of my sessions are booked about an hour before sunset, but every once in a while, I will offer sunrise sessions as well.
How to get started with adventure family photography
If you’re interested in offering adventure family sessions, the first step is to find exciting locations in your area that feel like an adventure. Consider offering adventure sessions as an additional option at an increased cost. If you’re fortunate enough to live in a place with stunning scenery, but it requires a bit more travel time, this could be an incentive for families to opt for adventure sessions. In my case, I offer sessions at the beach (two hours away) and the Columbia River Gorge (one hour away). However, I also offer adventure sessions in my local area by finding locations that have an adventurous feel to them. If your local area doesn’t have exciting locations, consider offering adventure sessions in another area as an additional package option alongside your regular sessions.
[Read: How to Build a Successful Portrait Photography Business]
How to set up your pricing for adventure family photography
I price my adventure family photography sessions based on how long it takes me to get to the locations. So local sessions are one price, locations that are around an hour away are an additional $100, and locations that are two hours away are $300 on top of the local session price. I typically need to stay overnight for a two-hour location, so I factor this into my pricing.
My Go-To Gear:
Canon EOS R5
Canon EOS R
Canon EF 35mm 1.4L ii
Canon RF 85mm 1.2
Rebecca Lueck is an experienced adventure family and couples photographer under the brand name Becca Jean Photography in Portland, Oregon. She is also an industry educator who offers presets, guides, and mentoring services to help other photographers grow their businesses and improve their craft.