As I arrived at my mom's house for a large extended-family dinner, she asked me the question that every photographer dreads:
"Did you bring your camera??"
My answer was pretty concise, as was my response to her follow-up question:
"Because I'm not working."
My mom does't quite understand the planning that goes into making portraits. She thinks it's about having fancy equipment... (Spoiler: It's not.)
Anyone who has booked a session with me knows that I'm pretty open about how the time of day and location are going to impact photos, from how the light will look to how pleasant the kids will be at a particular time of day. And although I'm very flexible about times of day and locations, I will not hesitate to decline a session if I think the results are going to be especially poor.
Mom: Posed photos, at night, of a large group in a small indoor space are going to be terrible. Even if I bring all my studio lighting. I promise. There is nothing wrong with mobile phone snapshots at a big dinner. (Seriously. I love my mobile phone camera and use it all the time.)
Besides the basic time/date planning, there is also prepping my equipment (clean lenses, charged batteries, and backup everything make for good sessions), location scouting (I usually have 2 locations in mind, then will make a final decision based on current conditions), and planning for the particular family that I'm photographing.
For example, this gorgeous two-year-old being held in his mom's arms is a typical two-year-old. The session was planned close-ish to bedtime to take advantage of the evening light, so I knew he was likely to get a bit bored and grumpy at some point (or throughout) the session. So I brought emergency entertainment backup:
I rarely include props in photos anymore, but I have no problems using them as distractions for curious kids. With this session, I brought out the balloons when the two-year-old started getting bored, I held them behind/above me, and I captured this shot:
This kind of image isn't necessarily planned, but it definitely doesn't happen without planning.
So, Mom? Next time you want an extended family photo, give the photographer time to prepare. And know that any photographer worth her weight is going to tell you what does and doesn't work for the type of image you're looking for, and will tell you what you need to do to prepare. And it will absolutely take longer than five minutes. And, um, I can give you the numbers of some fabulous local photographers that will be a great fit for what you're looking for. Heh.