Black & White Family Photography

Black & White Family Photography

I have always been a firm believer in the fact that portraits look better in Black & White versus color. Capturing portraits in Black & White gives them the ability to suddenly take on a classic, timeless form. This is especially true with children. Here are a few tips and tricks to make the most out of your Black & White portraits…


Anyone who has ever tried to make an infant sit in one spot, pose, and smile for the camera knows that this is in no way possible. Babies are very curious, and often change their expression and position every few seconds. One of the best ways to photograph babies is to basically take an enormous amount of frames and hope for the best. This may sound odd, or maybe even a bit trite, but it is what has worked for me as a portrait photographer for years, and I have yet to find an unhappy client with these results.

This will ensure that you get every different expression, whether happy or sad. The only downfall is having to go through over 200 frames in order to find 50 – 60 good shots containing different looks. However, using this technique, I have always ended up with this ratio or better.

Zooming in on different features is also very effective when doing black & white portraits of infants. Close up photographs of hands and feet are very popular, and much more striking in black & white than in color.


Candid shots are a must. Plain and simple. Children aren’t quite as difficult as infants when it comes to posing, but I have had much better results catching them off guard. Often on my shoots for clients with children, we will go to a park (or even the client’s back yard). Any place with a pleasing background, such as a lake or wooded area, will work.

I use my 55-200 lens so I can keep some distance between myself and the children, and snap away. This allows me to capture genuine smiles, looks of curiosity, and even pouting with no problem. If you are working with a digital SLR that has a ‘child’ setting, use it! This setting keeps your main subject in focus while slightly blurring out the background, saving you a ton of time editing.


I must start again by stressing the use of candid shots. However, with families you can still set up the shot by having the family sitting, standing, or walking in a certain spot, but try to keep it as informal as possible. One of my favorite Black & White family portraits is set up by having the family walk down a path in the woods holding hands, but the shot it taken from behind (see example). I’ve had more of a reaction from clients from this type of photograph than from any posed shot I have ever taken.

If you take nothing else from this article, please remember candid shots! It’s not worth the stress and heartache of trying to force your subjects to ‘be themselves’ by posing. Be patient, keep your distance, and the results will follow