Family Portraits

By: Brenda MacLean, Sara McConnell Photography Session Coordinator

Since long before the invention of the camera people have drawn, etched, and painted their loved ones’ likenesses. There is just something in the human spirit that makes people want a two dimensional image of their family to hang on their wall or place in an album (increasingly virtual!). With the invention of the camera, people were able to take posed portraits in a new way that is seen as more accurate and representative of what people actually look like at a point in time. And as camera technology advanced and became more accessible to more people the family portrait became a familiar sight on people’s walls.

To me, family portraits are so, so important. I value them more than any other property in my home. Which is evidenced by my fireproof safe chock-full of digital storage devices!

Once you’ve become an adult, and even more so when you have children, you become well aware of how fast time flies. And as the events of life pile on the memories blur together and even fade with time. Photographs are a powerful way to recall memories. Family portraits remind us what life was like and what people looked like. Memories of which would otherwise be lost or diminished over time.

The photograph is particularly good at evoking emotion in a way that mementos and stories cannot. My family pictures make me smile whenever I see them. They evoke feelings of love, pride, and bring back the fun of that particular time and stage of life. This is the reason I am a big believer in getting pictures printed and hung up so you can see them all of the time.

A family portrait is an especially important portrait to have. It can be challenging to bring everyone together and include the entire family in a picture. But it is important to make the time and effort for it. A family portrait unifies and celebrates it’s members. It’s a statement, not just to others, but to the family itself of how important and special family is.

Candid is in!

When photography was in it’s early years there were a lot more limitations and people would have to pose and stand very still due to the need for a long exposure. While cameras have sped up exponentially, the posed photograph continues to be a mainstay of family photography. In my house, posed family portraits cover my walls with the occasional candid photograph thrown in.

Lately, Sara and I have noticed an increasing number of clients requesting more candid shots than posed pictures of their family. Candid photographs are taken more on the sly and show people interacting and acting naturally. I find this a really interesting trend when you consider how popular the posed family picture has been. I was thinking about what might be driving this trend so much right now and wonder if it might have something to do with our society’s increasing focus on quality time with family. If we enjoy family photos because they help to unify and celebrate the things we enjoy about our family then maybe the shift towards candid portraits is telling us about what people are valuing now. What we want is enjoyable time spent with loved ones. And we want the photographs that show it too.

ottawa family photographer candid photo


ottawa family photographer candid photo of little girl

ottawa family photographer candid

Art, including photographic portraits, is not just something we as people create and express ourselves with. Art also helps to make us who we are. It inspires, influences, and shapes us on a daily basis from countless sources.

When we see pictures of our families laughing and having a good time together it not only reminds us of our life at that particular point in time but I think it can also encourage us to enjoy and relish each other’s company and interaction. A candid picture of a family further connects its members and shares with others how connected a family is.

But Don’t Forget to Pose!

Now while Sara and I have noted the popularity of candid requests increasing, even the most devout candid client always chooses posed portraits when making their image selections. I don’t think people are just opting for the posed shots out of tradition or a sense of nostalgia. There is a lot of value in a family portrait where everyone is looking at the camera. It’s in these posed portraits where you can best see what all of the members of the family look like. The posed portrait also has the best opportunity for engaging with the viewer. The eyes and the smiles bring you into that moment that was captured and connects you with your loved ones in the picture. When I am walking through my home and catch a glimpse of my family and I on the wall I smile back because for a moment it is like being back with them that day.  


ottawa family photographer winter photo

ottawa family photographer posed family photo


Not sure which family portrait style is right for you? Each of our clients fill out a questionnaire that will help them, and us, find the best style for capturing those extraordinary moments.