It's Fun To Do Something Different!

I feel very honored to take photos of people's families. Photos that they will then share on social media and hang on their walls for years to come. When people have made the decision to take time out of their busy lives and made a commitment to invest in these lasting memories for their family, I feel so privileged to be the one to capture it for them.

I often get asked what makes a good family photo. The answer is... there is no right or wrong way to do it. There are so many different types of family dynamics in the world, with so many different personalities. So, let's discuss what kind of "vibe" fits your family, and go for it!

The classic family portrait is always lovely, but my favorite type of photographs are the ones that reflect exactly who your family is, in all its weird and wonderful ways. I know a photo will be cherished forever when people see it for the first time and say "that is so US".

Why should your photos be cliché or 'the norm' when you family is anything but? I'm always guided by what the family wants - from the classic/formal to the somewhat unconventional. My advice is: just be yourselves.

When Alyssa asked me if we could do something a little different this year for her Family Photos, I of course said "YES!" She said that she really wanted to portray exactly how her family is at this stage in life. They are a very active family who is always out and about on the peninsula riding their scooters and skateboards, exploring the many beaches, and just enjoy getting some fresh air and their two boys some exercise.

I put a lot of thought into the perfect location for their session, and decided that the Coast Guard Pier in Monterey would be the perfect backdrop for this little excursion. This area features tide pool rocks for exploring, a gorgeous beach for running around, and a cool parking lot for riding their skateboards.

Alyssa was so happy with the final gallery, and it is most definitely one of my top favorite sessions I have ever done. I can't wait to see what this adorable family has in store for me next year!

Don't be limited by convention for your next family photo. Here are my 10 top unconventional family photo ideas to give you some inspiration.

• Pets. Any kind of pets!

Do you have a pet who is part of the family? Why not include them in the photo too? I love including animals into sessions, this is when we get the absolute best expressions from everyone in the family! When it comes to pets, the weirder or quirkier the better! You might think unusual pets like turtles, lizards, snakes or birds are not the most photogenic of creatures, but they certainly make the image interesting and, if they're part of the family, I think they should definitely be part of the family photo.

• Hobbies, or Unique Interests

Hobbies that are special to you as a family - like a beloved sporting team, or passion you all share - can be part of the story too (just like Alyssa's family with exploring the Monterey Peninsula). I believe in telling your family's story, so let's make that story true to you.

• Antique Cars, Motorcycles, and Trucks

For many people, planes, trains and automobiles are more than just modes of transport - it's a serious passion. A boat, motorcycle or antique car can be a big part of a family's life and leisure time. It also makes a brilliant backdrop. I would LOVE to show off your vintage farm truck, and pile you all into the truck bed for some candid family shots!

• Grungy Locations, or Interesting Architecture

You don't have to have photos in a classic portrait location like a forest or beach! If you hate sand, or suffer hay fever, or are simply an urbanite who feels at home far away from nature, it doesn't make sense to be photographed at a beach or garden. There are many other amazing location you could choose in the heart of any city. A grungy city streetscape with bright graffiti or edgy architecture is my top pick for striking backdrop. A character-filled, heritage building is also an impressive location and you can play with the building's rustic imperfections, shadows and architectural features.

• Tattoos or Individual Style

A tattoo is something most people want to show off, so make sure it's on show in your photos. You could even make it the feature of the frame. If you've got prominent tattoos, point them out to me! I love to incorporate them into emotive imagery.

I don't believe in everyone wearing matching crisp white shirts - actually, the opposite. You need to feel comfortable. Wear whatever reflects your individual personality and style - favorite jewelry, hats, scarves or other items that you would normally wear, even if these are not your 'Sunday best' attire. I love that Alyssa and her family stayed true to their "everyday" casual style for our shoot. Just remember - coordinate your outfits, don't match them.

• Unconventional Poses and Perspectives

When you picture in your mind what your family photo will look like, you may imagine everyone standing in a row, possibly two rows with shortest in front, smiling. No, No, No! While the classic family photo is perfectly ok, there are many ways you can pose and many angles the camera can be positioned if you're looking for something a bit different. You don't need to all be standing front-on in a row (honestly, I never do this pose during a session). Just by changing the position of the camera - placing it high or above for a bird's eye view (I might need my step ladder for this one) or down low (lying on the ground), close up or some distance away - you can get a completely different style of photo and a totally new story about your family. Playing with scale and perspectives can also create a striking image. Mirrors and reflective surfaces add a new dimension and draw your eye to the optical illusion of depth. Poses don't need to be conventional either, and should be just whatever you find is relaxed and natural - sitting, standing, crouching, leaning, upside-down, leaping in the air; the possibilities are endless.