Family Portraits: Location and Wardrobe

I photograph the Talamantez family every year down in Fresno, where they visit family from Dallas over the holidays. Looking over all of their photos, I thought it would be a great example for other families to see how you can put together coordinating casual outfits that are different from year to year, as well as finding variety in locations within one city.

This was 2017, and Allison (the Mom) found the Warnors theater in downtown Fresno. Shooting time was 11am, which is not usually ideal for lighting. A downtown area with buildings offers tall reflective walls, brick, shops, and texture. This family is adventurous and go-with-the-flow, so we weren’t afraid to throw on sunglasses when the sun was harsh, ask a shop owner to use their chairs and sitting area (always helps if you buy something), and walk in the middle of the street when the traffic clears. Allison is amazing at dressing her family, and not worrying about matching or having every hair in place the whole time. It also helps that she will do a handstand.

In 2016 I went to visit them in Dallas, so this is our only non-Fresno shoot in many years. There was an old cotton mill with industrial buildings near downtown McKinney that we used as our location. We couldn’t shoot inside the cotton mill, and there was a wedding shooting their portraits at the main building, so we opted for this row of old buildings nearby. It was totally rustic and very Texas, especially contrasted with the preppy theme that Allison put together. Time was late afternoon for this one.

In 2015 we used one of my favorite locations ever, and no one ever believes me when they ask me about it and I tell them it was in Fresno. I found it by searching wedding photo spots on instagram, which is a great source for finding recent seasonal spots for portraits. It was an extremely foggy morning around 9am, and we had the car running nearby for the kids to jump into and warm up. The outfit palette is a great example of mixing tones (darks, mediums, lights) of chambray/jean, creams and browns, and were tied together by Allison’s scarf which carried all of their colors- when I suggest starting from a lead fabric, this is what I mean.

2014’s location was found by Ralph’s brother. We used the junior college library, which was set on a campus, bringing in grass, trees and reflective stone pathways. Allison mixes high/low pieces from her closet, which I love because she often finds vintage pieces that bring the warn-in unique touches to the newer clothing. This is true golden hour light, which we are always thankful for in December since it’s not a guarantee.

Ralph’s brother hooked us up by finding this vineyard, that allowed us shoot on their property right after they closed for the afternoon. Obviously the vines had lost their leaves by this point, but the brown neutral backdrop provided a golden setting for their wardrobe mix of grays. There were fruit trees and reclaimed wood bins that we used as well. This was right before sunset.

2012 was our first time shooting in Fresno, and we used the train station. Right across the street was an alley with this red brick wall and some broken windows, so we were able to mix some rustic looks with the clean white setting of the station. You can never go wrong by picking one pop of color like red with a mix of neutrals. Again, this was in the afternoon.

I hope the takeaway from this post is to open your eyes about locations within an area that you might not realize provides so much. We don’t always need a setting to be a picture perfect landscape, because the subject is the people. I’ve used the top of a parking garage, countless alleys, random doors, side of the road fields, and miscellaneous ugly/dirty settings that actually photograph way better than you’d think. Additionally, your wardrobe and accessories don’t every need to match- unless you’re going for a very specific homogenous look. If that’s the case, we can collaborate on the look to make it more Calvin Klein, less late 90’s matching khakis/white polos. Lastly, if you like the candid/genuine look in photos, don’t be afraid to play with your kids and look away from the camera. This family and I have been working together for many years so we have a shorthand for how these things go. However, they have been down for whatever since day one, which is why we have this amazing catalog!

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