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Celebrating diverse family photography

Diversity in Family Photography
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Celebrating diverse family photography is a passion of mine. Before writing this post I searched “family photography” in Pinterest and Google. It showed great work. But I thought that they could show a bigger range of families. Main stream TV is doing a better job of showing non-traditional families and I want to help continue this trend towards progress! (Google actually did much better than Pinterest, so good job Google!) Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area has been a huge blessing to me. I grew up with a lot of diversity and curiosity about other cultures and family systems.

My friend Josh is from Nigeria. The shoots we’ve done together have been with family wearing Nigerian clothes. It’s great because it celebrates their heritage, has rich vibrant colors, and everyone looks great and comfortable in them.

Here are some photos from his session:

Celebrating diverse American families

Diversity in main stream photography and why it’s important

I’m underwhelmed at amount of diverse families in mainstream photography. This is something I’d like to promote more actively and help get out in the world. There’s been a lot of talk the last few years about presentation and why it matters. It’s something that I’m passionate about and whole heartedly support.

As a person that grew up in this country with a very limited scope of what the Asian American experience was, I’m thrilled to see more successful and prominent Asian Americans in media outside of martial arts and teaching their cuisine which was the main arenas I saw other Asian Americans growing up. I personally didn’t identify with these titles and it’s encouraging to see that there’s a wider breath of what Asian Americans are these days.

Most of the articles I found on the internet talk about this in a workplace environment, but it’s really more expansive than that. It fosters a sense of belonging and community so they are able to effectively engage, participate, and collaborate which is really what we could all use more of in this world during this divided time.

Examples of how family photography can be more inclusive

I’d like to point out some not so great experiences other friends and clients coming from diverse families have had when looking for or working with photographers. And offer some solutions for when you’re looking for a photographer.

Celebrating diverse families in family photography by Emily Wong Photography

My friend and client Aiko told me that when she’s approached other photographers, she was told that they couldn’t do it. She is Japanese American and her husband is African American. This person cited some reason about certain people were going to be underexposed and some people being overexposed.

This is categorically false.

We had a great session with her and her family where everyone looks great! No one was under or overexposed.

In fact, the photos were so great and vibrant that very little editing had to be done.

I’d like to believe that this person was newer to the profession or didn’t feel confident in their skills and said what they said. But, it’s upsetting for families to hear that and is a disservice to your potential clients.

Bright colorful family photography by Emily Wong Photography
Family photography with dogs included by Emily Wong Photography
Family photography at Japanese Tea Garden, San Francisco Bay Area by Emily Wong Photography

We as photographers can do better by learning how to edit for photos with more than one type of skin tone

A coworker told me that the wedding photos she had from her brother’s wedding were awful. Her skin looked red and not true to real life color. This is similar to how all makeup foundation used to be for one type of skin tone, and now there’s many many many other shades of foundation out there.

Presets can be a wonderful tool and something that I use in my workflow. But you should know how to adjust them and when to use them to compliment your client.

Unfortunately, one size doesn’t fit all.

To me, it sounds like a Porta-like film preset was used which adds more color to the skin and was likely used in this scenario which didn’t compliment her. In fact it did the opposite. It brought out all the wrong tones and didn’t flatter her.

Solutions

Look for photographers who have shot people that look similar to you. This might not be apparent in their portfolio. But we show the kind of work we want to do. If what you’re looking for is not shown and you’re interested in the type of work they do, please ask for examples of what you’re specifically looking for! This way you’re helping promote and celebrate diverse family photography too!

What you’re seeking is also seeking you.

There should be more education on both ends of the spectrum. From photographers and clients on getting the results you want.

I don’t want to keep harping on skin tones, but that’s what makes great portraits for individuals, couples, families, basically everyone. If you’re a photographer having trouble with achieving the look that you want, I’m happy to help! The solution is working together and serving and providing value to one another so we can celebrate diverse family photography and expand what that looks like in the world.

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