Shooting a Family Photo Session - San Juan Capistrano

Photo Assignment

I recently had an opportunity to shoot some family photos for a friend of mine. It was great because they already had a location they wanted to shoot at, and it turned out to be a great spot. We met around 3 in the afternoon on a Saturday at the Los Rios District in San Juan Capistrano, CA.

There wasn't really a game plan for the shoot, other than they wanted a few shots by a specific tree where they had their photo taken about a year prior. My main goal was to avoid the white-shirt-blue-jean-beach-at-sunset photos that are a staple in many homes around Orange County.

The Gear

I used my Canon 60D, a Canon 50mm 1.2, Canon 24mm 1.4, Canon 580EXii, Canon STE-2, and a light stand. I rented the lenses and flash from Pro Photo Connection in Irvine, CA. They have a great rental department. Check out their site here.

It was a pretty bright day, and I wanted to use a wide aperture to get a shallow depth of field on some shots, so I needed to use the high-speed-sync feature with the STE-2 and the 580ex ii. The STE-2 always seems a little quirky, and I had some trouble getting it to stay on HSS. Also, since it was very bright that day, the direct sunlight was probably throwing off the IR sensors on the transmitter and speedlite. The 580exii and STE-2 are definitely good products, but radio triggers are the way to go if you have the means.


I wanted to get some posed photos, and then some candid photos. Luckily, my subjects were all very photogenic, took direction well, and also had a lot of great ideas themselves. Directing subjects is one of the hardest parts of photography.

Many of the photos turned out well, and they really seemed to enjoy them too. But next time, I'd really like to use a modifier on the speed-light. The shadows are a bit too hard for this type of photography. I'd like to use a medium size octabox or something similar. An octabox, and maybe a lower power output, would help too with blending the speedlite flash with the ambient light.

If you live in the Orange County area, or are planning on visiting, the Los Rios District is a great place to get some gorgeous shots. I know I'll be going back there many more times.