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For the Kids



Vanessa Guzzo uses her Tamron 24-70mm VC G2 lens for family portraits that make a multigenerational connection.


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By Jenn Gidman
Images by Vanessa Guzzo


When Vanessa Guzzo conducts her family photo sessions, there’s one big thing she tries to do differently than many other portrait photographers. “I shoot for the child instead of the parents,” she says. “Of course I want the parents to love the photos I take, but these images get passed down. I want the kids to be able to look at photos decades down the line and say, ‘That’s where I grew up. That’s what Mom and Dad looked like when I was in kindergarten.’ It’s the children who will be appreciating the photos longest.”

The New York City photographer uses her Tamron SP 24-70mm F/2.8 VC G2 zoom lens for these family documentations. “I want to not only be able to show the expressions on my subjects’ faces, but also their surroundings—the living room where they regularly have story time, the nursery, the bedroom that siblings share,” she says. “And I appreciate having that zoom capability, because with kids, things happen quickly. I might be zoomed out capturing a wider scene, and then a little one might suddenly decide to hug his mom. The 24-70 ensures I won’t miss that shot. I also love the quick focusing and sharp images I’m able to create with this lens.”

Because of her background in bioengineering, Vanessa seeks out natural lighting with patterns and shadows. “It adds structure,” she says. “I’ll look for pockets or slivers of light, like when a kid opens up the fridge or the oven, or when they have the iPad light shining on their face. Something different than the obvious.”

To decide how her subjects should dress for their shoot, Vanessa asks what they plan on doing with their photos. “If they tell me they’re planning on displaying the photos in their living room, I’ll suggest clothing styles and colors that complement their décor,” she says. “If they tell me they want the images for an album, maybe we go a little more colorful and fun with the wardrobe choices.”

Vanessa offers one final tip for photographers taking on a family session. “Don’t put your camera down,” she says. “Sometimes the best pictures come during those ‘in between’ moments, like when you’re moving from taking shots in the bedroom to the living room. At the very end of my sessions, I’ll tell the parents I have everything I need, but I’ll sometimes linger for a few more minutes, and those final, unplanned shots often end up being among my favorites.”

Read on for Vanessa’s take on how she uses the Tamron 24-70 for her family sessions.

© Vanessa Guzzo
24-70mm (42mm), F/2.8, 1/400 sec., ISO 2500
Click image to view larger

Once again, this goes back to my engineering background. I like to show proportion, so I’ll often take a photo of the mom or dad’s hands placed gently on the baby. When dads do it, their hands sometimes takes up 80 percent of the baby. For this shot, the composition captured the mom’s wedding band, which elevated the storytelling element, tying in the wedding and now growing family.

© Vanessa Guzzo
24-70mm (24mm), F/2.8, 1/1250 sec., ISO 2500
Click image to view larger

I’ll often try to show scale when it comes to photographing newborns and infants, usually by safely positioning them in the middle of a bed or chair or otherwise isolated in the middle of a large room. Look how tiny this baby is here compared to the rocking chair.

© Vanessa Guzzo
24-70mm (40mm), F/2.8, 1/1000 sec., ISO 2500
Click image to view larger

Not every photo has to be posed. Sometimes you just want to show the connection that exists between family members. This photo was so sweet, showing a mom sharing this special moment with her daughters. The little girl on her toes makes the photo.

© Vanessa Guzzo
24-70mm (42mm), F/2.8, 1/400 sec., ISO 2500
Click image to view larger

© Vanessa Guzzo
24-70mm (70mm), F/7.1, 1/125 sec., ISO 800
Click image to view larger

These two photos follow that same theme of capturing real life, showing the kids pulling on their parents’ hair or clinging to them in a way that wasn’t planned, but that produces a wonderful photo filled with laughs. You want those real moments, because things like these are the fleeting moments the families will want to remember.

© Vanessa Guzzo
Click image to view larger

Doing newborn sessions outside isn’t very common. For this young family, I thought, ‘How awesome would this be, to show them standing on the stoop of what’s likely their first home together, complete with their house number.’ It’s the beginning of their lives together.

© Vanessa Guzzo
24-70mm (29mm), F/2.8, 1/500 sec., ISO 3200
Click image to view larger

I like the fact that with the 24-70 I can zoom in close to show the way a mom is gazing at her baby, then pull back to show more of the context of the entire nursery. The baby isn’t going to remember the nursery, so it’s essential to capture this shot so he or she will be able to see the room where it all started.

© Vanessa Guzzo
24-70mm (50mm), F/2.8, 1/1250 sec., ISO 1600
Click image to view larger

I always look for patterns. In this photo, I thought it was interesting how the window has that grid pattern that mirrors the one on the baby’s blanket. It’s a baby boy, so those hard lines make it a more masculine photo. If I was photographing a baby girl, maybe I’d try to situate my subjects in front of a window with flowy curtains, or in front of something lacey if I’m seeking out a complementary pattern.

© Vanessa Guzzo
24-70mm (24mm), F/2.8, 1/400 sec., ISO 2000
Click image to view larger

© Vanessa Guzzo
24-70mm (24mm), F/2.8, 1/400 sec., ISO 2000
Click image to view larger

The two photos of these siblings is real life. I wouldn’t characterize myself as a documentary photographer, but I like to tell a story with my photos. The before and after photos here were so cute and funny. I shot it in black and white because I didn’t want any distracting elements, like the colorful balloons, to take away from the children’s expressions.

© Vanessa Guzzo
24-70mm (55mm), F/2.8, 1/320 sec., ISO 1250
Click image to view larger

I’ll often have the parents engage in an activity that they’ll do with their children on a typical day. The photo will remind them of those special moments. With the 24-70, I can zoom in to capture more of the family’s expressions, then pull out to show more of the environment, so down the road the kids can see where they used to live when they were small.

© Vanessa Guzzo
24-70mm (38mm), F/2.8, 1/800 sec., ISO 2000
Click image to view larger

I tend to shoot a lot on the parents’ bed. It’s big enough so that I don’t have to worry about little ones falling off, and it usually has a nondistracting background, like a one-tone wall or the bed’s headboard. Alternately, it’s fun to find a bed or couch that’s underneath the parents’ wedding picture or some other sentimental photo from their parents’ early days together. It goes back to my whole thing of taking these pictures for the kids. It’s neat to have an image that shows the link to the beginning—where it all started for their parents.

To see more of Vanessa Guzzo’s work, go to https://vanessaguzzophotography.com.






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