Recently at my Maui Photography Adventure I took the time to meet up with one of my models, Laura, that I’ve worked with for almost two decades and lives on the island. And as I did two years ago for my Photography Reflectors Keep It Simple photography tip, I promised Laura I’d capture a family portrait again. Unfortunately, this time her husband was unavailable, so I took her family portraits in the Sun-Cage with just her and her son Bodhi.

Family Portraits in the Sun-Cage

Family Portrait in the Sun-Cage of Laura and her son Bohdi on the beach in Maui

Now if you’ve ever done portraits of children, especially toddlers, you know it’s not easy as children have a short attention span. Normally I recommend to other photographers that the best way to capture on camera a child or toddler is to let them do their own thing, and as you observe them, wait for the shot. You can’t direct a child like you can an adult. You’re on their time, they are not on your time and you have to work fast as you don’t know how much time they will give you to capture their photos.

Laura also brought some toys for Bodhi to help keep his attention span and that really helped. Bodhi, being like most toddlers, wasn’t in the mood to make friends with someone they really don’t know. While normally a photographer wouldn’t trigger a fight-or-flight responsein a child, children are cautious around anyone they don’t know and being around a photographer who isn’t immediate family, or only comes around every other year like me, is no different to a child.

Family Portraits in the Sun-Cage

When it comes to family portraits in the Sun-Cage, it’s 8-foot tall, so there’s plenty of room for vertical photos.

One way to reduce this natural instinct is to talk and play with the child around their parent or parents as I did with Bodhi before you try to create any photos. The more comfortable a child feels with a photographer, the better the photos.

Another photography tip for child photography, let them play! We let Bodhi play inside the SUNBOUNCE Sun-Cage like if he was in a day-care play room.  This allowed him to get comfortable and feel safe in this mobile and portable location studio. Then after a few minutes we began our attempt to capture some suitable family portraits in the Sun-Cage and capitalized on its advantages the Sun-Cage brings to family portrait photography.

Advantages of Family Portraits in the Sun-Cage
There are many advantages when you capture family portraits in the Sun-Cage. First, it provides protection from nature’s environment, especially on an island, it helps reduce the possibility of sun-burn, though I’d still advise sunscreen for any child out in the sun. It also reduces or eliminates wind that can make things like hair fly.

Second, when the Sun-Cage is fully assembled and secured, the -2/3 stop white diffusion fabric screens or the black screens, 8-foot by 8-foot squared, provide “walls” around your young subject so they are not distracted by other people walking by, like that on a public beach. The lack of blocking the view of moving distractions of any kind will help you capture great family portraits in the Sun-Cage faster than out on location with no physical barriers.

The third advantage in creating family portraits in the Sun-Cage is that you can place and secure it anywhere that is flat, and on this occasion, it allowed us to place it directly on the sandy beach. What child doesn’t like to play in the sand especially if they got toys? Surely beats hauling a truckload of sand into your indoor photography studio. Imagine the clean-up afterwards.

Another advantage of creating family portraits in the Sun-Cage is it’s a contained photographic lighting environment. You can choose how much diffusion or contrast, or both, you’d like to add or subtract in your photos as explained in my recent How to Beat Poor Outdoor Lighting photography tip. The SUNBOUNCE Sun-Cage gives you practically full-control of natural outdoor lighting — think of the Sun-Cage as a mobile, durable, lightweight, and portable outdoor location studio that puts your subjects inside a photography soft box.

Family Portraits in the Sun-Cage

When you capture family portraits in the Sun-Cage, children feel safe and most distractions are eliminated by the fabric screens.

Add some reflected sunlight like we did with a SUNBOUNCE PRO and the Zebra reflector fabric plus the SUNBOUNCE MINI with the Sparkling Sun reflector fabric, and you’ll get perfectly balanced and illuminated family portraits in the Sun-Cage. Your subjects will not only feel safe, but they’ll not be distracted by what they can’t see.

The SUNBOUNCE SUN-CAGE will allow you to take not only great family portraits, but fabulous photos of any subject in any genre to the next level that will set your photography apart from other photographers. It’s truly the photography studio of today, not the photography studio of yesterday. On my next photography adventure, look for me capture some animal photography in the Sun-Cage, seriously, it’s coming!


Rolando Gomez is a professional photographer and author of five photography books and he’s has traveled to 45 countries for assignments. The former soldier and U.S. Army combat photographer has taught hundreds of photography workshops for almost two decades. A 2016, 2017 and 2018 Top Writer for Quora, his partial credits include Newsweek, Parade, Playboy, Rangefinder, Maxim, Rangefinder, New York Times, Stars & Stripes, and various other publications.
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