Behind the Scenes | How to take a composite award winning family portrait

I’m going to fess up and say this composite image was something I thought of after the session, it would have been easier if I shot specifically for it, but I didn’t.  It wasn’t until I was editing the session images that the idea came to me to put them together like this.  This image won a solid silver award at the recent 2016 National Australian Professional Photography Awards (APPAs) and a silver with distinction at the WA professional photography awards.

Time of Day & Location notes

The family wanted an early morning beach session, so we met at sunrise.  There is a very small window of time where the light is soft and lovely, before the sun breaches the hills behind the beach and the mood changes.  The light becomes harder.  I live on the west coast of Australia.  Here the sun rises over the city and sets over the sea.

Setting the scene

Dad suggested the races during this shoot, which was a gift for his birthday.  He loves playing at the beach with his kids and races are something I love including in sessions. When kids are about to melt down, it’s a great distraction, I get great images and they get to play and burn off steam.  Win win.  The family had at least 5 races.

The tech stuff

I stayed in roughly the same place, yelling at the kids.  Because I didn’t have a composite in mind, I used my 24-70F2.8 zoom lens, and I zoomed in and out to compose different images.  The post production would have been easier if I’d stuck with one focal length. 1/800sec to freeze the action and f4.5 for plenty of depth of feild.  ISO640.


The final image was a composite of five different images, the three main races, and one extra of the dog (who was missing totally from one race shot) and a different shot of the little girl. One that would tell a better story.  The little one is loosing, she makes a break and ends up winning!  All edited together as best as possible to appear as one image.  The ocean being the hardest, as the waves had naturally completely moved.

How to take an award winning family portrait

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