7 Tips For Making Awesome Family Portraits

by Eric Von Lehmden | June 18, 2014

7 tips for better family portraits

Whether you are a professional photographer or just want to gather the whole gang for a family photo there are some important elements that can improve your family portrait photos. I will tell you right now that photographing a gathering of people of different ages, heights, and temperaments can be quite a challenge…even for a seasoned professional. Here are 7 things to consider the next time you want to make awesome family portraits.

  1. Be as prepared as you possibly can. Know how many people will be in the photograph so you can start arranging people in your head or even on paper. You can look for inspiration on places like Pinterest and Flickr or family portrait ideas for families small and large.
  2. Pick your spot. With a large group (especially with young kids) you may only get one chance to get the shot. Do some scouting ahead of time to figure out when the light will be the best and which angle to shoot from.
  3. Time of day. For most families the best time to take their portrait will be in the evening before sunset. That is when the best light will be which is perfect. I have tried to do early morning portraits with a large group and I have one word to explain it…disaster. Kids were grumpy and adults even more so. Stick with the timeframe of the golden hour as the sun is about to go down to do your portrait. This means you may have to act quickly.
  4. Sun to their backs. Sometimes it is inevitable that you can’t wait for that perfect time to take the family portrait. So, if I do have to photograph a family while the sun is higher in the sky I will try to find an angle where the sun is at the groups back. This can pose a challenge to the photographer because now you might have the sun coming right into the camera. Use the lens hood for your camera lens, your hand or a piece of paper/cardboard to help shade the camera from the sun. By photographing the family with the sun to their back you will create even tones on their faces. No shadows on the faces and no squinting = a better family portrait.
  5. Take charge. As the photographer you have to take charge of the situation or you will be dealing with a frustrated group. Remember, the family will be looking to you for direction. You need to speak up and give direction in a kind and fun manner…you are dealing with the delicate balance of the family having fun with the photo and just wanting it to be over. Be vocal and direct people where to stand. It will be a lot more confusing and frustrating for the family if no one takes charge.
  6. Posing. There are a ton of different poses out there for families. This is where your research and knowing how many people will be in your shot comes to play. If you have over 10 people in the shot I would recommend trying to stack your group. That means you would need to either have steps, or you have some folks sitting and some standing. This brings the photo in tighter and you avoid having to go too wide with your photo. What happens when you have everyone just lined up side by side for a photo is that you have to take a wider photo. When you do that people are harder to see. By stacking the group vertically you can create a tighter composition and everyone is nice and visible.
  7. Be Quick. If you know your exposure and you take charge and get everyone where they are supposed to be you can get a family photo done in less than 10 minutes. That can give you time to try different things before you start losing everyone’s attention (it's like tearing a band-aid off quickly...people might dread it but when it's over they realize it wasn't that bad). Always take multiple photos of each grouping because you never know who has blinked and who hasn’t until you are able to look at the images later.

This article is written for Canvas Press. To find out more about Canvas Press’ products visit www.canvaspress.com.

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