If you want to take a great family photo that you can display proudly on the wall, follow our tips on composition and co-ordination.
Tip 1 – Use a tripod
Using a tripod will free you up to move around and direct the shoot more efficiently. You’ll also be able to interact with your subjects on a more personable level rather than from behind a lens. This will help everyone to forget about the camera and feel more at ease. You can also use your camera’s self-timer feature to get yourself into the shot too.
Tip 2 – Choose a convenient location
Given that the shot is all about you and your family you don’t want to shoot somewhere where the background is too busy. Also be sure to pick somewhere where you won’t be disturbed, ideally outside where natural light is in good supply.
Tip 3 – Co-ordinate your outfits
If you’re planning on taking a picture that’s destined to sit in a frame or on the wall then it makes sense to coordinate your outfits. We’re not suggesting matching clothes, but try to avoid garish colour clashes or clothes with busy, brightly coloured patterns as these will distract from your happy smiley faces.
Tip 4 – Manage your time
Be aware that younger members of the family will have shorter attention spans and get bored quicker, so plan accordingly. There are no hard and fast rules, but one good strategy is to get the more ‘traditional’ (i.e posed) shots in the bag first, using the promise of shooting more candid, fun stuff later as an incentive to keep younger kids focused.
Tip 5 – Use light carefully
One golden rule of portraiture is ensuring that no one has dark pockets where their eyes should be. This means lighting everyone’s eyes properly. There are many ways to do this, either by having your subjects facing into natural light (or using a light reflective surface) or by using flash – either as a primary light source, or to add a bit of extra ‘fill’ light. As a last resort you can also use photo-editing software to brighten people’s eyes. Avoid positioning your subjects so they face directly into bright sunlight though, as this will almost certainly result in everyone squinting.
Tip 6 – Think about composition
Family portraits work best when everyone is closely bunched together as this conveys a sense of intimacy, so avoid big gaps between people and watch out for any members of the family standing apart from everyone else. Larger group photos also look neater if the people on the outside angle their shoulders slightly towards the centre of the frame slightly.
Tip 7 – Pick a pose
Ultimately you want everyone to look at ease – with the camera and with each other, which means poses should be as natural as possible. Avoid hands in pockets, it looks a bit casual. Instead, try holding hands or putting your arms around each other, or on each other’s shoulders. Toddlers and small children can be held to your chest too.
Later on in the shoot, you could try encouraging your family to have some fun and do what comes naturally, whether that’s throwing their hands in the air, pulling V-for-victory signs or just simply pointing at the camera – all of these can add a bit of spontaneity to your image.
Tip 8 – Remember to smile
Getting everyone to smile can sometimes be a bit of a challenge, so try not to put anyone under too much pressure. Try cracking some jokes along the way and encouraging laughter. The old trick of having everyone say ‘cheese’ can be used as a last resort, although you may well find that the resulting image is a bit, well… cheesy.
Tip 9 – Shoot in the correct mode
Selecting either Manual or Aperture priority mode means you can select a fast aperture of around f/2.8 – f/4, which in turn will help blur the background behind the in-focus subjects. If your camera doesn’t have Manual or Aperture-priority modes then look for a portrait-specific Scene mode, as this is also likely to select as low an aperture as possible.
Tip 10 – Shoot Like a Pro
If you own a decent DSLR and want your family portraits to have a really professional look then the best bit of equipment for the job is a photographic umbrella. These can be purchased for less than $50 on line. You will also need a dedicated flashgun, which will need to be used off-camera so that it shoots into the umbrella. To do this you may need to invest in a remote flash triggering device. These can be picked up for around $20 on eBay also. Once you’re all set up you’ll be able to use the umbrella to bathe the whole family in soft, diffused light to get that professional portrait look.
Tip 11 – Enjoy Yourselves!
Taking family photos should be a fun and rewarding process so arrange to do it when everyone is in the right mood so you make the most of your time together in front of the camera. While whoever’s operating the camera will need to have a general plan and take overall charge, stay open to suggestions – however silly they might sound – and be sure to include everyone in the photo making process.