You only need to look at sites such as Pinterest and Instagram for proof that you don’t need to be a professional photographer to capture fantastic family moments. The only limits to your photographic genius are your time and creativity. If you have never done a family or group portrait before don’t be intimidated. With a little planning, doing a family portrait should be fun for both you and your family. Who knows you might even enjoy it! Following are a few quick tips to help you have a successful and fun photo session.
1. Use a tripod when possible: There are two big advantages to putting your camera on a tripod. First, it forces you to slow down. You can check your settings, and review the composition to make sure you’ve got everything right. And two, it allows you to steady the camera even if your hand isn’t steady. You may get a great shot but if it is blurred because the camera was shaking than the shot will be ruined. In some cases; however, like photographing kids running or doing more documentary style photography, it may be better to shoot hand held.
2. Lock the focus: Assuming you’ve taken #1 to heart and are using a tripod, the camera will not be moving. And, if you are taking a posed shot, your group will most likely not be moving also. But if you will be moving closer to or further away from the subject, you are likely to lose focus. Beginners should set their camera up to use the automatic focus setting so that each shot is clear and crisp.
3. Arrange people with heads staggered: What you want to avoid is a boring straight line, row, or column of heads. Diagonal lines are more dynamic and add interest to an image, so try to do that with the people in your group. Use natural props, whenever necessary, such as logs or walls to seat people or bring small folding stools. Natural props will effortlessly enhance the aesthetic of the photo.
4. Allow kids to be kids and get goofy with them: Parents often place rigid expectations on their children during a photo sessions. So for many kids they feel pressured to “perform” and don’t typically enjoy family portraits. If you allow your kids to have fun and express their personality, then you will be rewarded with a few fantastic candids of your little ones actually smiling. Bring along props such as favorite toys or books. If the kids don’t want to sit and smile don’t force them. Let them run around and be kids for a while and shoot that. Play with them, make it fun. Then they may cooperate and sit for a bit a few minutes later.
5. Pay attention to posing: This is a general rule when photographing any people and it’s a good one. People tend to stand stiff and rigid when you position them, so you need to get them to bend a few body parts to look more natural. Nobody naturally stands stiff as a board.
6. Lighting is key: Light can make or break any photograph, portraits are no different. The biggest thing you want to make sure you do for portraits is get light into your subjects’ eyes. There are many ways to do that including using natural sun light, metal deflectors, lamps, among others.
7. Have a little fun with it and “let it go”: Create a few really whacky shots at the end of the session (or even in the middle if the energy seems to be fading). Tell them to do a group squish and really get them to squish. Ask them to jump in the air or make goofy faces (you make one too). It lightens up the mood and encourages smiling.
Coordinate clothing: Your family should think about what they are going to wear in advance. Before you meet with your family you should guide them in a wardrobe choice. Ultimately it is up to you and your family’s style to choose what to wear. However wardrobe choice can make a big difference in the end result of the photos. Families should avoid things like clashing colors, mixed styles, and inappropriate clothing.
8. Location, location, location: If possible, choose a location that has significance or will add to the overall appearance of the photos. For example, use the garden of a family member or a viewpoint that overlooks a city in which some of the family live or used to live.
Have any tips that you would like to share? Feel free to share them below!