Working with a large group to get the perfect portrait can be difficult. There are so many things to consider, like the pose, the lighting, where everyone will stand, and whether you will be outdoors or indoors for the portrait. These ten tips will help you to take the best family portraits every time.
Start With the Right Equipment
The right equipment is essential to take the best family portraits. Ideally, a camera with a low ISO setting is going to be best for family portraits. Higher ISO equipment should be reserved for low light settings. Sometimes there is no right answer for capturing what a family would like to capture. One family wanted to incorporate personalized recruitment messaging for higher education that one of the children received by holding up the laptop, and choices had to be made. Either the messaging could be crisp and clear and family members would have to be a bit grainy or vice-versa.
In any event, the point is that equipment is going to play a big role in the quality of the photos. You can ask the family what they plan on doing with the photo. For example, are they looking to make a custom dtf transfer to make t-shirts for the family vacation next year? Will they frame it? This can help you to decide which lens and equipment is the right one. You do not want to be looking for the highest prices paid for gold and diamonds to pawn your jewelry for new equipment, but you should use good quality equipment.
If you are going to take a family portrait on the fresh green sod in the summer. Try to arrange the photo shoot for either very early in the day or very early in the evening. Heat can really ruin a family sitting. Little kids will quickly become done with the session, adults will lose their patience, and frankly, no one wants to be outdoors when it is 90 degrees out.
Temperature and comfort go hand in hand. Being outside in the heat is just as bad as being inside in the cold because the home heating oil service did not show up with the fuel delivery. Give some thought to everyone’s comfort level. The more comfortable family members are the better the results of the portrait session.
It does not matter if everyone is dripping in diamonds and got all dolled up for the session, if they are uncomfortable because of the heat or the cold, it will show in the portrait. The best portraits are taken when everyone is calm and comfortable.
Set the Lighting
Photography 101 is that good photographs are all about lighting. Will you use natural light alone if you are outdoors or will you add some other lighting? What about indoors? Will you use natural lighting alone or will you turn on some more lights?
Keep a good flashlight on hand and play around with it to determine how much effect more focused lighting will have. Simple forms of supplemental lighting can take a photo from so-so to wow. Reflectors, strobes, and fill flash can give you a great effect.
When taking outdoor photos, avoid the mid-day sun. To get the best possible lighting during the day outdoors, sometimes the photographer has to step into the shade to get that beautiful, diffused light. Don’t be afraid to move around to find the best lighting situation. Sometimes it is not the equipment but your position that matters the most.
Matching or Coordinating: Which Is Best?
Let us all agree that matching outfits can be adorable, but coordinating outfits are much better. Pick a color scheme and find clothing in that color that matches the family members’ personalities. Color-coordinated looks allow each family member to wear clothing that they are personally comfortable with.
Matching outfits may make some family members uncomfortable. However, if matching outfits are right for your family, go for it. It is more important that every family feels good about what they are wearing.
Some colors that photograph well outdoors include pink, gray, and gold. Pastels look great outdoors, as do navy and floral prints. Other outdoor color choices are tan, orange, and yellow. Of course, the season of the year will direct your clothing choices as well.
For indoors, avoid colors that are too vibrant or that have an intricate pattern. Try to keep it simple because indoors you are competing with decor in the surroundings. Some great color choices for indoor photography are white, black, blues, greens, and jewel tones.
Help Everyone Pose
There is an art to family photography that brings the photograph together seamlessly. Taller people should be on the end. Family members should be close together. When photographing large groups they should be grouped into subsets with older people in the middle, children in front, and of course the tallest people at the ends.
You do not want to line people up, it gives you that church insurance ad vibe. Stagger people while ensuring that they are in close contact with each other. This is a family, and we want the picture to convey that, so move everyone in close.
For smaller families to avoid the bullseye effect, take the photo a bit off-center. It will add interest to the photograph and change your point of view frequently. Sometimes, moving a bit to the left or to the right can deliver a great result.
Put Someone in Charge
One of the biggest challenges of taking a large family portrait is getting everyone organized. If you cannot do it on your own, tap a family member for some help. Keeping everyone organized to get the best shots can require reinforcements. You may run into issues if Aunt Sue wants to show off her great results from her recent cosmetic dentistry, but Uncle Bob prefers a more serious approach to the photo. Getting everyone on board with what the theme of the photo is going to be is important.
Yes, the goal is to capture everyone’s personality in the photo, and it is fine to take a few candid type shots where everyone is doing their own thing, but it is also important that the family has a selection of photos to choose from and a few of them is of them looking straight ahead into the camera with both a smiling face and less of a toothy grin.
A good tip is to take the must-have photos first. The ones where everyone is posing and smiling right at the camera. Going in early on for these photos will ensure that if there is a meltdown or someone decides that this is just too much stress, you will have at least some really good shots.
Don’t Be Afraid to Use Props
Props can really make a family portrait come to life both indoors and outdoors. Props can help to tell the family’s story. A prop can be as simple as a hairbrush to capture the youngest family member brushing the oldest family member’s hair. It can be as elaborate as an old restored pickup truck with the whole family in the back of the bed. If you find a pawn shop offering the highest prices paid for gold and diamonds, you can use the funds from selling jewelry to purchase more elaborate props.
A small child in the family holding a pinecone can add wonder to the photo. Outdoor nature provides all the props you need. Natural props in outside portraits add texture and interest to the photo. Some props you should think about adding to the photo include:
- Ladders to add height. Instead of spreading the family out consider placing some of the kids on a ladder (with proper safety precautions of course). You can do the same with stools of various sizes.
- Use props that are personal to the family. If the family loves kayaking together, use the kayak in the photo.
- Books, toys, and other items can all be used in the photo to highlight the family’s connection.
The right props can help to organize the family and convey the message that they want people to know about them in their photos.
Make It Fun
When you are photographing a wedding, part of the thought process has to be on gown care. When you are photographing a family, part of the thought process must be about how much fun the family is having. Keeping things fun will ensure the best pictures.
How do you keep it fun? You invite members of the family to make suggestions, you tell little jokes, and you make sure the kids are enjoying themselves. In other words, you keep it light. Forcing everyone to stand in a certain spot for any length of time while you fiddle with the camera lens is frustrating for everyone. Move everyone around when you are ready to hit the shutter not before.
Let the kids burn off some energy and take a break when they need to. It can be overwhelming for kids and parents when they start to get tired and refuse to cooperate. Sometimes, it is just best to let them walk away for a few minutes to regroup. Yes, everyone has time constraints but it is far better to take a break than try to force an angry two-year-old to do anything.
Keep Snacks and Water Nearby
If you are going to be outside, be sure that someone has snacks and water nearby. The “golden hour” is right around dinner time. Having something to snack on can calm the angry two-year-old and do wonders for mom and dad as well.
Water should always be onsite at an outdoor photo shoot for safety reasons. Keep water handy for everyone in the group. Most large-scale photography studios depend on a data center cooling system to keep their equipment cool. Think of your photography subjects as very precious equipment that needs to stay cool too, and water is the cooling system.
Don’t Forget the Tripod
It is important to stay fluid when you are photographing a family, but you should still bring your tripod for those first few must-have photos when everyone is aligned, smiling, and looking at the camera. The tripod is a photographer’s best friend and is often overlooked as necessary gear.
Whether you are a pro looking for some tips or you are a budding photographer, a tripod will guarantee a steady hand and a straight arrow capture. Of course, if you are a family member, having a tripod handy will mean that you can set the timer and join in on the photograph.
The lowly tripod is a replacement for the photographer’s hands. In many cases, families want those spot-on photographs in the mix. Tripods make it very easy to get those poses without any noise from movement.
Family portraits are a great way to create memory masterpieces. Family portraits are the perfect way to create art for the home and to capture moments in time that move far too fast. Photos are records of who we are at the moment and they document a family’s history. Taking the perfect family photo of your family may be the traditional generational lineup or it may be a still of you, your partner, and your pups skipping down the beach.
There is no right way or wrong way to take a family portrait. There are only ways that cameras, equipment, and techniques allow us to enhance the results. A good photographer will not only capture the look of your family but they will capture the essence of your family through mindful photography.