Family Portrait Photography Tips

Family portrait photography is one of the most exciting areas for a beginner. You never know what you’re going to encounter!

Who wants regular family portraits these days? I’ve got lists of ideas for you to consider when taking your next family portrait. There’s help with lighting, posing and creative suggestions for dramatic and memorable family portraits.

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Are Family Portraits Still Important?

Family photos are a tradition that have existed for decades and will undoubtedly live on until the end of time; they are a treasured possession.

Parents and grandparents all want timeless shots that stand the test of time and remind us of particular moments and events throughout our life journey – they are priceless, personal and more valuable to us than anything else we own or keep in our houses.

Everyone in the world, and of any age, wants to stop time and snap those precious moments, whether that be at weddings, parties, birthdays or even personal intimate moments like pregnancy.

6 Family Portrait Photography Tips

Brace yourselves, family portrait photography is about to be turned upside down and inside out!

I am going to share 6 family portrait tips with you. Later on, I’ve got separate lighting tips too as well as 15 different ideas for family photos. They’ll make your Nan so proud she’ll be sharing them with all her friends down at the bingo hall!

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1. Shoot Family Portraits in Manual Mode

Generally speaking, the best photographs are achieved using manual mode, well, the same rule applies for family portraits too. Once you’ve got your exposure right you shouldn’t need to keep messing around with settings, (that’s assuming you have control of the elements around you and you’ve chosen the location carefully.) However, remember, if you change location or adjust positioning, recheck the settings in your camera.

Read more about portrait photography here.

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2. Use Manual Focus for Sharpness

Just as you do not want the exposure to change from shot to shot, neither do you want the focus to be adjusted. This is, of course, assuming you’re using a tripod and not moving. If you have posed and positioned family members, they are now likely to behave like statues and less likely to make any drastic movements. It may seem like a scary jump to use MF (Manual Focus) but it can offer you a heightened level of sharpness when you get it spot on.

3. Use a Tripod When Possible

A tripod is pretty essential in the world of photography, and it’s one piece of equipment you will need if you’re going to get that perfect family shot!! It will give you more freedom to experiment with different locations, positions and compositions. A tripod will also allow you to focus on getting the settings right (aperture, ISO and shutter speed).

family portrait photography

4. Young Children in Family Portraits

If you are photographing small children (or even adults) you may find that initially they feel rather intimidated by all the camera equipment. Be aware of this, as if they feel uncomfortable or forced into an awkward position, it will show through in their faces and therefore in the shot – nobody wants an awkward family photograph now do they? (so cliché).

If working with children, you can make gestures, use silly voices or pull faces to get the kids attention. You’ll instantly get better, more natural expressions by interacting with them, than if your eye is fixed on the viewfinder or you’re hidden away as a mysterious person behind the camera. It’s important to consider and connect with the people you are shooting.

Read more about how to get smiles from children in photos here.

5. Set Up Action Shots

Bring props, toys or even bubbles!! We understand it’s very frustrating to try and get that perfect image, but children are so unpredictable! Don’t set your expectations too high, if they don’t want to smile, don’t force it.

If you have any shy or nervous children as part of your family’s portrait then just let them have fun with a few toys or games, to begin with before you start structuring your poses.

Play with them, entertain them, make noises, sing songs, have fun and then be ready to capture the moment when it happens.

6. Use Family Posing Shapes

Position your subjects with a bit of cohesion. Using shapes such as diagonal lines to make your family portraits dynamic and add interest to an image.

This will help when you have taller and shorter people in the family as opposed to having a range of different sized people scattered randomly about your shot. It will make the portrait look more professional and cleaner.

4 Family Portrait Lighting Tips

As we know eyes are important, especially in portraits. Eyes can often tell us the story and portray emotion and expression! To aid this, make sure you get some light into the subject’s eyes! There are 4 ways to control lighting to enable you to do this;

1. Choose a good time of the day when the sun is lower in the sky. (This is known as the golden hour, an hour before sunrise and an hour before sunset).

2. Make sure the background isn’t overly lit up or the subjects will be too dark – unless you’re using additional studio lighting.

3. Avoid days that are overcast, we all know what effect an overcast sky can have on the general mood of the photograph…GREY.

4. Use a reflector, a photographer’s best weapon is a reflector! It will instantly brighten up faces and catch light in the eyes.

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15 Family Portrait Ideas

Here are 15 family portrait photography ideas we have put together for those of you wanting suggestive or quirky family photos!

1. Line up some wellies, each family member has a pair. See what shots you can create (ideal if family members have prior engagements)…What’s that you say? … you don’t have wellies?! Well, why not try a similar shot using pairs of trainers, walking boots, sandals, sports shoes – even hats and gloves work too!

2. Remember those prints your parents always kept when you were younger? The ones where you put your hands and feet in paint and got extremely messy, but your parents would hang them like you were the next Van Gogh? Well, why not re-live your youth and get the whole family in the artistic mood!

3. This one isn’t for the feet lovers out there…Get your family on the end of the bed and rest all the feet over the end of the bed; this is often most effective in black and white! Don’t forget to tell dad to get a pedicure before doing this. Or you could find a bench or branch and simply let their legs and feet dangle – this is a beautiful shot if it’s on a sunny day.

4. Reflections or shadows can also be really effective, especially if you have been camping or on an outdoor excursion and don’t have your make up to hand or can’t be bothered getting dolled up for the occasion!

5. Why not try taking a photo in a frame? Have a hunt at yard sales and car boot events to get one cheap! Try getting a large frame and holding it up, why not pull a silly face too?

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6. Fancy a bit of palm reading: why not try joining three generations of hands around each other? Consider using a zoom or macro lens for this and really focus in on the detail.

7. Why not try and create an old traditional family portrait photograph? Shoot in sepia to create a vintage vibe. Look through your camera’s creative filter modes to see if you can apply the sepia effect live to your shots.

8. This one is a personal favourite… why not get each family member to dress up as their favourite book or film character! You know you’ve been looking for an excuse to dress up as Harry Potter for ages!

9. Source or make your own letters (fairly large so they are readable) spelling out ‘F A M I L Y’. Get each member of the family to hold one letter each; alternatively, line them up and gather your family behind the letters

10. Find some little handmade dolls or puppets, print images of each family member’s face and attach those to the doll’s heads, then play around with composition and photograph them.

11. Here’s another idea where all you need is a pen and dad’s fingers! Get creative and draw some pen self portraits on the end of the fingers and photograph your creations! Remember to avoid using permanent markers though!

12. Overhead birds-eye shots can be really effective and natural! Try taking overhead shots of the family at dinner or a picnic and see what outcomes you get. You will need a ladder for this one… remember, safety first guys!

13. Instead of an overhead angle why not mix it up and take an image from the ground to the sky! Get the family to hold hands or create images with their fingers. Watch out for those double chins though, or a few of your family may not thank you at the end!

14. Why not take your family (and the tripod) to the beach; have fun, jump and be silly! Capturing the elevated ‘jumping’ effect may take several attempts and a lot of rehearsing, but the results are good fun. Plus, it’s a great way to keep fit and tire the kids out!

15. Keeping with the beach theme, why not take photos of each family members footprint? If that doesn’t excite you, why not find some pebbles and shells and try filling in the imprint? Even memorialise the shot by writing in the date and location of your portrait for the front of a family album.


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