There are some very good reasons to learn how to take family portraits, and you don’t have to be embarking on a photography career to do so. Having portraits professionally done can be just too expensive for many families. And sometimes, it can be impossible to get everyone to the studio at the appointed time.
Every family deserves to have at least one good family portrait displayed together with a nice picture frame. But, it’s even better to have additional portraits taken as the family grows and ages. If you are a photography hobbyist you probably know others who would love to have you take their family portraits, but don’t forget your own family! If you are taking a portrait of your own family, make sure to be in it too! So be sure to use a camera with a remote shutter button release and a timer.
If you are new to photography learning how to take family portraits will also give you the opportunity to learn and practice other skills, such as taking that group picture at Thanksgiving or a team picture after the game.
Without further ado, here are some tips to help you get started taking memorable family portraits, whether formal or informal.
1) Avoid the “Police Line Up” Portrait – Instead of having them all line up shoulder to shoulder, try something more natural looking and that also makes it easier to get a big family into the picture.
Staggering is one such technique. For example, you might stagger the family members on the front steps of a porch or on and around boulders near a pond, with some family members standing and others sitting. If in a park, two siblings might sit on a low hanging branch of a tree or all could sit on the lawn clustered together. Show family closeness by spacing members close together. And by staggering the group, it will make it easier to display the picture in a 8×10 picture frame or even something larger like a 11×14 picture frame.
2) Show Relationships – You can do this by the way in which you have people pose in the portrait. For example, Grandma and Grandpa might stand next to each, a toddler could be in Mother’s arms, two siblings might have arms slung over each others shoulders, etc.
3) Consider Including the Family Pets – if they will hold still long enough. Even if the pet is sitting still, you probably should raise the Shutter Speed Priority to 1/125 because even the smallest movement can cause a blur. It is much easier to take a portrait of an individual with a pet or a pet separately, but if the family has a mellow dog or cat, try some family portrait poses with and without.
4) Get Creative with Props – depending upon the type of portrait you want. Does the family play community baseball? Each family member could hold a mitt, ball or bat. This is a trend with individual portraiture that can be fun for families too.
5) Get Everyone Smiling – Instead of just saying “cheese,” put the family at ease (no rhyme intended) by talking to them: compliment, tell a story joke around, and soon they won’t be so nervous about the photographing and their smiles will become more relaxed and real. When you’ve got everyone posed and smiling, ask the family to hold them until you give them the signal that you got the shot.
Finally, have fun taking lots of pictures so the family can choose their favorite. You’re sure to get some keepers where the family will feel proud to frame them for all to see.