If you’re like us, you love a good family photo. Sure, your iPhone (or smartphone) can capture an outstanding photo, but sometimes, you want to use your actual camera. Over the years we’ve gotten taking our own family photographs down to a science, and in this post, I’ll share with you how to take your own family portraits.
Before you have your camera in hand…
Figure out where you want to shoot. It can be as simple as your living room, or in a more scenic area. If you’re going for an outdoor shot, remember to consider light. The best light isn’t going to be at Noon, you’ll want to shoot in the morning or late in the afternoon when the sun isn’t super high in the sky. This is referred to as the “golden hour”, it doesn’t last an hour it can be a lot longer, but it’s basically the first few hours after sunrise and before sunset. If you have to take photos when the sun is super high in the sky, try to position yourselves in such a way so as to lessen potential squinting. You can also take your family outside on overcast days but the light will be much more muted. You’ll have to check your settings to ensure enough light is coming through. On the plus side, squinting will be a non-issue, as will sunlight creating weird shadows on your subjects. You also won’t have to worry about changes in light through clouds or trees. You may find this post helpful when photographing on overcast days.
If you’ve got children, don’t expect them to stand perfectly still, to smile all the time or to even look at the camera. Instead, plan to take a ton of photos. Factoring in breaks and some fun treats to entice your kids is super helpful, because this is probably going to take a lot longer than you anticipated.
Relax. If you’re relaxed, your kids are going to be too. TRUST ME. There have been instances where I or my husband would get super annoyed and stressed because our boys just wouldn’t stand still. This never really resulted in great photos, so over the years we learned to just “go with it”. That’s not to say we never get annoyed when we’re trying to get a good shot, but we’ve learned to anticipate this and work around it. My boys are 14 and ten, and they still have a hard time standing in place and not fooling around. In the next shot, they were all wiggly and my younger son Evan, was “joke kicking” as he said, his older brother. As the camera started to shoot I began to play along, I swung the baby in their direction and said ‘Here comes photobomb Ellena!” The boys knew I was joking, but they got the idea and quickly stood still for the shot. The result was this fun photo of Ellena pretending to be a cannonball.
A few handy tools really help you take great family photos:
A tripod. My husband loves these things and owns several. His all-time favorite is a Manfrotto. Your tripod should hold your camera securely and be sturdy enough that a strong wind won’t knock it over. I also require them to not weigh a ton, especially when we’re traveling.
A remote control. This isn’t absolutely necessary, on this day we set the timer on our camera and had it set to take as many subsequent photos as it could and we hit the red button and ran. This works, but I much prefer to use a remote control. If your camera has wifi you can probably find an app to connect your smartphone too. I don’t like these. I find them to be too slow. The remote controls we use are by Nikon and a generic brand for Nikon. They both work exactly the same in my opinion.
An extra battery to three. Taking family photos can take much longer than you anticipate and I recommend taking a ton of pictures. No one is going to be behind the camera to see when the perfect time to push the shutter button is, so taking a lot of pictures is the best way to guarantee you’ll have some good shots mixed in with a bunch of crappy ones.
An extra memory card. Unless you’re using a big memory card, have an extra one on hand… Just in case.
A few more helpful tips…
Don’t be afraid, to “just be” while the camera is clicking. Be yourselves. Talk, joke, tickle each other, throw a ball into the air, whatever.
We use a DSLR camera, but you can take great photos with a regular point and shoot. Either way, be sure to take some practice shots ahead of time to figure out what the focus will look like and to get the best possible framing of your picture.
Once you feel like you’ve gotten enough shots with the camera on your tripod. Take it off. Don’t be afraid to hand the camera off to another family member. My kids have taken some really great shots. Set it up, teach them how to look in the viewfinder and frame the photo and let them get creative. You will be amazed at the wonderful magic that can happen. Like these great shots of my husband Dennis and me.
We thought my son had finished taking pictures so we gave ourselves a congratulatory kiss because this episode of family portraits was a success and we could then go get some ice cream! My son caught it on camera, how fun!
I hope this helps you take some great family photos on your own. Also, if you’ve got some other tips to share, please share them in the comments.