How to Take Great Family Pictures: Tips and Tricks for Photographers
Family photography is a kind of portrait photography. Family pictures can be staged at home or in a studio or can be a form of reportage, used in advertising, and for personal memories with individual clients. Models for shots can be any family members, from newborn children to great-grandmothers and great-grandfathers.
To help you succeed in creating high-quality and authentic family pictures, we have dedicated this article to the technical and practical aspects of family photography. This article will also be useful for those who have experience in family photography and want to continue their professional development in this genre.
What you should know about family photography
The idea behind family shots is to capture members of one family together. Most often, such photos are for personal use, but sometimes family photo sessions are booked by brands to use their images in advertising campaigns. On stock photography platforms like Depositphotos, photos of family, couples, and children are also extremely popular.
The peculiarity of family portraits is that the photographer usually works with non-professional models. This means that they should make an effort to explain to the heroes of the photoshoot how to position themselves in the frame, as well as help them get rid of stress.
There are several types of family photography: photos of newborns, husband and wife (this genre is close to ‘love story’), parents and children, sisters and brothers, as well as images of several generations of the same family. The number of people in the frame varies from one to dozens.
What is the best photo equipment to use for family photography? The answer depends on how many and what kind of people you are shooting. To begin with, opt for popular portrait lenses such as 35mm f/1.4G, 85mm f/1.8G, and 105mm f/2.8G. For large groups of people, it is best to use a wide-angle portrait lens.
And here are a couple of general tips for photographing families related to lighting equipment and accessories. For outdoor family photography, you’ll need a flash and a reflector, while for studio photography, a few flashes and softboxes are also helpful. The more lighting points you use, the more creative flexibility you get.
Preparing studio or outdoor location for family photo sessions
The place for family photo shoots are usually chosen by the family itself, but this does not mean that you cannot influence their choice and suggest better options. Remember that the members of the family you will be shooting most likely have poor photography experience, so they cannot always imagine the result or evaluate lighting conditions in their chosen location.
We advise you, first of all, to learn in detail about the task and the expectations of customers, and only then look for a shooting location. Traditional locations for family photography are:
— Photo studio with the interior imitates some living space
— Photo studio with a solid background (used for shooting couples or small families)
— The house where the family lives
— City landscapes
— Natural locations (for example, forest, park, field, or garden)
— Symbolic or important family locations (restaurant, playground, sports ground, or summer cottage)
One of the conditions for a successful family photoshoot is the photographer’s willingness to dive into someone’s third-party family history and traditions. At the organizational meeting, they need not only to analyze the client’s request but also to decide on visual references for the future project. Before family photo sessions, this person should visit the shooting location and assess its conditions (lighting, free space, interior, or exterior).
Remember, that it’s always better to shoot with lower ISO and higher shutter speed, so you can have less noise in the shots and no blurry models.
Important tips for photographing families with children: Consider the baby’s biorhythm and comfort. Children do not know how to fake emotions, so fatigue, fear, or irritation on their faces will be noticeable in photographs. The comfort of the child can be achieved through a comfortable temperature, sweets, toys, constant friendly communication with him, as well as the right time.
We also have some essential tips for family pictures taken outdoors. The best time for photoshoots in terms of natural light are morning and sunset. An overcast day will soften your shots, while harsh sunlight will help you shoot dynamic and even dramatic scenes using contrasts.
Top 7 poses for family pictures
If you decide to become a family photographer after your experience in staged advertising shooting with professional models, your main challenge will be that you need to teach families to pose in front of your camera. We offer you a list of the classic family photography poses for three or more people:
#1 Everyone is in a line, but not everyone has their shoulders turned to the camera
If the whole family is standing in a row facing the camera, family pictures look static, lifeless, and unnatural. Create a dynamic by asking children to hug their parents and turning some of the participants to face each other.
#2 Family members stand in two or three rows
This is a classic composition for which you need an armchair or chair. In the center of the composition (that is, sitting on a chair) should be a member of the family you want to focus on. For example, the head of the family or a woman with a newborn child.
The rest of the family stands behind the back of the chair or, if there are more than four participants or there are small children, several more people stand or sit in front of the chair. To make the composition come out balanced, make sure that you can draw an imaginary triangle on top of it.
#3 Family hugs
A large family photo shooting is usually more relaxed than a couple one since a large number of relatives gathered in one place already creates a special atmosphere. Thus, all participants feel relaxed and natural. To convey the atmosphere of the shoot, ask family members to hug each other. After taking a few shots, ask everyone to swap places, and hug each other in a new way.
#4 The photographer pretends they are not there
Most of the tips for family pictures are about the right attitude to the camera. First, your models have to get used to and stop noticing photography equipment. Second, you, as a photographer, should not leave your camera, since the most interesting and natural shots are taken when models forget about lenses.
Let participants take breaks during photo shooting, but don’t stop taking photos. Get ready to capture moments of conversation between children and adults, running around toddlers and laughing grandparents. To get better shots, keep your models near flash and reflectors.
#5 ‘All together now!’ poses
Ask your models to do something particular at the same time. They can jump, sing their favorite song, wave their hands, clap them, turn their heads to one side, or dance. The repetitive elements and poses make the photo more rhythmic and dynamic.
#6 Let a family look like one item
Avoid empty spaces between family members who pose for you. Since your task is to shoot a family, not individuals, and to illustrate family ties, you need to literally ‘blind’ family members into a single compositional block. Ask them to come closer to each other, hug, and tilt their heads to each other.
#7 Tell a family story or fill family pictures with symbols
Each family has its secrets, stories, rituals and hierarchy. To figure out how to position your clients in the frame without using standard poses, you need to study them. Who is the head of this family? How do these people live? How do they spend their free time? What do they like to eat? Let family members tell you about themselves, then try to frame them so that part of the story comes to life.
Tips for family pictures for photographers
In addition to family photo sessions often meaning work with unprofessional models, there are other important features of family photography that you should be prepared for. First, not all family members might be friendly to you. Second, children can act in an unexpected way. Third, getting a shot that every family member likes is tricky.
To make it easier for you to work with families, we’ve compiled a list of guidelines for fun and stressless family photography from Depositphotos contributors:
Plan actions, not poses
Some families do take photos a lot and know how to pose. But the chances that you will come across such heroes all the time are very low.
If you ask an inexperienced person to take one or another pose, they may feel uncomfortable, which will be reflected in the photo. Instead of using poses, speak with clients in the language of actions, everyday situations, and emotions. For example, you can build a family photo session around the usual activities that the family does while walking.
Use the bokeh effect
Family photography is primarily a portrait. You can shoot people in full height or close-up, but you should always remember that the main thing for you at the moment is the person’s face and emotions, not the background. To emphasize the facial expressions and gestures of your models, apply the blurred background effect that is possible when shooting with a telephoto lens.
Talk to your heroes as much as possible
Talk to customers before the photo session, get to know all the participants during the shooting, and ask senior people about the origin of their family. This communication will not only relax your clients but also help you understand how to better shoot them.
Visual instructions are better than words
When preparing for a family portrait shoot, put together a folder with visual references. These can be not only references regarding the concept of the photo shooting but also examples of posing. It will be much easier for you to explain to your heroes what you want from them by showing their images on a tablet.
But don’t forget about the potential of the environment!
Trees in a park, an arch between houses, and a cafe window can help you shape your composition. You can use other objects as natural frames for your shots.
Never underestimate family outfit
The clothes chosen by family members who come to your photo session are a full-fledged semantic and artistic element of family pictures. Moreover, the clothes of these people should be in harmony with the interior or an outdoor location where the photo session takes place. Otherwise, your image will lack balance. Agree in advance about the style of clothing and, if possible, its color scheme.
Family photography is a popular type of group and solo portrait photography. Families book group photo sessions to capture warm moments spent together, and companies use images of happy (or even anxious) family members in their campaigns.
What are the top tips for photographing families to remember if you are just starting your career as a family photographer? Our major advice is the following: use a standard lens and camera for portrait photography and try to connect with everyone involved in the photoshoot. This will help you get comfortable with family photography and start your first creative experiments.
Experienced family photographers can use their skills to earn extra money on Depositphotos. Upload images of families to your portfolio and follow the demand for them using your personal account. Don’t forget the model release forms so you can upload images with people to stock photography websites if you choose this path.