When it comes to love and family, the experiences and growth you share together mean everything. Naturally, you’re going to want to capture some of this on camera. Between all the holidays, birthdays, and countless other family events & activities, you will have plenty of family photoshoot opportunities to capture great family photos.
Wait! Before you go ahead looking to hire a professional photographer, know that you can simply do it yourself. With major advancements in optical technology, almost anyone can produce top notch family pictures. Even lower end point and shoot cameras can get you good pictures which doesn’t take much skill. Better DSLR and mirrorless cameras will allow you even further quality even for beginners with powerful features that will automatically adjust the focus, exposure, and a plethora of other camera settings. Additionally, most DSLR and mirrorless cameras will include great video recording features that work wonders when creating home videos or online content.
Whether you’re putting mom and dad, young children, or the whole family in front of the camera, there are a few great tips we would like to share that will help make your family photo sessions a lot of fun while producing memorable photos that can be cherished for eternity.
It can be hard to keep everyone focused whenever having family portrait sessions. Let’s knock out one of the hardest things about family photography right away—the kids. Young, full of energy and constantly in motion. Kids already make for a challenging subject to photograph, and that difficulty seems to triple around the holidays. Children can be especially rowdy and unpredictable when you’re on-the-go, traveling to visit distant relatives. Just try getting little kids to stand still long enough for a group photo after they’ve wolfed down a plate of cookies after a Christmas party. The simple solution to getting kids to behave during these crucial limited edition family photo ops is through rewarding. One trip to the dollar store before the shoot and you can temporarily transform devils into angels. Just make it clear that they must behave if they are to be rewarded.
Keeping everyone focused through incentives may work for kids, but sometimes you need to keep adults focused as well. Everyone’s got a jokester in the family and especially around holidays the world is their audience. The trick is to use peoples personality and character to enhance the experience for all family members while capturing authentic, clear, and timeless family pictures. The best way to keep everyone in sync is to talk to them. Articulate their strengths to them while showing moral support via flattery or jokes. Engage with the subjects while taking candid photos to lighten the mood. Often breaking the ice with a few shots will relax everyone and open doors for great opportunity shots that will be easier to “direct” as the photoshoot/event progresses.
For many people the phrase family photo conjures images of awkward group photos where one person’s blinking, another is placing “bunny ears” on their little sibling, and still others are looking at the wrong camera. There’s always going to be a few of those awfully awkward group photos around the holidays, but the good news is you can leverage your authority as the camera aficionado among your friends and family to orchestrate the perfect group shot. Here’s a brief list of tips to help you land that group shot:
One camera at a time to avoid multi-directional stares.
Use a tripod and a timer - so that everyone gets to be in the shot.
Take multiple shots - at least one of them will have everyone’s eyes open.
Use the right settings - wide angle or portrait lens, shutter speed, decent depth of field (f/5.6 - f/6.3) to keep everyone in focus. The Sony a7C Full Frame Mirrorless Camera is a terrific midrange camera for beginners looking to take the next step up from point and shoot or smartphone cameras. The a7C is small, lightweight, takes incredible stills and video, while offering powerful auto features ideal for anyone looking for a little help finding the perfect settings.
Planning the time of day & lighting - if you’re shooting outside in natural light, consider doing it during golden hour which will get you some of the most amazing photos. For indoor shoots, ensure you have a proper light source. You can spend hours reading tutorials on setting up light sources which can help you, but ultimately you can easily check by looking at a preview image in your cameras viewfinder. Avoiding deep and harsh shadows is ideal. Experiment using 1 main light source and 2 supporting light sources to expose your subject and composition correctly (this is how pros do it)
The real family photography magic happens outside the posed group photo everyone takes at the end of a family gathering—it’s those candid moments where friends and relatives are interacting with one another and having a good time. Instead of forced smiles and poses you can capture genuine expressions by sneaking in quick clandestine photos while your subjects are unaware. All the usual action photography tips apply. Try to use fast lenses and take advantage of shutter priority mode, but be mindful of indoor lighting, increasing your ISO as necessary to adjust the shot. Take lots of photos or use the burst mode feature on your camera—you’ll be able to pick quality stills after the event.
There are awesome instant cameras in the event you’re shooting a more relaxed event or outing and don’t want to bring all your camera gear. Often times, you can get the most memorable family photo while shopping at the mall, at a park, or museum. You’ll never know when the opportunity will arise, so it’s nice to keep a small instant camera, perfect for candid shots, like the Fujifilm Instax Mini 12 handy in your purse or car.
Genuine shots are nice because you can capture some of the shyer subjects at the gathering in their natural habitat. Oftentimes however, lighting and location may not be in favor of your camera’s capabilities—that’s when you’ll need to play director and set up a professional shot. Don’t be afraid to leverage your authority as a photographer and move parents and their kids around so that you can capture them in front of the right background. Keep in mind that you are trying to tell a story with your lens—if the fall colors and lighting are better over the picnic table in the empty camping spot adjacent to your lot, don’t be afraid to bring the family over there for a better autumn family photo. Keep your eyes open and ready for opportunities to tell the story of this family gathering.
While you may be tasked with being the “official” family photographer, don’t forget to have fun and live in the spirit of happiness. Most people feel awkward when a camera is pointed towards them—a factor that can be amplified if the subject detects the stress within the photographer behind the camera. Just be yourself, project enthusiasm and excitement, and your subjects will do the same. A genuine smile is always better than a forced one, and if everyone is having fun it will show in your photographs.