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Family Photos - 5 Techniques For Taking Better Family Pictures

Updated on January 10, 2011

Wow Your Friends And Family With a New Perspective

"Say Cheese!"

As photographers, we all know that the most interesting photos are not the ones where we had the family line up next to each other and ask for the smile. Nope, the best people photos are the ones that show some character and personality. The best pictures also portray a story, or at least have a creative sense of design and layout.

Take the time to think about your situation. What is it you want to show in your pictures? And how can you do it with interest. The more you exercise your "photographic brain" and experiment, the more wonderful pictures you will create.

Look at family photos online and try to figure out why you like certain ones and others don't do much for you. If you are having brain lock, you can always copy what others have done and add your own twist to it. There is nothing wrong with using other creative minds as a springboard for your own work. As you practice, you will get better at coming up with your own personalized perspective.

Choose a Different Perspective
Choose a Different Perspective
Use props to add interest
Use props to add interest
Take the photo from a different angle
Take the photo from a different angle

Inexpensive Digital SLR Cameras Are Best For Family Photos

Take Tons of Pictures

The beauty of the digital photography age is that snapping pictures costs you nothing.

As mentioned, most professional photographers, and casual photographers, will agree that the candid shot is much more desirable than the posed portrait. But that means that you have to get the right shot... the one that tells the story and looks totally random. Whereas you can take one or two posed shots and call it a day, the candids take time and patience. You must shoot lots of images before you get one or two that are worthy of your efforts.

The best time to take these candid shots is when everyone is relaxed and interacting normally. That's when you capture their true personality in the camera. While this can happen around the house at almost any time, parties and social events are excellent places to think about getting those candids. The participants are usually clean and ready for the spotlight. And even more important, they are distracted by the activity of the event and don't tend to "pose" for the camera as much.

One thing you, the photographer need to keep in mind is to not draw attention to yourself. Just become a natural part of the surroundings and you will get much better results from your subjects. Blend.

Part of blending is being there for the duration. It is very difficult to show up at the beginning of an event and get the best shots. As you exercise patience and do your thing, the people are more apt to feel comfortable with you around and act naturally. It's a good guess that your better photos will come later rather than sooner. Have patience.

Tom Sawyer has nothing on me! "The boys" were so engaged they didn't even notice their picture was being taken.
Tom Sawyer has nothing on me! "The boys" were so engaged they didn't even notice their picture was being taken.
Candid shots with interaction among subjects tell a story.
Candid shots with interaction among subjects tell a story.
Always be ready.. you never know when you will discover the next SuperHero!
Always be ready.. you never know when you will discover the next SuperHero!

Accessories That Will Help You Get Those Amazing Family Photos

Choose The Right Gear

Knowing your equipment and choosing just the right lens or camera setting can make or break your family photo session.

People photography is much better if you can use a camera or lens that has a large aperture. Apertures are also known by their f-stop designation. The larger the aperture (smaller numbered f-stops = larger aperture openings), the better your chances for a great photo that separates your subject from the background. There is nothing that destroys the quality of a portrait faster than a distracting background.

Many photographers use prime, or single focal length lenses, for their people portraits and candid shots. Prime lenses tend to have a nicer background blur and a larger aperture. Sharp focus on the main subjects with blurred backgrounds are the best way for showcasing the star of the photo.

Another reason for large aperture cameras or lenses is for taking pictures inside when the light is not optimum. The larger the aperture, the more light can enter the camera, thus you will have less chance of a blurry subject.

The best lens? Probably a 50mm lens with a large aperture, such as a Canon 50mm f/1.4, or a very inexpensive Canon 50mm f/1.8mm lens will work very well. If you are going for group shots, you will want a wider angle lens or you will need to move farther back from your subjects.

For indoor shots of groups, a 50mm lens may be too strong because of the limited distance you can put between you and your subjects, so you may have to go with a wider angle prime lens or a zoom lens with a good, wide aperture.

Taken in a very poorly lit restaurant with a Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 wide aperture lens.
Taken in a very poorly lit restaurant with a Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 wide aperture lens.
Once again, props add interest.
Once again, props add interest.
You can also "fake" candid. In this one, I asked the kids to make believe there was a possum up in the tree. This photo would not have been possible without a large aperture lens.
You can also "fake" candid. In this one, I asked the kids to make believe there was a possum up in the tree. This photo would not have been possible without a large aperture lens.

Play With Your Camera and Your Subjects

Most of you will agree that the best family pictures are not the posed ones, but rather the candid shots that look like they are not stiff and fake. Good shots do tell a story or hint at one. They establish a relationship between the viewer and the picture, even if you are not a family member.

Telling a story can leave some room for imagination. The viewer will have fun trying to figure out why the kids in the above photo were looking up. This was a "planned candid". They had fun playing in the leaves, and as they became used to the camera snapping from all directions, they got very comfortable and "candid."

There are lots of times when props add interest to the story as well. In the photo of the telephone, I noticed that the old photo was sitting on the table. It had been taken a few years earlier, and the thought of taking the same pose (minus the suit) next to the photograph and the phone might be interesting.

These kinds of ideas will begin to come naturally as you develop your photography techniques.

Never Leave Home Without Your Camera

It's kind of like the old credit card add... "Don't leave home without it.." The same is true about your camera. Most of the times that you do leave home without it, you will wish you had it. There is invariably a photo op waiting for you when you least expect it.

Sure, there are times when the old camera phone will have to do, and those cameras are now sporting 3-megapixels and more. However, it is so much better when you have your best equipment available and ready.

Depending on the camera you are using, carrying it with you everywhere is not always possible. For instance, toting the camera into a restaurant is not usually very comfortable if you have a clunky digital SLR with a monster lens. However, a compact point and shoot camera can go with you anywhere if it is small enough to fit into a pocket or purse. The great news is that compact cameras are not only small, they are also capable. You can get some really good digital cameras that have lots of the pro features for $200-$400. That is a real bargain when it comes to the memories they will create.


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    • thewayeyeseeit profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Woodstock, GA

      Charlinex, coming from another photographer, your comment means a lot. Thanks for taking the time to visit and comment.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      The photos are all very nice, but the family hidding behind tree shot is superb!


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