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Family photo ideas for better pictures

Updated on March 14, 2015

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Family photos

You get your family together, put the cute outfits on all the kids, get everyone paying attention and looking the right direction, you take a couple of shots that you think look good and your happy. Later you look at the photos on a bigger screen, and they look like crap. This scenario happens hundreds of times every day. If you want to make sure that this never happens again too you, read this article and follow the tips.

1. Don’t let your family members control the photo. If you’re shooting the pictures, have a plan, know what you want the shots to look like, and take control. Get ideas from other people before you make the final plans, then decide what you want to do. I learned long ago that if you take control the shoot will go quick and be much better for everyone.

Experiment with light in photography

2. Don’t always go for traditional shots. Take the traditional shots because lots of people like those shots, but don’t get stuck, try something different and offbeat. Take some candid shots when they are getting set and are not ready, they may be the best shots of all. Play with the positions of the subjects as well, You can do shots of your subjects laying on the ground, standing, sitting or combinations of each.

3. Don’t forget to pay attention to the lighting. Light can make or break a photo. Avoid direct sunlight in the shot, the harshness will ruin the shot. The best lighting is indirect sunlight or open shade. Take the shots in the shade of a tree, building or cloud to get the best even light. If you’re shooting the shot at sunset or sunrise, you can use the side lighting for some really great shots.

Include the whole family


Background and props

4. Don’t overlook the background. Look through the viewfinder of the camera and look for things behind people that will look out of place. Make sure there are no tree branches that look like they are coming out of someone's head, or something distracting off in the distance. A bright reflection of light in a background can pull the viewers eyes away from the subjects. You want the background to enhance the shot, not take over the focus of the shot or be a distraction from the subjects.

5. Don’t forget the pets and other meaningful props. Pets are an important part of most families if they have them. If family member have pets, many are treated as part of the family, you want to include them in family photos so to enhance the shot. Kids may have special toys or things they carry around all the time, include them in the shot for extra photo enhancement.

Change angles

6. Don’t get stuck on a certain lens. The majority of portraits are shot with a lens in the 75 to 120mm range. That doesn’t mean that you have to use that range for all shots. I have taken some great shots from a distance with a 300mm lens and some with a 30mm lens. Try a variety of lenses and different distances. Find what works best for the shot.

7. Don’t get stuck with the straight on shot. Try different angles. Try shooting from one side or the other. Try shooting from high on a ladder, or low from ground level. You could get the best shot ever by slightly changing the angle of the shot. You don’t know if you don’t try.

Natural family shot


Take lots of photos

8. Don’t take too few shots. You’re using a digital camera, you can take many many shots, and keep the good ones. I would take 50 to 100 shots at any photo shoot. You can get great candid shots of individuals or couples while they are getting ready, or doing something else. If you take 80 shots at a photoshoot and you get 15 or 20 really good shots, you’re set. You are likely to get some great shots of kids and other individuals that they will cherish for years.

9. Make it fun. Don’t be too serious. Make sure you are in control, but make sure everyone is having a good time. This is the only way to get a bunch of good shots from the group. Joke around, have everyone laughing and having a good time, and you will get great candids as well as great group shots.

If you follow these tips and take lots of candid shots, your photoshoot will be a huge success. Some of the most cherished and loved shots I have taken were when people were not paying attention to me, they were just doing normal things interacting with other family members.


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    • spease profile image

      spease 5 years ago from Minneapolis Mn

      Your right, the value is in the memory it brings back.

    • DpsDave profile image

      David Orr 5 years ago from Oregon, USA

      I see thousands and thousands of "granny grabber" photographs, and your advice would make a big difference! The value in these is emotional, and the owners consider them priceless. Once in a while magic happens, though. The best photo I've ever seen is out of focus, off center and violates all the rules, but wow!

    • spease profile image

      spease 5 years ago from Minneapolis Mn

      The great thing about family portraits is they are an instant in time, that will never happen again, and memories that last.

    • Bedbugabscond profile image

      Melody Trent 5 years ago from United States

      Lighting is so important. There are some shots which have turned out amazing, and others that went flop. I take as many different pictures as I can, and usually end up with something that pleases everyone.

    • spease profile image

      spease 5 years ago from Minneapolis Mn

      your welcome. Enjoy your family photo shoot.

    • profile image

      kelleyward 5 years ago

      Lighting, angles, and taking lots of shots are something I always try to include when shooting family photos. Thanks for the important tips we are planning to take some family photos next weekend and your tips will help us to prepare! Take care, Kelley