Photography tips – a family picture

*Updated after several years of family photos*

My new goal in life (along with plethora of others…the list is long) is to have several family photos.

I think my parents got a professional picture about once every ten years.  Seriously, my grandmother had a family picture before I was born of mother, father, and older sister with my baby picture TAPED to it.  For about 15 years.  Sorry, Mom, I have loftly goals so you never have our family picture hanging up in your house that looks like that!

Here’s a few things to think about when taking a family picture:

Step 1: Learn to use your camera’s timer or buy a remote.  The remote for my Nikon was about $18.  Unfortunately I couldn’t find a nice cheap one for my Nikon D300S

Step 2: Buy a tripod for your camera…or just use a ladder like I did here.  Tripods are much easier to adjust though, take it from me.

Step 3: Get everyone dressed nice.  This means dressing in non-clashing colors, no logo shirts, and for goodness sakes don’t do white if at all possible.  White has got to be one of the hardest “colors” to photograph.  Just remember that 20 years from now your grown children are going to look at these pictures and say things like, “I can’t believe you dressed us like that!”.  Try to stay away from clothes that are too trendy.  Just a little suggestion to put in your cap.

Step 4: Drink a glass of wine after having gotten everyone dressed nice and matching.  Okay, onto the next step…

Step 5: Find your location.  Outside?  Find shade or hope for a nice overcast day.  If you are going for full-sunshine, then make sure everyone has their back to the sun to minimize squinting.  Inside?  Find an area with a lot of light that isn’t too busy.  Feel free to move your furniture around if it’s in the way.  Look at your home with new eyes for interesting doors or walls, that once devoid of furniture, can make a great backdrop.

Generally, I try to find a nearby park or other interesting location for our family shoots.  I have gone on trails just to check them out for photograph possibilities.  I try to stay away from areas with lots of people or traffic.  You are leaving your camera alone on the tripod to set up the shot, so you don’t want someone to knock it over.

Step 6: Set up your tripod/ladder/chair and take some test shots.  Have your husband stand there while you shoot, since Lord knows your children won’t stand still long enough for test shots PLUS the actual family picture.

Step 7:  Pour yourself another glass of wine…this is getting a little stressful.

Step 8:  Get everyone in place.  I am more for casual shots, so feel free to sit on the floor/ground indian style with your kids in your laps.  Then everyone is close to the same level.  Look at websites of your favorite photographers ahead of time to get some posing inspiration.

Step 9:  Start shooting…and shoot lots.  You are digital right?  Those shots don’t cost a thing.  This is where a remote is easier than a timer, since you don’t have to get up in between each shot and can just push the button.  Are the kids smiling or at least looking happy?  Try tickling…or have them say “Smelly Feet” or anything that will get them laughing/smiling.

Telling my kids to tickle each other usually gives me instant smiles before they even start attacking their sibling.  Get ready to take the shot as soon as the words leave your mouth!

Step 10:  Check your shots.  Do you have some that will work?  Success!  Now to start to processing them, but that can wait….

Step 11:  Might as well finish off that bottle…you deserve it after all that work! 😉

In all seriousness, taking a family picture yourself is far less stressful than going to a churn style portrait factory such as Sears, Proex, JC Penny, etc.  You are in your own home, your kids are comfortable and you can take as much time as you need.  Have fun with it!

Going to new and interesting places for the photoshoots keeps the kids a bit engaged.  If it is “an adventure” with ice cream afterwards for cooperation (BRIBERY WORKS!), then you can usually get some pretty good shots.

Family Photo 2013 (This was at a historical park set up for the late 1800’s)

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Family Photo 2012 (This was a nature area near our house overlooking a river valley.  It was a short walk up the hill)

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Family Photo 2011 (This is at a small town’s downtown main street that is a dead end.  Very little traffic around it)

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Family Photo 2010 (At an old historical house in our town that is open to the public)

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9 Replies to “Photography tips – a family picture”

  1. I’ve just been thinking about this very subject. We haven’t had a family picture made since Drew was 9 months old. I was going to attempt it myself using many of the methods you’ve suggested above, but I’ve hit on a much better idea! Through Flickr I’ve made friends with a professional photographer in my town. Friends as in, we hang out. Nice. He’s coming over tomorrow evening, his kid is going to play with my kids, I’m going to cook him dinner, and…he’s going to do a family photo shoot for us, free of charge. All I have to purchase is the prints, at cost! I am so excited! I love his style, and would pay him in a heartbeat, but free is so much better!

  2. Alissa, you’re a lucky woman!!!

    Stacy, I’m all about the wine. Although, I think perhaps you should start off with a glass when prior to attempting the first step. Then have a glass between each step. That way by the time you’re doing shooting picture, you’ll be relaxed you won’t really care how they turned out and surely one of them will be good!

  3. ROFL! I love steps #4, 7 and 11! I can handle that part. :o)

    I really, really, really need to work on a family portrait! It’s hard without a remote…

  4. I’m in on the wine…I’ll have to build courage and stamina for the family portrait via remote. Ah, what the heck. I’ll do it by summer’s end.

    Great post.

  5. Alissa, congratulations on getting hooked up with another photographer! That’s great!

    Yes, ladies, it is something we need to do but it is so hard isn’t it?? BUT something that is really worthwhile doing. 🙂 I hope you all can git ‘er done!

  6. LOL that was excellent! thanks for the laughs and tips. 🙂
    the last family photo we had done was right after julian was born (taken by a professional). i’d love to try some more that i do myself. i even have a remote, but i have yet to try it out. i really need to get on that. it has to be sooo much easier than running back and forth to the camera to reset the timer. i did that while i was pregnant and trying for maternity pics of myself. HARD WORK! 😉

  7. Amy, I was a little leary of my timer at first, but it is SO EASY to use! Go for it! Yes, the timer is much harder, especially if you are pregnant. I wish I had done some nice maternity pics for myself, but didn’t have my nice camera at the time anyways.

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