Family Portraits Dos and Don'ts

Family Portraits Dos and Don'ts

If you are a photographer he will need to be skilled in a family portrait because this usually is the bread-and-butter for any photographer. If you study the history of photography the first popular use of a camera was not simply for abstract art or even the family pet, but for taking pictures of people and their families. Because the expense and difficulty of a photo taken of the family, you need to become a master at getting things right the first time they need to be able to fit many people into the frame as possible. You'll need to hone in on small things, as this is a classic and overlooked form of photography. Here's some do's and don'ts of family portraits.

Family Portraits Dos

Family Portrait

1. Squish your group together

Typically most families are not getting close enough. Maybe it's an American personal space issue, but when you can get everyone in tight it'll make a difference in the tone of the picture. When a family is physically close it shows warmth and visually shows what family should look like... close. Even if you happen to be photographing the Adams family it'll make everyone look like they are a model family and the entire composition seems more finished than just a typical snapshot. To start you should try having people stand at slight angles with their shoulders overlapping. Check the age of the family and if grandmas present you need to have a chair for her. If you have both grandpa and grandma you will need two chairs.

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2. Do coordinate clothing

Before you take the picture of the family you want to guide them in a wardrobe check. It is up to the family as to the style they want to choose and what they wear but you might want to remind them that when you overlap in a color scheme, or avoid extreme colors, or even print in logos on the clothing can make a big difference. This makes it easier postproduction and you have options in both color and black-and-white. Again the picture is their choice but your casual recommendation as a professional can be appreciated.

3. Do check the screen for blinking

Shooting is okay for one or two people, but when you get a larger group it's hit and miss, as you need to have everyone keep their eyes open. Yes you might think you're using digital and its rapid-fire but you will see that after a few sessions of transplanting eyes from one photo to another in Photoshop you won't go that method anymore. You can get away with a weak smile but if someone looks like they're sleeping on drugs for the first family portrait in 10 years you will not have a happy customer. As you gain more experience you will quickly scan across everyone's eyes in an instant.

4. Try to be funny and get some genuine smiles

Cheesy jokes seem to work and they break tension. A typical photographer joke might be," okay I need everyone to get in focus." Or asking everyone to strike their best glamour pose. Another way to get them to smile is to do something they don't normally do. Have them jump, run or make human pyramids or whatever comes to your mind. Any one-liner that you used successfully to get a creative and fun pose will help.

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5. Do try and blur the background

Choose the largest aperture setting you can while still keeping everyone sharp. An aperture of F/2.8 can make the trees and shrubbery looks smooth but might make someone in the photo at the end of the line look fuzzy. This is usually a problem when everyone is standing on different focal planes. You can solve this by shooting a few clicks smaller than the lenses widest aperture. You can use the preview screen and zoom button on your camera to make sure everyone is looking good, then adjust and continue. If you really get into this I have heard that photographers set out cups lengthwise on a picnic table to estimate the distance as you start to lose focus.

Family Portraits Don'ts

Family Portrait Mistake

1. Don't forget to check all your basic camera settings before clicking

ISO should be as low as possible, image size should be RAW fine, exposure compensation, metering etc. you don't want to get to the end of a great session and realize you didn't change the low-quality settings from the last time you used your camera shooting children that you plan to sell on eBay. Of course indoor and outdoor settings differ as will naturally lit or artificially lit.

2. Don't let your subjects tilt their heads into each other

This can work if you are with the family barbecue but not when you were a paid professional. Subjects tend to think they fit into the picture better if they tilt and lower their heads. You want to watch for this and avoid it. There is always some fun poses were people intentionally lean their heads in but that's not what you're trying to do in a family portrait.

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3. Don't sound insecure

Try not to say things like" this isn't working." Rephrase it and say okay let's try a few more positions. The more you tell them that the pictures are looking great the better the pictures you will get. Think the high-fashion models clichés such as" love it, your beautiful, what a great picture." If you act like you've never seen such great photos the energy gives you what you're looking for and they will show confidence in their smiles.

4/5. These are two that may seem to contradict each other so I'm going to put them together.4. Don't let mom run the show 5. Don't be afraid to let mom, dad and the kids come up with their own ideas and posing.

First regarding mom. She typically doesn't want any fun till after the pictures. She might want to promise a treat for the way home. It's probably the best way to ruin the family picture for the rest of every eight-year-olds life. It's almost impossible to control what an eight-year-old will do so it makes it bad for portrait sessions. If you happen to have a strong-arm mother get the formals done right off the bat. They are easy and traditional. After that you can let mom know that she can have fun with the kids. They can be playing and wrestling and you can capture them at their best. Every now and then you can find families that are more relaxed. They have seen fun family photos of their friends and want to do the same. Taken their suggestions without letting them think you have none of your own and work with them. Typically it will turn out great and they will feel like they've had more to do with these pictures and just a pretty face.

"The photograph captures eternity, in fact proving that everything is only a brief moment in the eyes of eternity."

Ali Smith