Family Portraits: Plan Ahead for Winning Photos

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Family blowing bubbles on a quilt

Taking family pictures isn’t as simple as pointing your camera at the family and hoping for a good result. Go above and beyond during family portrait session, taking along a mental list of shots to keep the shoot flowing.  I use this list of groupings with each family session.

Take the entire family picture first. It’s the main picture I am hired for, and I want babies and teens to be their happiest, which is usually right at the beginning. If I find that some family members need to warm up a bit, I’ll still start with a handful of family pictures and plan to take more later.

Taking family pictures

After the first family picture, it’s time for the individual child pictures. I take pictures of a baby or toddler first. I don’t want them to wait so I can capture the happiest face. It’s a great time for any other kids to roam and relax, so they only need to be “on” when it’s their turn.

Individual pictures of kids

After taking individual pictures, I gather all the children for a group picture. I get the mom and dad to help get the best smiles. Dads can be pretty funny!

Family shot of the children

After the children’s group picture, I give them a break and enlist their help in getting their parents to relax and smile. Parents don’t often expect this, and may fight against it, but I feel passionately that couples are still couples who often haven’t taken a nice pictures of just the two of them since their wedding day. Children have fun making silly faces at their parents and getting them to smile.

Take a picture of couples at family session

After the kids have played entertainer, and the parents are photographed together, I take another posed family shot, set up differently from the one before. Often the family is more relaxed, but sometimes they are restless. It’s really hit or miss which posed shot will come out better, depending on the day and how the family is responding.

How to Take family pictures

At this point in the shoot, I have the family just play. Sometimes it’s a tickle fight or, if they have a ball, they play catch. They cuddle, giggle and relax. I want candid images — they are some of my favorites.

Taking pictures on a family walk

I’ve generally used this order successfully when I photograph families.  If you feel paralyzed by photographing families, and all that comes along with this, keep this list in your back pocket.

Photo credit: Kristen Duke

 

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