Do you find yourself disappointed with the family portraits that you have taken in the past? There are a few great tips that you should use to improve the pictures you take. Plan ahead if at all possible. You can occasionally end up with great photographs when doing an unplanned photoshoot, but preparation usually produces a better outcome.
Think about how many people you want to fit into the portrait. If you have three to six people, try arranging family members in small groups. Pretend that you can draw a triangle from the faces of each person (arranging them with some standing up, and some sitting or the smaller members of the family in front of taller ones.) For larger groups, it is important to make sure that people’s faces aren’t covered up and that everyone stands close together so that they fit in the shot. Arrange the people in a staggered pattern, again you can use the idea of drawing triangles of different sizes with the faces as points in the triangle. This makes for an interesting arrangement if you don’t have a giant group to photograph.
Clothing is an important consideration. Many people are tempted to dress everyone in white shirts, but this is usually a bad idea. White will wash out the skin tones of some people and is not compliment all skin shades. Ideal colors would be shades of blue(denim is great for informal portraits,) tan, red, grey, and black. Solid colors are a good idea as vertical stripes or large patterns can be distracting and don’t always show a person’s figure at their best.
Shooting portraits that include children can be challenging. Get as much help explaining expectations to the kids and be prepared to be a little goofy or silly to keep their attention when trying to get everyone to look at the camera and smile. Having an assistant with you to wave a colorful toy or instruct the children to say a silly phrase while you are getting the shot is very helpful. The most important thing to remember is that children can often be frustrated, tired, and impatient (adults can be too!) You really have a limited time to work with when taking family portraits that include children.
Lighting may be the most important consideration when taking family portraits. Being aware of lighting conditions can make the difference between a good picture and an excellent one. If the sun is shining over your shoulder into the faces of your family members, you are going to get a picture with everyone squinting. Placing people under a tree while the sun shines down through the leaves might sound nice, but it will result in a dappled light look and a disappointing picture. If you are taking photos outside, the best time for the best lighting would be during the “golden hour.” This would be one or two hours before sunset.
If portraits are taken indoors, then make sure that the room has plenty of light and you have not placed direct light shining on the people. One of the best ways to get good lighting in a photograph taken indoors is to use an on-camera flash. Point the lighting part of the flash up at the ceiling and you will bounce a nice, soft light onto your family.
There are reasons why some pictures look great and others are disappointing. Unplanned family portraits are unlikely to produce great results, but if you keep in mind these simple tips, you and your family will be happier with the results.
Rose runs her own photography studio and business. Aside from that, she does some freelance to some magazines occasionally.