Taking official family photos is a role that most photographers find themselves assuming whether they like it or not. Taking pictures of family – especially your own immediate family – can be quite a challenge certainly in terms of technique, but also in getting everyone to work with you, to think about the process and stay engaged while you direct them.
All the professional photographers know this, but it’s a trade secret they’re not so quick to dish out. In this portrait photography tutorial we show you everyhing you need to know to shoot family photos everyone will be proud of.
We’ll show you how to keep it natural, capture candids, direct a shoot, keep your family focused on the shoot and how to mix it up with action shots and stylish alternatives that can give your pictures of family a real unique look.
Children have an energy and a vibrancy that’s difficult to capture inside a studio – and almost impossible when they’re shouting ‘cheese’! Capturing their personality in a totally natural state will always work best, and if they’re your kids you’ll know what’s likely to work.
Are they always full of laughter? Are they daring? Maybe they love to sit quietly and play with a favourite toy? Whatever personality they have, the first challenge when photographing them is to recognise that and work with it.
Regardless of where the shoot takes place, you must get them used to the camera. Energy levels will always be highest at the beginning of a shoot, so use this to your advantage and don’t waste a single shot.
Use this ‘golden hour’ to play with them and make the connection. Fit a wide-angle lens and avoid looking through the viewfinder to compose your shots, shooting from the hip and poking the camera towards their face instead. Get them used to the shutter sound and not having to look down the lens and smile.
Keep it natural
If you let them play around and don’t force the issue at the beginning, the calmer portraits and natural-looking family photos will come later. Keep them on their favourite swing or seesaw at the park and carry on shooting.
Tell them the family photo shoot is a big game and promise them a treat if they win. All they have to do is to be good and allow you to get some great pictures – while they have all the fun.
Whenever the energy’s there, keep shooting pictures of family. Some children get bored really quickly, so while they’ve got a spark left in them make sure you’re getting the pictures. You can of course help the action out a little by introducing movement in your photos.
Select a slower shutter speed by switching to Shutter Priority or Manual exposure mode and choose around 1/30 sec. Use a wide-angle lens around 18-24mm to help reduce camera shake and activate your flash to help freeze the subject and sharpen up the child’s face.
This method will really boost the action in any picture and give it a sense of speed and energy. Try getting them to jump in front of the lens or run around playing a game where they have to catch the camera.
PAGE 1: How to get natural-looking family photos
PAGE 2: How to take family action photos
PAGE 3: How to direct family photo shoots
PAGE 4: How to capture candid pictures of family
PAGE 5: Getting the best from your family
PAGE 6: Group family photos: how to keep them engaged
PAGE 7: How to shoot stylish family photos
PAGE 8: How to shoot baby portraits
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3 stupidly simple lighting techniques that will transform your family portraits
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