If you’re looking for some new family photo ideas and are bored of the same traditional poses, creating a multi-frame photo grid like that popularised by the television show The Brady Bunch is a really fun and easy option.
Photo grids are a fantastic way of displaying a collection of portraits, and in this project we’re going to show you how to capture a set of candid family portraits, and then arrange them in a grid.
While you can download photo grid templates and software for creating grids from the internet, it’s easy to create your own in Photoshop Elements.
To liven up our portrait grid we’re going to add colourful backdrops to each image, so shoot your headshots against a plain background so that they’re easy to cut out.
You’ll also need to leave plenty of space around your subjects’ heads, so that you can crop in closer, if necessary, at the editing stage.
Photographing families can be a challenge, especially if there are a couple of shy members. Talk to your subjects and make some jokes to put them at ease, so that you can capture more natural-looking shots; as kids have a short attention span, keep them involved, and suggest funny faces they can pull to get them giggling and make them feel relaxed.
Ask your subjects to wear brightly coloured tops – you can then choose backdrop colours to contrast with these.
How to shoot and make your multi-frame photo grid
01 Find a location
For the portrait shoot you’ll need a light location with enough room to set up a portable backdrop, or a plain wall that you can use as a backdrop; we used a bright sunny room for our shoot. Make sure your subjects aren’t positioned in direct sunlight to avoid harsh shadows, and make sure you have even and consistent light throughout your shoot.
02 Shooting techniques
For capturing head-and-shoulder shots a standard zoom lens, such as your kit lens, will be fine if you don’t have a portrait lens. If you’re using a portable backdrop, get your subjects to sit on a chair or stool to ensure there’s enough of the backdrop visible around their heads, and leave plenty of room around your subjects when you shoot them.
03 Camera settings
Set your camera to Av (Aperture Priority) mode so that you can keep the aperture consistent, and set the aperture to f/5.6 to ensure your subjects’ heads and shoulders are in focus. Keep an eye on your shutter speed; anything slower than 1/60 sec may result in blurred images. Increase your ISO if you need a faster shutter speed; we shot at ISO400.
04 Start shooting
Set your lens to AF, and manually select the focus point closest to each subject’s eyes. Get your subjects to strike a range of poses and expressions, looking in different directions, so you have plenty of options for your grid: one person could be looking down at the person in the square below, for example, or waving to the person next to them in the grid.
05 Make a selection
Open your start files in Photoshop Elements. Alternatively, download our images and follow along! To clean up the backdrops use the Quick Selection tool to select the background: click-and-drag to paint a selection, zooming in and reducing the brush size for fiddly areas. If you make a mistake, hold down Alt and paint to deselect areas. Click Refine Edge, use the sliders to fine-tune the selection edge, then add a mask with the selection active; in Elements 11 you can fine-tune the edge by painting with the Refine Radius tool.
06 Change the background
Click the layer mask, and press Ctrl+I to invert the selection so the subject is visible, Go to Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Colour and click OK. Choose a colour from the Colour Picker, then drag the Fill layer below the cut-out layer. Repeat for all 12 portraits.
07 Build the grid
Go to File > New > Blank File and select A4. Take the Rectangle tool, select Fixed Size and set Width and Height to 7cm. Click on the canvas to add a square, which will appear as a shape layer in the Layers panel, and position it in the top-right corner. To make copies of the square, take the Move tool and Alt-drag to duplicate the layer. Position the copy next to the first square, and repeat to build a grid of 12 squares; you can drag out gridlines from the rulers to help you align the squares.
08 Add the portraits
Select the family_1.jpg file and go to Layer > Flatten Image. Take the Move tool, click-and-drag the file onto the grid document and position it over one the squares. Place the layer above the corresponding square layer in the layer stack, then Alt-click the line between the layers to create a clipping mask, so the portrait is only visible within the outline of the square. Repeat for the other images – you can reposition and resize each shot as required once they’re all in place.
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