Having a nice family photo to hang on the wall or to hand out during the holidays can seem like quite the chore, but the good news is that it doesn’t have to be. While getting everybody together for a photo opportunity can be stressful, there are ways to make things run smoothly and improve your picture-taking skills while you’re at it. The following five steps are simple and will have you taking flawless family photos in no time flat!
1.) Coordinate Clothing
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when taking a family photo is not coordinating clothing. There is nothing worse than squeezing everybody together for a photo and then realizing that everybody clashes with one another. In order to avoid this issue entirely, it’s a good idea to plan ahead and guide your family in wardrobe choice. You want your photo to seem genuine and for each family member’s personality to shine through. In order to do this, try not to dictate clothing choice too much. In other words don’t make your son who would never be caught dead in a polo shirt wear exactly that, rather focus more on coordinating with one another. Your family members should feel comfortable and be themselves when it comes to what they wear, but just be sure to remind everybody to keep a certain overlapping color scheme in mind and to avoid any extreme colors, prints, and/or logos.
2.) All Together Now
There is always going to be that one family member who has their personal bubble and needs a certain amount of space around them, however a family photo is not the time or place for “space”. Furthermore, having everybody squeeze in tight really does make a difference in the tone of the picture. When families are physically close it emits a warmth and visually shows what being a family is all about…being close and supporting one another. The best way to pull this off is to try and get everybody to stand at a slight angle with their shoulders overlapping. Other important things to consider when it comes to space and composition of a photo are the age and height of each family member. Tallest and/or older family members can be directed more towards the back of the photo, or on the ends of a photo with younger family members in between. You might consider putting small children in the front. Family pets will look great at the ends or in front of others. To add a bit of fun you can hold them or have them sitting in front, lying down or even performing a trick off to the sides. If elderly family members are present it might even be a good idea to bring in a few chairs and have them sit for the picture in front of everybody else.
3.) Location, Location, Location!
Another way to avoid a family photo disaster is to pick a good location. Try to avoid locations that have a lot of clutter as this can look messy or distract from the subjects in your photo. Depending on your budget and/or resources and other things such as the weather, snapping a quick but professional looking photo at home can be a breeze as long as it is done correctly. For my family’s Christmas photo we simply stood in our living room and placed our miniature Christmas tree on the table with some white fuzzy blankets draped over the furniture to create a snow like appearance. Moving the lamps around to incorporate better lighting and standing at different angles also helped make the perfect picture look simple but professional. After the photos are taken, edit and throw in some cool lighting etc. with Photoshop and your Christmas photo is ready go! If you are considering an outdoor photo try and keep it simple. Make sure the landscape is a visually appealing one but try to avoid areas that will attract too much attention from the viewer. For instance, avoiding very busy landscapes or steering clear of background items like telephone wires, trash cans, or a hanging tree branch. For our outdoor family photos we just took to our backyard. We stood in front of the massive pine tree that had a light dusting of snow hanging from the branches, and for another shot we sat on the wooden posts of a fence overlooking the park near our apartment. Simple yet cute.
4.) Feel The Rhythm
The best family photos happen when we are able to loosen up and capture those little moments that are a part of everyday life. Telling a few funny jokes will not only help ease the tension, it will also hopefully help capture some genuine smiles. Nothing is worse than a family photo where everyone is standing stiff as a bored wearing a fake grin from ear to ear. As a photographer, instead of trying to control everything from the pose to the zoom, just go with the flow. Move your feet, bend your knees, get down and dirty. Crouch down low, or climb above if necessary. The number one mistake many photographers make is capturing a good picture and then stopping there. Just keep shooting. When you aren’t afraid to move around or get dirty and you feel the rhythm and play around a bit and have fun with things, chances are your shutter will open at just the right moment. Other things to take note of are lighting and accuracy. Good lighting is crucial and can make or break a picture, so be mindful of this when shooting. Try to avoid standing in direct sunlight and also be mindful of glares, especially when dealing with family members who wear glasses. Be sure to check for blinking family members and good photos altogether, but don’t spend too much time examining the photos you’ve already taken because that’s when you’re sure to miss that perfect snapshot!
5.) Have Fun
Thinking outside of the box and having fun are the best ways to capture a good photo and add charm to it in the process. Using props out of context or having your subjects do something fun are sure ways to make your picture stand out from other family photos. Holding your grumpy cat and posing can add character, or having everybody jump up in the air can make things fun. Try whatever comes to mind! Standing outside in a snowstorm or having everybody pose playing in the sand at the beach are great ways to immediately add interest and keep things fresh.