Your kids look adorable, you just lost 15 pounds, your husband still has most of his hair, and all you want is one fabulous family photo to commemorate this magical time of your lives. But you know, the last time someone took your picture it didn’t turn out anything like what you imagined. Cheesy, forced smiles, unflattering lighting, an outfit you thought looked a whole lot better in the mirror; all these things and more conspired against you, and you still don’t have a portrait your Facebook friends will fawn over.
It doesn’t have to be so hard. Here are five ways you can improve your chances of capturing a gorgeous family portrait, one you’ll be proud to show the world.
Choose the right photographer for your family
It seems like such simple advice, but this is perhaps the most crucial step in the whole process. With dozens, if not hundreds of self-proclaimed photographers in every town, it can be hard to know which photographer’s style will work with your family’s personality.
Are you casual and outdoorsy or would you prefer a more formal setting? Do you want an intimate portrait that captures a quiet moment or a photo shoot full of energy and movement? Look carefully over portfolios and samples and make sure your photographer’s artistic vision matches your family’s unique style.
Keep your wardrobe simple
One of my favorite photos of my kids was a bit of a happy accident. I’d scheduled a portrait session at the mall only to realize too late that my son had outgrown his nice shoes. I didn’t want grubby sneakers in the shot, so I had all three kids strip off their shoes and socks and take the photo in bare feet. Their little toes look so sweet with their soft cotton sweaters and blue jeans, and they were so comfortable their smiles were completely natural.
I think the best family portraits look less like everyone dressed up for the occasion, and more like a happy, comfortable family was just captured in the middle of a terrific day.
Opt for a soft, natural background
One thing I hate to see in family photos is a bunch of harsh lines intersecting behind everyone’s heads. Garages, windows and doors, power lines, fence rails and even the horizon can really be distracting, especially if they make the whole photo look unleveled. I prefer a soft, natural background, with greenery or fabrics and devoid of glaring light and harsh lines.
Don’t worry about looking at the camera
One of the hardest things to accomplish, once you have more than two people in a portrait, is getting everyone to look at the camera and simultaneously smile. The greater the number of people, the less chance you have that anyone will actually look happy by the time the photographer catches everyone’s eyes open and facing the camera at the same time. Worry less about saying cheese, and just have fun. Some of the best portraits seem to deny the fact that a camera was even there.
Take lots of extra shots
Whether you’ve hired a professional photographer or you’re just taking pictures on your own, take lots and lots of shots. There’s no reason to limit the number of exposures when using digital photography, so if your son wants to pose like Captain America, let him. Catch the shot of your husband with your daughter on his shoulders, but get the ones where he’s lifting her up and back down, too. You never know which photos will end up tugging your heartstrings when your session is wrapped.
More by Tavia:
Photography Helps Kids Show You Their World
Photo Scavenger Hunts Make Hiking More Fun
Great Reasons to Look at Baby Photos with Your Kids