As a photographer, there are few things more rewarding than capturing beautiful family portraits. But, taking great family photos can be easier said than done.
To help you create amazing family portraits that will last a lifetime, we’ve put together 25 tips that will ensure your photos look simply stunning.
So, whether you’re just starting out or have been shooting family portraits for years, make sure to read on for the best advice possible!
Table of Contents
What is Family Portrait Photography?
Typically, family portraits are taken by professional photographers and include all family members, from grandparents to young children.
The goal of family portrait photography is to capture the unique personalities and relationships of each family member, as well as the family’s overall connection.
In order to achieve this, family portrait photographers often use a variety of different posing and lighting techniques.
Family portraits can be taken indoors or outdoors, and in a wide range of locations, from formal studios to more casual settings like parks or beaches.
Whether you’re looking to update your family photos or capture some special memories, family portrait photography can help you create lasting images of your loved ones.
Family Portrait Photography Tips
While taking family portraits can be a fun and rewarding experience, there are some things that you can do to ensure your photos look fantastic.
Here are 25 tips for taking great family portraits:
1. Do Your Research
If you are the portrait photographer, here are some research tips for you:
If the family has young children, make sure to research how to photograph them. You’ll want to find tips on how to get them to cooperate during the shoot and how to capture their natural expressions.
If the family is large, you’ll want to make sure you have enough time to get all the shots you want. It’s also a good idea to plan out your poses in advance so that everyone knows where they need to be.
Above all, make sure to communicate clearly with your clients before, during, and after the shoot so that they feel comfortable and confident in your abilities as a family portrait photographer. With these tips in mind, you’ll be sure to capture beautiful and memorable photos of your loved ones.
If you are the one looking for family portraits:
Before booking a family portrait session, it’s important to do your research and find a photographer that you feel comfortable with.
You’ll want to look at the photographer’s portfolio to get an idea of their style and see if it meshes with your own vision for the shoot.
Once you’ve found a photographer whose work you love, be sure to read their reviews and customer testimonials to make sure they are professional, reliable, and capable of capturing beautiful family portraits.
2. Session Structure
When planning your family portrait session, it’s important to have a clear idea of what you want to achieve.
First, start by deciding how many people will be in the photo. Then, determine the location and setting for the shoot.
Will it be indoors or outdoors? Formal or casual? Once you’ve decided on these details, you can begin to plan out the flow of the session.
For example, if you’re shooting outdoors, you’ll want to decide which poses will work best in each location.
If you’re shooting a large family, you might want to start with some group shots before moving on to individual portraits.
And if you’re photographing younger children, make sure to have plenty of time allotted for their attention spans.
By planning ahead and considering the needs of your clients, you can create a family portrait session that is fun, relaxed, and enjoyable for everyone involved.
3. Choose the Right Time of Day
The time of day can have a big impact on your family portrait photos. For the best results, it’s important to choose a time when the lighting is soft and flattering.
Early morning or late afternoon are typically the best times for outdoor shoots, while indoor shoots can be done any time of day.
Keep in mind that harsh direct sunlight can create harsh, dark shadows on your subjects, so it’s best to avoid shooting during peak sunlight hours.
4. Consider Clothing and Backgrounds
When choosing clothing for family portrait photos, it’s important to keep the overall look of the photos in mind.
For example, if you want a more formal shoot with a classic feel, opt for button-down dress shirts and dresses in neutral colors.
If you’re going for a more relaxed and fun vibe, have everyone dress in their favorite jeans and t-shirts.
And if you’re shooting outdoors, consider coordinating your outfits with the colors of nature to create a beautiful and cohesive look.
As for backgrounds, try to choose a location that has a simple background that won’t compete with your subjects.
A solid wall or a plain piece of fabric can make a great backdrop, or you can also shoot in front of an open field or a body of water.
Just be sure to avoid busy patterns or bright colors that will distract from the people in the photo.
5. Get Everyone to Cooperate
Capturing family portrait photos can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it can also present some unique challenges.
Young children, in particular, tend to be more difficult to work with because of their short attention spans and unpredictable personalities.
Make sure to communicate with them and be very friendly so they get comfortable with you. Ask them their hobbies and their current favorite cartoon or toy. They are people too!
Before the shoot, talk to your clients about their expectations and what they hope to achieve with the photos. During the shoot, be patient and take breaks when needed.
And after the shoot, make sure to thank everyone for their cooperation. By taking the time to prepare and communicate with your clients, you can ensure that everyone has a great experience and comes away with the family portraits they’ve always dreamed of.
6. Photograph at Eye Level
One of the best ways to capture natural and candid expressions is to photograph your subjects at eye level or just a bit higher.
This means getting down on their level, whether that means sitting on the ground or using a step ladder.
When you’re at the same eye level as your subject, it’s easier to connect with them and capture their true emotions. If you’re photographing young children, this is especially important as it will help you avoid getting photos with lots of empty space above their heads.
7. Get Candid Shots
In addition to posed shots, be sure to capture some candid moments during your family portrait session.
These are the moments that will truly portray the love and connection between your loved ones.
Some great ways to get candid shots include having your subjects interact with one another, asking them to help you with the equipment or props, and making jokes that will make everyone laugh.
8. Capture Emotions
A family portrait is more than just a simple photo; it’s a way to capture and preserve the emotions of a special time in your life.
When you’re taking photos, think about the memories and emotions you want to capture.
Is there a specific emotion that comes to mind when you think of your family? Perhaps it’s love, joy, happiness, or warmth. Whatever the emotion is, focus on capturing this in your photos and creating an emotional connection with your loved ones through your images.
9. Pay Attention to the Background
The background of your photo can be just as important as the foreground. When you’re framing up a shot, take a moment to look around and see what’s in the background.
Is there anything that could be distracting or take away from the overall image?
If so, try moving to a different location or angle to get a better background. If you’re shooting outdoors, pay attention to the light and position your subjects so that they’re backlit by the sun for a beautiful and natural effect.
10. Use Props
Props can be a great way to add interest and variety to your family portrait photos.
But before you start using props, it’s important to consider how they will fit into the overall theme and tone of your shoot.
For example, if you’re going for a casual and relaxed look, props such as balloons or stuffed animals might not be appropriate. But if you’re shooting in a more formal setting, props such as a vase of flowers or a family heirloom can add a nice touch.
11. Use Center AF Point to Focus
If you’re using a DSLR camera, one of the best ways to ensure sharp and focused photos is to use the center AF point.
This will help you keep the focus on your subject, even if they are moving around.
To use the center AF point, simply place it over your subject’s eye and half-press the shutter button to focus. Then, take the photo.
12. Choose Appropriate Aperture
The aperture is the setting on your camera that controls how much light enters the lens. It also controls the depth of field, which is the amount of area in focus.
When you’re taking family portrait photos, you’ll want to choose an aperture that is wide enough to keep everyone in sharp focus.
A good rule of thumb is to choose an aperture that is two stops lower than the maximum aperture of your lens.
For example, if you’re using a 50mm lens with a maximum aperture of f/1.8, you would want to choose an aperture of f/4.0.
13. Choose Appropriate Shutter Speed
The shutter speed is the amount of time that the camera shutter is open, allowing light to enter the lens.
When you’re taking family portrait photos, you’ll want to choose a shutter speed that is fast enough to freeze any movement.
You do not want a blurry family photo
A good rule of thumb is to choose a shutter speed that is equal to or greater than the focal length of your lens.
For example, if you’re using a 50mm lens, you would want to choose a shutter speed of 1/50th of a second or faster. Granted, you are using a tripod.
If not then I would recommend not choosing a shutter speed below 1/100.
This will help ensure that your photos are sharp and in focus, even if your subjects are moving around.
14. Go Automatic with Your ISO
ISO is the setting on your camera that controls how sensitive it is to light. The higher the ISO, the more sensitive it is, and the brighter the image will be.
However, using a high ISO can also result in grainy or noisy photos. When you’re taking family portrait photos, you’ll want to use auto ISO because this will allow you to focus on other settings, such as aperture and shutter speed.
And, the camera will automatically adjust the ISO to give you the best possible image quality.
Plus, with so many moving parts such as handline children, posing, and other various elements, it will be one less thing to worry about.
15. Take Multiple Shots
Family portrait photography can be challenging, especially if you have young children or other subjects who may be prone to fidgeting or moving around.
One of the best ways to ensure that you get a sharp and well-focused shot is to take multiple photos at once, and then pick the one that looks best later.
You can do this by using burst mode on your camera, which takes several shots in rapid succession, or taking single shots and then using photo editing software to enhance them.
With multiple photos, you can be sure that at least one of them will be sharp and in-focus.
16. Photograph in RAW
If you’re using a DSLR camera, one of the best ways to get the highest image quality possible is to shoot in RAW format.
This gives you more flexibility when editing your photos and allows for better color correction. If you don’t have much experience with photo editing software, then it’s best to stick with JPEG images during family portrait photography sessions.
However, if you know how to use photo editing software, then shooting in RAW will give you the best results.
17. Auto White Balance
White balance is the process of removing any color casts from your photos.
When you’re taking family portrait photos, you’ll want to use auto white balance so that your camera can automatically adjust for any lighting conditions.
This will help ensure that your photos are accurate and true-to-life.
18. Use a Reflector
A reflector is a tool that can be used to help brighten up your subject’s face and add some extra dimension to the photo.
If you’re taking family portrait photos outdoors, a simple way to do this is to set up a reflector underneath the sun so that it casts light on your subjects’ faces and helps fill in areas of shadow.
Reflectors are available in a variety of sizes, and you can even find them in different colors.
If you don’t have a reflector, you can also use a white sheet of paper or cloth to help reflect light onto your subjects’ faces.
19. Choose Appropriate Lens
When it comes to family portrait photography, you’ll want to choose a lens that’s appropriate for the size of your group.
For example, if you’re taking photos of a small group of people indoors, then a 50mm lens will be ideal. However, if you’re photographing a large family or group outdoors, then a wider lens may be better.
Wider lenses allow you to get more of the background into your photo, which can be particularly useful if you want to include natural elements like trees or sky in your shots.
If you have a zoom lens, then you’ll also be able to adjust the focal length as needed for different types of shots.
Choose the best lens for your particular needs, and don’t be afraid to experiment to see what looks best.
20. Use a Tripod
A tripod is an essential piece of equipment for family portrait photography, especially if you’re using a DSLR camera.
A tripod will help keep your camera steady and prevent it from moving around while you’re taking photos.
This is particularly important when you’re using a long lens or taking photos in low light conditions.
A tripod will also allow you to take photos of your subjects without having to worry about holding the camera steady, which can be difficult when you have young children or groups of people.
21. Don’t Pose, Instead Guide
One of the biggest mistakes that people make when taking family portrait photos is that they try to pose their subjects.
Posed photos often look stiff and unnatural, and it can be difficult to get everyone to cooperate.
Instead of poses, try to guide your subjects into more natural positions.
For example, you can ask them to sit or stand in a certain way, or you can tell them to interact with each other in a certain way.
This will help create more natural-looking photos that capture the true personalities of your subjects.
22. Where To Focus
When you’re taking family portrait photos, it’s important to choose where to focus your camera.
For most shots, you’ll want to focus on the eyes of the person who is closest to the camera. This will ensure that the eyes are sharp and in focus.
If you’re taking a photo of a group of people, then you may want to select a point in the middle of the group and focus on that instead.
Just ensure that your f-stop is less shallow and more towards the f/8 range so everyone in the photo is in-focus.
This will help ensure that everyone in the photo is clearly visible, even if they are standing further away from the camera.
23. Different Angles and Distances
When you’re taking family portrait photos, don’t be afraid to experiment with different angles and distances.
For example, you can try taking photos from above or below your subjects, or you can move in closer or further away from them.
This will help you find the best perspective for your particular shot.
You may also want to try taking photos from different heights, such as kneeling or sitting on the ground.
This can help you get a unique perspective that you wouldn’t be able to capture when standing up.
24. Towards the Sun or Away From It
If you’re taking family portrait photos outdoors, then you’ll want to pay attention to where the sun is in relation to your camera.
When photographing towards the sun, your subjects will likely be backlit, which can add more interest and drama to your shots.
Just make sure the sun is behind one of the subject’s heads.
When photographing away from the sun, this could lead to possible squinting by your subjects which you don’t want.
So you’ll also have to take into consideration the time of day and type of weather for that day.
25. The Golden Hour
If possible, wait until later in the day to take family portrait photos outdoors.
This is especially true if you’re taking photos during the summer months.
This can help you avoid harsh shadows and squinting eyes, and it will give your photos a warm and inviting look.
In conclusion, we hope you’ve learned some new family portrait photography tips and tricks from this guide.
Remember to use a tripod, focus on the eyes of the subject closest to the camera, experiment with different angles and distances, and consider waiting until later in the day for ideal lighting conditions.
With these tips in mind, you can take beautiful and natural-looking family portrait photos that your subjects will cherish for years to come. Good luck!
This guide is also a part of our Portrait Photography Resources Hub, so be sure to check that out for more portrait photography tips.
Nate Torres is an entrepreneur, growth marketer, and photographer and writes mostly on those topics. Nate used to run his own professional photography business called Nate Joaquin Photography but has since focused on the marketing and business aspect of photography although he still enjoys taking photos. Nate enjoys learning about new digital marketing strategy and new ways to think creatively. He is also a photography speaker and author on Photofocus.com.