The Dos and Don’ts of Family Portraits

family portrait
photo by Ben Earwicker

Family photos, especially family portraits, are among the most popular images on DropShots. As someone who has a lot of relatives, I know how difficult it is to snap a great-looking family portrait. That’s why I’ve decided to post some DOs and DON’Ts of photographing your family. Hopefully, these simple tips will help you create stunning photos.

Family Portrait DOs

1. Make everyone stand/sit closer to each other

We all try to make our family portraits look as real-life as possible. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t “edit” real-life situations. Under normal circumstances, your family members won’t be sitting or standing as close to each other as you’d like for a photo. So don’t be shy to ask your family members to move closer together. This will not only make them fit nicely, but will also fill the portrait with that special family warmth.

2. Take the photos when nobody’s blinking

OK, OK! We all know that you can take as many shots as you want with your digital camera, so blinking doesn’t really matter, right? Wrong! When you are taking a photo of a large group of people, the chance that someone will have their eyes close when you take the photo is pretty high. You can take as many shots as you like and you’d still get someone blinking. So my advice is to learn to quickly look at your subjects and not to waste time when pressing the shutter button. Another trick is to set your camera mode to continuous and take several photos in one go.

3. Get genuine smiles

A beautiful family portrait always has genuine smiles. It’s no use to tell everyone to smile – they’ll just look like they are forcing their smiles or worse – like they want to kill the photographer. Try to be funny, try to make sure everyone is relaxed and looks natural. That way you will get beautiful faces in your family portrait.

Family Portrait DON’Ts

1. Don’t allow subjects to tilt their heads

Family portraits make people do funny things. The most popular unconscious thing to do is for everyone to tilt their heads and try to squeeze into the photo. I do that, you do that, everybody does that. But as a photographer you should never allow that to happen because tilting and squeezing makes your subjects look unnatural and spoils the portrait.

2. Don’t let Grandma run the show

While it’s a good idea to let your family come up with ideas for the portrait, it’s not at all a good idea to let the family matriarch (or patriarch) run the show. I’m sure they will have lots of things to criticize and lots of valuable suggestions, but you are the photographer and you know what will look best. Oh, and don’t let parents scare kids into looking rigid and terrified in the portrait. Remember, you are going for the happy natural look.

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