Family photos aim to provide the family with lasting memories that members can share with their future generations. A new photographer may find it daunting to shoot family photographs in his or her quest for perfection.

Someone once said that taking an image and freezing a moment could reveal how reality truly is. You want to create a result that will bring a smile to participants as they look back and reminisce about the enjoyable moments they had.

Therefore, how can you ensure to take fun photos that convey love while avoiding a possibly stressful situation?

Well, here are some family photography tips that can help you to learn a few tricks on how to photograph family portraits that capture the members’ joy while reflecting your photography skills.

Knowing these factors will ultimately make the session and overall experience incredibly rewarding for you and your clients.

1 · Select a spacious location

Family photography is an art that allows the subjects to express themselves freely while capturing intimate moments. You want to select an area with lots of room for kids to explore as they roam and play.

Children love to run and be free, which will make them happy and provide you with better photos. The curious little ones also like to touch random things, and hence, you should ensure to find a place that does not have a lot of rules and restrictions.

Some of these random movements by the kids and family members can provide you with unexpected moments that you can take advantage of and produce the loveliest photos. Additionally, choosing a spacious location will enable you to avoid crowded areas and prevent random people from appearing in the images.

You can save on the time you would otherwise spend trying to direct strangers away from your area of photography. The resulting sense of privacy can also help the family to feel more comfortable and relaxed for more natural photos.

You also want to keep in mind a timeframe that suits kids when selecting a location. Some locations have time limits; thus, you can look for alternatives that offer convenient timing for the kids.

You want the children to be awake during the session and not tired or sleepy, which tends to be the case late in the day. The golden morning hour, for example, enables you to engage with happy and lively kids who just had their breakfast.

2· Communicate with the family members

Communication is vital when it comes to following family portrait tips to ensure a satisfying result. You need to have that connection with the family that will enable you, your camera, and the family members to be in tune with each other.

It is crucial to start a conversation with them and talk about topics concerning their hobbies, interests, traveling, and sports, among others. You want to avoid weighty and stressful subjects like work and politics.

Remember, you are a stranger to the members, and you aim to get them to feel comfortable with you by engaging with them. This interaction will break the ice and enable the family to express their love and share intimate moments, helping you to capture genuinely heartfelt scenes.

In talking with the participants, you also can come up with family photography ideas that will enrich your photos and allow the family to include personal touches to the photographs.

3· Advise the family on their outfits

As Linda Grant once said,

“Clothes as text, clothes as narration, clothes as a story,”

Linda Grant

The outfits can make or break a picture. You can advise the members on what to wear for the family photographs to ensure lovely photos with no distractions.

Directing them to put on clothes with a similar color spectrum will help the outfits to blend seamlessly without drawing attention to particular members. You also may advise them to dress in similar styles, which creates a perfect harmony among the subjects.

You want to avoid having the members wear outfits with bold patterns that stand out because the resulting photo will appear chaotic and unbalanced.

Moreover, the family can opt to create a theme and bring a few objects to accessorize the ideas. They also can bring some items that reflect personal or collective hobbies of the family, which adds an authentic feel to the photo. Of course, the accessories should also blend with the members’ fashion and theme of the session, if any.

4· Direct the family on how to pose

Direct the kids and other members on how to pose to capture various scenes. When getting children to try a pose, you can use a game or a challenge to make it fun. In doing so, you will likely make them focus on the photography session and capture the desired poses.

Besides this, you should be very clear and precise when giving out the directions to the family to get the preferred results.

For instance, use objects in your environment to refer to directions. Instead of saying, “turn left or right,” you can instruct them to “face towards the sea” or “lean against that tree.” It would also be better if you can directly demonstrate some of the poses, which makes it easier for the family to give you what you want.

Specific directions and live demonstrations will help the members to avoid misunderstandings that result in each person doing a different thing.

5· Bring a blanket to the location

When taking a family photograph, using different angles of elevation can assist you in obtaining a variety of pictures that can tell a story. Aside from standing or sitting on furniture, you can take some family photography poses while the members sit or lay on a blanket.

Remind the family to bring the quilt with them to the location and advise them on selecting one with solid colors and minimal patterns. Similar to the outfits, the blanket should not draw attention away from the members in the photo.

Direct the family to sit or lay on the blanket and get your perfect shot without the family getting dirty. It also provides an opportunity to get creative with height and break the monotony of taking photos at eye level.

6· Shoot from a child’s eye level

Getting down to a child’s eye level will enable you to interact with the kids and create engaging photographs. This level will establish an accent on small models in the photo, which results in balanced and attractive shots.

You also can opt to raise the kids’ eye level by asking the parents to lift the children. You not only can get a better focus with the kids but also capture them engaging with other members in an effortless scene.

7· Be patient

Children are energetic beings with short attention spans. They can quickly lose focus during the shoot and make accomplishing the task a little challenging. You need to be patient and understand that kids will not work on your schedule. Adjust to them and try to make the family photography experience enjoyable.

Among the family portrait tips when dealing with children, one way of holding the attention of the kids is to have toys and snacks at the location. You can get help from the parents who can bring the kids’ favorite toys and use it to help the little ones avoid getting bored and antsy.

Shaking a toy will make toddlers face towards the camera and allow you to photograph them beautifully. The snacks help to hydrate and keep everyone’s energy level high for engaging photographs.

In line with the short attention span, it is advisable to start taking simple and posed portraits as soon as you get to the location before the kids lose their concentration on the surroundings. Tell the kids that they will get some playtime, and you can get genuine happy faces in return. You can be sure to get a few quality photos from the outset with the family before the buzz of activity begins.

8· Pay attention to your surroundings

Be attentive to your surroundings to avoid accidents or preventable inconveniences. For instance, if you have the shoot in a garden, you want to know your environment well so that you can safely direct the members to pose without them backing into a tree.

If you have a water body around, you want to use movements that will capture the scenery without necessarily getting the family wet. Developing this habit will enable you to ensure your safety and those of the family, regardless of the creativity involved.

Furthermore, you can learn to use the environment to your advantage and create beautiful photos with attractive background and foreground. You can tell the family to pose at the beach or have a couple of them peek from behind a tree, allowing you to photograph fun and playful moments.

Kids may also start playing with flowers or at monuments in a location and offer you unplanned scenes for pictures reflecting the simple joys of life.

9· Use a fast shutter speed

Always ensure that your shutter speed is at least double your focal length. The shutter speed is especially important to capture the movements of the kids and family without having any blurry images.

Taking the photographs at a lower shutter will take up additional time while you try to hold the camera steady and may produce some blurry pictures, even when you and the family are both not moving.

Maintaining a fast shutter, usually between 1/200 and 1/400, is also useful when taking the photographs outside on a bright day or in the shade because the higher ISO makes the grain unnoticeable.

A shutter speed of 1/800 will enable you to photograph kids jumping or running, bringing youthful feel to your photos. Thus, you can get clear images with every family member’s face in focus when you adjust your ISO accordingly and increase the shutter speed. In case you are not familiar with ISO selection, you can start by setting your ISO to auto while learning about your preferred apertures and shutter speeds.

10· Select a suitable aperture

You do not want to experience the immense disappointment that comes when you develop your photos and find that some members are out of focus. Selecting the appropriate aperture to suit the needs of family photography is essential in ensuring everyone in the frame is clearly in the focal plane.

Generally, the sharpest aperture of most lenses ranges between f/8 and f/11 that is perfect for capturing large family photographs and multilayered group shots. You can adjust the aperture depending on the number of family members, the lens you are using, your distance to the subjects, and their distance to the background.

The f/2.8 aperture is suitable and not too low for families with four to six members who are all on the same focal plane and will include a beautiful bokeh in the background.

If you are dealing with a family of eight to ten people on the same focal plane, you can comfortably use the f/5.6 or f/4.0 aperture. You also can use the f/4.0 to focus everyone if there is a second row added to a small group of family members.

In this case, the photos will be clear as long as everyone in the frame is close together.

11· Invest in quality lenses

They say that cheap is expensive and the same applies to photography. When you take a family portrait, the aim is to produce high-quality photos that will last for years to come.

Investing in quality lenses will enable you to create images with sharp focus, which is especially vital when dealing with group shots such as family photos. Having several camera lenses allows you to take a variety of photographs while helping you to identify the type of camera lens that suits you best.

The 85mm lens is popular among photographers for family portrait shoots, and the 24-70mm one offers you flexibility for a versatile photo session. The different lenses will allow you to cope well in various locations. You can begin by renting some lenses as you prepare your budget to purchase your ideal lenses later.

12· Beware of lens flare and exposure

Ensure there is no lens flare before taking the family photograph by providing some cover for your lens against direct sunlight. The lens flare may cause the camera to have issues focusing and create blurry pictures with a haze over the images.

You can use quality lens hoods to help prevent this problem or have an assistant to hold an item that can provide shade for your lens.

When it comes to exposure, always be sure to consider the backlight getting into your sensor. You can use spot metering to meter light on individual family members, such as a subject lost in thought, allowing them excellent exposure with an overexposed background.

If you are using a semi-automatic mode, you can apply the evaluative metering in Canon cameras or the matrix metering of Nikon cameras to adjust the exposure. The evaluative metering is also perfect for capturing group shots like family portraits.

13· Focus on the person who is front and center

Use center point focus when shooting family photographs.

This tip is essential when the family members stand in two rows, and you can focus on the person who is front and center. Aperture functions in a system of thirds where a third of the selected aperture’s focal depth goes forward, and two-thirds go backward. Therefore, you can place the focus on the person sitting or standing front and center and give the two-thirds of the focal depth to those family members standing behind.

Using this system to distribute an aperture’s focal depth will allow you to have every member entirely in focus and have clear images. The family can also have a variety of photographs with different poses and include a few more people to the small group who can form the second row.

14· Line up the feet of the family members

You want to get all the members in focus and avoid having those standing on the edges, having blurry features. When people take family portraits, they intentionally or unintentionally find themselves curling up, with those standing at the ends forming a U-shape. Consequently, these members at the edge step out of the focal plane and will be out of focus while you focus on the front and center person.

You can ensure to rectify this problem by instructing the family members to line up their toes before taking their photos. Having their toes lined up will place the members on the same focal plane by default and provide you with clear images of everyone in the picture.

15 · Try to avoid family members standing in multiple rows

All family members lining up in the same focal plane works best when you have a short and single line. It is advisable to have a maximum of two rows to be able to obtain quality family photos.

In this case, the family members standing in the back row should get extremely close to those standing or sitting in front of them. As explained above, two-thirds of the selected aperture goes backward, and the closer they are to those at the front, the better focused they will be.

You should try as much as possible to avoid multiple rows. The more lines there are, the farther back the family members will move away from the front, making it harder to focus and result in blurry and unflattering images.

16· Double-check the LCD screen and take photos in burst mode

You should always double-check the images you take on the LCD screen after taking a set number of family portraits. Before moving on to the following combination, you can quickly check photos to ensure that everything is in order.

You can identify if there are any issues, such as spotting family members with closed eyes or with a body part out of focus. Here, you can correct the problem on the spot by clicking the shutter a few more times and save on the costs of rectifying the issue digitally.

Additionally, use the burst mode to take several photos at the same time. The more photographs you capture, the more the chances of catching everyone coordinated perfectly.

This setting helps to minimize the time spent correcting errors while providing you with quality photos. Keep in mind to adjust the shutter speeds accordingly to ensure that you will have no blurriness even in this mode.

17· Simplify the editing of the photos

Use classic and straightforward styles whenever you edit the photographs. You can some personal touches but ensure the result is professional-looking photographs.

Timeless photos will provide the family will everlasting memories captured in the images, which they can show to friends and grandchildren in later years. If you follow trends and go overboard with the editing, the photos may satisfy the family now, but thirty years down the line, they may come to hate them.

You want your art created from a family photography session to bring smiles and reflect the beautiful moments of the family.

You want to ensure to preserve the authentic art of your photography that can serve the family for years to come.


The family portrait tips provided above can help you to understand what it takes to capture and produce quality family photos. Practicing your family photography skills will enable you to get rid of the anxiety that a beginner experiences and lead you to enjoy the photo shoot. Remember, family photography is an art that requires confidence, communication, and creativity. These tips will help you to have fun with the family while producing quality and satisfying results.