How to Shoot Family Portraiture

With the new year just starting, you can look forward to the many birthdays, dinner parties, trips, anniversaries and yearly holiday gatherings and plan ahead for the perfect family portraits. These photographs will serve as a celebration of your life and will be a memorabilia of priceless moments spent with your family and friends. Family portraits are probably the most treasured keepsakes handed down to you to remind you of your lineage. Nowadays, with the convenience of digital photography, you can record images of the happy gatherings you have experienced to keep the tradition going. 

Shooting the whole family within a single frame is probably the most challenging thing you may encounter in family portraiture. Especially with a growing brood of children running around all over the place, you cannot just ask them to sit still for a few minutes for a photograph.

Here are a few tips to help you capture the bond between the family in the form of an image:

1. Familiarize yourself with your subjects – since your main subjects are friends and family members, you may already be familiar with what they are conscious of and what they do not want to be glaringly obvious about themselves in a photograph. Reassure them that you know what they want and that you will try your best to get the outcome they expect and you are sure to have genuine smiles.

2. Be stealthy, move swiftly and have fun – candid shots make for great shots. Make sure your subjects are comfortable and are in their element. Allow them to move spontaneously and be ready to capture those rare moments. Have your camera ready at all times and check battery life and camera settings so that you are always prepared.

3. Pay attention to the background  -neutral and solid colors are ideal for backgrounds. If you are shooting outdoors, make sure that you use a variety of angles for your shot. A low or high angled shot can remove unnecessary clutter in the background that can be distracting. 

4. Get color coordinated – it would be ideal to have family members wear color coordinated outfits. It can be quite tricky, though, but pastels and vibrant colors can enhance the final outcome of your photographs. If celebrating a birthday party, you can have the birthday celebrant wear a bright colored garment while the guests can wear muted tones to make the celebrant the main focus of attention. Keep in mind that a lot of clashing colors and busy patterns can be an eyesore.

5. Have adequate lighting – lighting is always important in any type of photograph. Even lighting is ideal but may not be available all the time. The best times for even lighting are at 8am and 5:30pm. These times are known as the golden hours, when natural lighting is warm and soft and can flatter any subject. Remind yourself to notice that the faces of your subjects are equally lit. When shooting indoors, utilize a flash or any type of natural soft lighting emanating from the windows. Try to arrange the subjects close to the light source and position them slightly to one side of the direction of the light. This will create the illusion of depth through shadows as well as highlights. Another tip: frontal lighting is the most common way to shoot family portraits. However, the image could come out flat and dull. The best way to avoid this is to use sidelighting with a reflector such as a white sheet or cloth to bounce back the light to the group. This will lessen hard shadows and further enhance your subjects. When shooting outdoors, try to position yourself and your subjects under a tree or a shady area to get even lighting.

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