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How to take the best family photos

By Amy Wright | Apr 13, 2021

You’ve likely seen plenty of amazing family photos plastered on social media, so why do your family portraits keep coming out as complete duds? Whether you’re booking a photoshoot with a professional or handling things yourself, there are some secrets to creating a family photo that’s worth hanging up in your home.

Keep reading to learn our top tips for the dos and don’ts at your upcoming family portrait photo session.

Pick a location that matches your theme

Great family photos often begin with a great location. Areas like the beach, an old barn, or even just an open grassy field will all look terrific on camera, but won’t steal the attention away from your family.

However, you’ll want to make sure that your location matches the theme of your photoshoot. If you’re trying to create a country theme outside of an old barn or on a farm, you probably don’t want your family members showing up in tuxedos and ball gowns.

Many people scout out their location first and then build their “dress code” around that. If you find the perfect spot on the beach, you may direct your family to wear light, summer clothes. If the shoot is happening on a farm, you’ll probably ask everyone to bring out the cowboy hats and boots.

There may not always be such a clear-cut theme to your photoshoot, but wherever your location might be, you don’t want the clothing to look out of place.


Make sure everyone follows the dress code

Speaking of dress codes, you don’t want to have a family photoshoot without one. Not all family photos have matching outfits, but they may stick to the same colors or style. Without a dress code, family members could show up in clashing colors or bold patterns that steal the focus of the photo.

Unless you’re following a theme, it’s generally a good idea to ask everyone to wear solid colors. Patterns or large logos can be too distracting or even look unprofessional.

Asking your family to stick to the same color or the same set of colors will only reinforce the fact that you’re a tight-knit family unit.

Keep in mind that not everyone has to wear the same colors in the same way. Your grandma might decide to wear a purple cardigan while your niece beside her wears a purple scarf.

You can also color-code by gender or generation - ask the men of the family to wear purple, and have the ladies show up in yellow. These are all clothing tricks that’ll make your family pop, with no one person stealing all the attention.


Position height

Positioning your family can be one of the hardest parts of a family photo - especially if you’ve got a large group. With a family photo, you want to try and keep things organized. If you’ve got a lot of extended family, you may ask everyone to split into smaller groups, or even line them up by generation. Place the oldest generation in the back and the newest in the front - or vice versa.

Some people may not know where to put toddlers or babies, but there are two great spots for them: you can either place them in the very front where they’ll be visible or ask a taller family member to hold them.

Regardless of the positioning, the goal with any group shot is to get as close as possible without cutting anyone out. With extra-large groups, you may need to position people in rows rather than one large line to avoid a shot that’s too far away.

If you’re using a professional photographer to take the photo, they may have their own ideas about where certain people should stand, or how to line them up.


Use good lighting

One of the reasons that so many people choose to have their family photos outside is because of the lighting. With indoor shoots, you risk dealing with artificial lighting that doesn’t look flattering on anyone.

But even an outdoor photo session can have poor lighting. For instance, shooting in front of windows can cause bright reflections that don’t look good. You may also want to pay attention when your shoot takes place.

For photography, one of the best times to take a photo is during the “golden hour.” This occurs during the first hour of sunrise, and an hour before sunset. Your family may grumble about getting up early in the morning or getting together in the evening, but the soft, natural light from the “golden hour” will take your photo to the next level.

A few common mistakes to avoid

While there’s plenty of things you can do to make a family photo session better, there are a couple of common mistakes you’ll want to avoid too:

1. Try to avoid shooting in the middle of the day.

The afternoon may sound like a great time for a family shoot, but lighting is often very harsh in the afternoon. When the sun is high in the sky, it can create dark shadows and over-exposed highlights that don’t look flattering on anyone.

2. Don’t forget an extra outfit.

You’ve got everyone in matching colors, but then your toddler spills a drink all over their sweater! What do you do? Ask everyone to bring an extra outfit, so you won’t end up with distracting stains in your photo (or having to reschedule).

3. Don’t shy away from candid shots.

With a large group, you may be hyper-focused on making sure everyone’s posing correctly and smiling. However, there’s nothing wrong with taking a few candid shots. Capturing everyone’s genuine laugh after a joke or a loving look between family members can make for great family portraits.

Say Cheese!

While capturing a family photo that’s worthy of becoming wall art or posting on social media can be tricky, the tips above can help.

Once you’ve got your perfect photo, the final step is to display it, and you can do that with Canvaspop. Create your very own custom print by clicking the button below.

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