The most wonderful little gems I find in my camera are family photos! The reason why I know these are gems is because I’m often told so by loved ones both near and far.
I have a very little amount of photos from my childhood and my husband has a couple of “awkward family photo” style family photos from his childhood. I don’t blame parents and spouses for refusing to put any energy into dressing their loved ones up for family photos and making them smile more than once a year. However, there is an easier way to accomplish this and it doesn’t have to take as much effort as one might think!
The biggest disclaimer I can put in right here and now is that it isn’t easier for me than it is for you to take family photos. There, I said it.
I will show you how easy taking family photos can be with a few simple tips AND there are some photos to show you that these are real life, tried and true practices with real people!
This is also a warning that this post is picture heavy!
The most important techniques for taking photos:
#1 Know your values! Make sure you know why you value you family photos! If you have a certain value you’d like your family to attain and uphold, speak, share it, live it out. Our family values real, priceless and wonderful moments between the 3 of us (and extended friends and family).
You memories might last a lifetime in your head, but in photo form, they can last for generations to come.
#2 No perfectionism here! Get rid of the idea that they have to be perfect. Let me write this loud and clear THEY DON’T HAVE TO BE PERFECT! Stop trying to make them perfect because you will fail 87% of the time. Sometimes the imperfect, not so posed ones can tell a story of your memories better than the perfect one you have in your own head. Allow genuine interactions and emotions to come through the lense of the camera.
#3 Be Bossy! Sometimes I feel like I am a little bossy when I am trying to get one quick photo of everyone. This is because I will tell everyone I want to take a picture. I will get out my camera and quickly get it set up or make someone have a camera in their hand for us. I will tell them to smile, laugh, talk like they like each other and the photo will get taken. Most people look at me like I’m some type of drill sergeant but their look on their faces kind of quickly change from
“Why does this five foot something lady think she can tell me what to do?” to —-> “Oh we are for sure taking a pic, so I better do what she says!”
Then the photo(s) are taken and everyone can get back to what they were doing anyway (hanging out, talking, etc). When doing this technique, don’t forget to thank them for posing after the photo is taken! Here is an example of a photo opportunity where I jumped in and got a family photo when all baby wanted to do was play.
#4 Move! Just move to a spot that works. One simple adjustment in the placement of everyone’s body can make a huge difference! Don’t stay put if the background is distracting you from what you really want to focus on! It can be as simple as taking two steps to the side or turning around the opposite way. Here is a couple of before and after of what a difference it can make to adjust the viewpoint of the photographer.
#5 Edit! Editing can make or break a photo. Whether it is on your iphone or DSLR camera that costs hundreds of dollars, if you don’t set the stage right with lighting, position, etc. then those simple mistakes can cost you a big price- the entire photo! If you can’t get it right on your DSLR or the person using the camera can’t use a DSLR don’t be afraid to switch to your phone camera, this can help with some of those problems.
After this, editing can be your very best friend! I know you can do crazy things like swap out people’s faces to make everyone look perfectly happy but I’m no Photoshop expert! A simple adjustment on any editing app or Lightroom can save your photo. Adjust the exposure, highlights, shadows, and any blemishes. Crop anything out of the edges that you can, straighten the photo if need be and you will have a wonderful photo!
Other quick tips:
* If you know that someone in the family hates taking photos tell them why you are taking it, bribe them (just a little) and say “ok, fine! You won’t be in the photo then!” and then take your photo without them. This should be a quick 30 second back and forth. You can’t win them all every time and who knows, maybe they’ll at least photobomb you at the end of the shoot 😉
* Set your expectations beforehand; tell everyone you can’t wait for x, y or z event and you wanna get an awesome photo of everyone together! Now they won’t get caught off guard when you ask for a photo.
A little photoshoot after our Easter breakfast. Perfect time to ask for pictures when everyone is dressed up to go out to eat and I texted my mom and asked if we can take some pictures after our breakfast. Taken in the parking lot of the restaurant!
*Shoot in burst mode, if you can… Sometimes you get the best moments right after everyone thinks you’re done snapping photos!
*Burst mode is also great with kids, sometimes the very first one or two photos is all they can handle focus your camera so right when you get the adults and kids in place and smile you can immediately star photographing. Here is an example photo of what getting the lighting, exposure and focus right beforehand looks like.
* If you spot someone nearby taking a picture, offer to take theirs (you gain their trust) then ask them to take yours! Don’t be shy about doing that or giving the camera to your friend or family member to get a picture of an idea you have.
* Send 1 good one to everyone. Don’t send all the unedited shots that are terrible, give them a choice of a good one or maybe two, don’t overload everyone with a ton of photos all at once when some aren’t very useful anyway.
*In a world of snapchat and selfies, give them up for family photos. Instead of holding your arm up for a family selfie (those are cute, but let’s get reeeeeaaal) hand the camera to someone and let them to a normal photo of you and your family. Here are some photos taken by my sister in law during their engagement photo session
*Sneak some pictures from behind for those who feel uncomfortable in front of the camera! This will make it easier to get genuine smiles and interactions.
*Use the self timer, we have only done this once because we don’t have a tripod!
*Don’t forget to take pictures with your camera for NO REASON, that’s when you can capture some of the more intimate, special moments in life.
Leave the fears of “good enough, perfect and professional” pics behind for these moments!
Here’s a collection of family photos going from dating, engagement, marriage and then new parents! (not all in chronological order). I wanted to post this collection to show you that family photos can look a million different ways and still be meaningful, valuable and important! Eveyone’s family is different and every photo opportunity will look different.
*If all else fails, a dark over exposed, grainy or blurry photo of everyone doing their own thing is STILL something to treasure for your own memories. Here’s a quick photo I took of Eliana with her aunt and uncle at the beach. I promise she loved her time with them, she was just a little tired when I took this picture.
An imperfect photo can never take away your wonderful memories.
I hope this quick dive in to how to get a wonderful family photo was very helpful! I hope you’re inspired to snap some more family photos and share them with us or any other tips you have!
p.s. the main reason why I am sharing this is because I get asked about my pics all the time.
Letticia Vickner, Creator & Editor
You can find my personal Instagram account here
I have been married to Erik for nearly three years. Minimalism, coping mechanisms and trigger warnings are all a part of my daily life as I struggle through anxiety that began at a young age. I find myself reading novel after novel, ignoring the world around me while listening to a good podcast or having time to myself to recharge and reboot for what the world asks of me on a daily basis.