Everyone has seen them. As a photographer, you might even have taken some of them. They are the ubiquitous, awkward, and slightly disappointing family portraits. The kid is picking his nose, and the mother's eyes are closed. It's just not the look they were going for.
But it doesn't have to be like that. With a little time, research and thought, you can plan and take captivating and heartwarming family portrait photography of any family.
Family Portrait Ideas
The first step to taking a fantastic family portrait is to get to know the family. Do they have any family picture ideas already? What do they like to do together?
As you get to know the family and build a rapport with them, they'll feel more comfortable in front of your camera.
Customizing your family picture ideas will ensure that the family is involved. They'll all be more interested and receptive. A family portrait session has to be fun for everyone. If it's not, awkward photos are the sad result.
Here are some fun family portrait ideas:
Find a unique angle: Are there any musicians in the family? Make sure they bring their instruments with them! Stage a band themed shoot or just use the instrument as a prop. Mom could be turning the musical score, while Dad and Daughter play a duet at the piano. You can apply the same idea to athletes. Just have them toss the ball, shoot hoops, or stage an impromptu game among the family.
Involve the pets: Does the family have any pets? Pets unite the family like nothing else and give a fun center to the photo. Pets can be tricky to work with, but you will be rewarded for your efforts by the images. And when things don't go as planned, don't put your camera away. Make sure to keep shooting reactions and fun candids. And bring treats, lots of them. Going with the flow and having fun will give you more family photo shoot ideas.
Recreate the legacy: Has the family had any portraits done in the past that they'd like to recreate? Or, even better, did their parents or their grandparents? Try to match the location and style of a vintage photo, along with the pose and setup. But don't get carried away. Make it obvious this is a recreation, with new faces and a modern wardrobe. You can give them different family picture poses in the same setting so that it feels like a new photo to them.
Get active: What does the family enjoy doing together? If they love playing Pictionary, card games, or playing twister together, these family games can provide a fun atmosphere, genuine smiles, and interesting poses.
Get in the props: Does the family have any unique or exciting collections? Even if it's just a collection of fun coffee mugs, integrating the collection into your photography session is an excellent way to show each person's individuality.
Go outdoors: Does the family like to get outdoors? Golden-hour photography suits family portraits very well. If they have a favorite activity, like boating or hiking, try to work in a day out and stage a quick session of the family doing what they love to do. Remember, if you are picking a spot outside to stage your family photos, the site must accomplish two goals. For one thing, it needs to be meaningful to the family and make the photograph more special to them. For another, it needs to be a space they are comfortable in, where there are not a lot of other people, and where the background is suitable for the portrait. Don't take them to the Grand Canyon, due to the crowd there and the scenery will distract from the family. Think small. If they have a nice back yard, that might be just the ticket.
Family Portrait Clothing Ideas
Besides the location of the shoot and the background, how the family dresses are one of the most visually grabbing elements of the photo within your control. You have a few choices when it comes to wardrobe: corresponding, opposing, or themed costume. Of course, you could also follow the "come as you are" method. This usually works out, but sometimes you might wind up with distracting or otherwise disappointing elements.
Go classic: Perhaps it's overdone, but a stylish look for family photos is white shirts and blue jeans. This coordinating style of wardrobe is easy for any family to pull off (after all, who doesn't own a white shirt and blue jeans?) and it leads to visually clean photos. The matching colors allow the viewer to focus on different faces and the background and setting. This look is especially popular for outdoor and beach shoots. Not only is it a clean look, but it makes the photo unified and looks professional.
Mix it up: There's no reason you have to stick to white shirts and blue jeans, though. Any complementary outfits they can wear will work fine. Give it some thought and apply what you know about your family.
Contrast and color: If the family isn't full of conformists, consider applying the opposite strategy. Opposing wardrobes can work out too. Make the children contrast with the parents or have everyone wear something different. In the end, the wardrobe has to make the family feel comfortable.
Go with a theme: And of course, you can create a theme. Would the family be interested in a shoot based on the theme of mermaids, pirates, or cow-folks? They could be! A little imagination can go a long way, and the sky's the limit. The most important thing about themed photo shoots is that they say something about the family. The photo must match their personalities and be fun. Run ideas by them and gauge their reactions. If they're hesitant and first, find something that gets them excited. Then you'll know you're onto something.
Family Picture Ideas for Poses
Posing a group is significantly more challenging than working with a single model or even a couple. The first step to success is having a good working relationship with the family and having scheduled yourself plenty of time so that no one is in a rush. Take your time and get it right. The larger the group, the less you can control. The best approach is to focus on the big picture. The location and general position of people are the most important things to decide on in the image. You just aren't going to be able to control all the individual poses in a big group. Having an assistant to work as a photo director helps a lot with big groups too.
Getting the family to pose together: For posed portraits, you'll have to gauge what you have to work with and how many people need to be included. Group your family in ways that make sense: single children standing between both parents, or each parent with a kid if there are two children. If you're shooting a large extended family, group them by couple and household. Keep the matriarch or patriarch of the family in the middle and work out towards the youngest. There's no right or wrong here, but a little thought and consideration will show through your photos. Remember, it is all about the family and creating a portrait they will love, so listen to them and use their energy to help you create the perfect scene.
Getting the composition right: Posing for a family portrait isn't all that different from composing any other photo. Think about the composition and ways to arrange your subjects within the frame to get the right family picture poses. Stairs are often one of the most helpful props that you can find for the creative family portrait poses, especially when the family has a lot of people. Stairs allow you to stack the family and organize them in a logical and visually appealing way.
Keep it casual: The least exciting thing you can do is have the family stand straight in a line. Mix it up, and have some sitting and some standing. Use chairs, benches, or logs in the woods. The triangle setup is another trick family portrait photographers use to organize their subjects. By having some sitting, some are kneeling, and some standing, you can create depth and visual flow in the image. Remember to keep an eye on your depth of field and keep all faces in focus.
Forget poses. Take candid shots: You will also want to create some candid shots during your shoot.
Here are some family photo ideas to get candid shots:
- Go on a walk or set up some fun scenes.
- Have everyone hold hands and walk, run, or jump.
- Make a group hug shot.
- Have the kids play ball or tag.
- Tell the parents to kiss while the children look disgusted and turn away.
- Silhouetted photographs can also be an appealing technique. Have the family hold hands and walk into the sunset.
Executing these family photo shoot ideas may look simple, but some practical difficulties come along the way. Think of them beforehand and have backup ideas if something doesn't work. As it usually happens, a member of the family may not cooperate with you or might not be interested in the family picture poses you are looking for. You might want to use some unique family photo ideas to make them comfortable.
Seasonal Family Portrait Ideas
Each season brings new options and possibilities for your family photo sessions. As a business, it's essential to set up a process and to keep in touch with your clients. Many families may want to come back for winter holiday portraits, and repeat business never hurts.
Spring Family Photo Ideas
Springtime is all about blooming flowers and getting outdoors again. Find a field of wildflowers for the shoot to get some beautiful outdoor family portraits. Spring also brings around a set of holidays important to many families, like Easter and Passover. Include these as options for your shoots, or create pricing specials to generate interest and buzz in your services. If Mardi Gras is prominent in your city, consider a themed shoot.
Summer Family Photo Ideas
Summer is about time spent outdoors and having fun. The kids are out of school, and it's time for a road trip or time spent at the beach. If you are working in a beach town, going down to the waterfront for your portrait sessions is a no-brainer. Parks and other outdoor places are great places to capture the summertime feeling in the outdoor family portraits. Golden hour photos and lighting considerations are essential with high sun angles and harsh light found during most summer days.
Fall Family Photo Ideas
Autumn family portrait photography could include indoor or outdoor themes. Outside playing in leaves, going to the pumpkin patch or corn maze, or preparing an outdoor feast might be fun family photography ideas. Thanksgiving is a big holiday in the United States that could serve as a focus since it's all about spending time together with your loved ones.
Winter Family Photo Ideas
Winter photographs are probably going to be inside, maybe by the fire. This season is all about the holidays, whether it be Christmas or Hanukkah, time with family and creating memories is a focus for every household. Use props like the family Christmas tree or ugly sweaters. Holiday light displays can make amazing backgrounds and some cool family photography ideas. Winter portraits in the snow can also be fun. Just work fast before everyone freezes!
For portrait photographers, family picture sessions are an essential part of their business. Mastering the art of family portrait photography is all about being comfortable with the whole family and making new friends. You can make some great pictures in a studio, on the beach, or in the families own house or backyard by using the tips we gave. While your creativity as a photographer is essential, it's equally important to listen to the family and make a photograph they will cherish in their household for generations.
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