How to Take Pictures of Families
That Will Become Keepsake Photos For Future Generations

1800's black and white family photo

The family photo is probably the hardest - and yet most important - group photo you'll ever have taken.

It's simple really-

If you want keepsake photos in the future, or if you're thinking it'd be fun to make personalized family gifts, you have to remember to take pictures of families NOW.

Hire a photographer or do it yourself. Just don't forget to capture a family photo!!

Taking pictures of families can be quite the ordeal! 

My family hates having group photos taken – there’s always such drama in choosing the best time of day and everyone trying to look their best. Not to mention the stress of finding a competent, reasonably-priced photographer or a suitable location. 

The secret to great pictures of families

Okay, there's no single secret trick. If only it were that easy!

But you do have two choices when it comes to taking pictures of families at the family reunion:

  1. Hire a photographer
  2. Do it yourself

By the way... If you want ideas for unique ways to display and use pictures of families, check out the free e-course! You'll get tons of ideas for creating family bonding activities and printed materials that will extend relationships BEYOND just the family reunion.

 -take the E-Course -

Work through the family reunion planning process by
focusing on three phases of printed materials.

It's Free!

how to hire a photographer

2 boys comparing professional cameras

The larger the group, the harder it’ll be to get a family photo that everyone loves. So I really like the option of hiring a professional. (Let someone else make the mistakes!!) To locate a photographer, search the yellow pages of your family reunion destination and ask the locals. Many times, wedding photography is a good place to start since wedding photographers are used to working with large groups and handling family dynamics. 

  • Be clear with what you want. Talk with the photographer in advance. During my days as a special events manager, it was common to type up a photo checklist for the photographer or even assign someone to accompany the photographer throughout the event, pointing out the important people or asking for particular shots as they happened.

  • It’s okay to ask to see someone’s work. And, once you hire a photographer, make sure you have a written agreement. Stay in touch. Reserve the date, confirm, touch base and double check. Be sure to identify a plan beforehand regarding sharing photos with your family and/or ordering prints.

  • Ask the professional’s advice regarding the best locations and times of day. He/she may have other great recommendations for your family photo as well.Express your concerns. Be open and honest. Identify limitations and work within them.

how to be your own photographer

group selfie

If you’re on your own, without a professional outsider’s help (been there, done that), don’t worry. Great family photos are still feasible. You can – and still should try – to get a group photo.

  • Prepare in advance. Make yourself a list of what photos and various groupings you want. Know your location. Have a plan for staging the photo. Most important: make sure everyone’s faces are showing.

  • If possible, coordinate your clothing. Simple, long sleeved tops and long pant choices are best. (Not only will the photo look more cohesive but wise choices will also make you look slimmer - always a good thing!) Ask everyone to wear the same medium to dark tones, so that no one person stands out in the photo. Avoid bright colors and t-shirt logos.

Don't forget to remember! When the family reunion or gathering is all said and done, remember to DOCUMENT those pictures of families. Assemble, collage, scrapbook, whatever your photos after the event. Create custom photo playing cards or make your own photo book. Just don't forget to remember.

  • Make sure you have plenty of light. The flash on your camera only extends so far – know its range. Outside, the best natural light is in the morning and right before dusk. Cloudy days also work well. Avoid direct sunlight. A good option is to have everyone stand in full shade (no shadows) looking towards camera/sky (reflects light on faces).

  • When composing your shot, use natural surroundings to your advantage. Stairs, bleachers and benches make it easy to stagger heights. Playground equipment also offers a wide variety of posing options for large groups. Avoid busy backgrounds. Watch for disruptive items. (There’s nothing worse than taking a great picture and then later realizing that a tree appears to be “growing” out of someone’s head!) Indoors, consider a backdrop made of fabric (perhaps a bed sheet for a smaller group or stage curtains for a larger group). An aerial view is a great option – have the family stand close together and look up at the photographer or camera on the balcony, ladder or other high spot.

  • Use a tripod. Even if you think you have a great camera and steady hand. I’ve learned (unfortunately) from personal experience that it’s hard to juggle camera, kids and funny faces all at the same time.
funny family photo
  • I have a thousand pictures of my husband in the middle of saying “say cheese!” in an effort to get the kids to smile. It drives me nuts. While it IS a good idea to get the kids to smile (or at least look in the same general direction as the camera), here’s what you need to do:have the adults freeze their smiles(read: do not talk) while the photographer (or innocent bystander) makes goofy faces and coaches the kids to grin.

  • That said, natural smiles always look best. But they’re also hard to get. I’ve found good success in taking a picture of everyone in silly poses – and then immediately saying, “Now smile!” and taking what usually ends up to be the best picture. (And if all else fails, stick with the silliness!) Take lots and lots of pictures. Then take some more. Someone told me once that professional photographers don’t have better success, they just take more pictures. It makes you think. Take the hard pictures (the largest group, smallest children) first.

  • Don’t forget to be spontaneous. (Go ahead – schedule it in!!) One of our all-time favorite photos was this one taken spontaneously on the beach by a stranger who happened to be walking by. It captures everything about that trip.
casual family photo taken on the beach

 -take the E-Course -

Work through the family reunion planning process by
focusing on three phases of printed materials.

It's Free!

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