How To: Take the Perfect Family Portrait

Just in time for Father’s Day – a gift he’ll always treasure…

Summer is officially here…well at least where I’m from it is. The flowers are in bloom, the scent of fresh cut grass is in the air and everything has turned from dingy brown to lush green outside. The weather is perfect and the days are starting to get longer. For photographers like me, the arrival of the sun means family portrait time. Right now, every weekend I have until the end of the month is booked up for family portraits. If you haven’t gotten a family portrait taken in a few years, I urge you to do it. Whether you hire a professional or ask Uncle Bob to take your portrait, I’m here to offer you a few tips for getting a great family portrait. With Father’s Day just around the corner, these tips can help you create a beloved and cherished (not to mention affordable) gift for Dad’s big day.

Using these family photoshoot guidelines, anyone should be able to get that perfect snap of the family. Of course, you’ll want to enlarge a few favorites and frame them for display at home. Then pick a shot Dad, Grandpa or the hubby will love, place it in a nice 5 x 7 frame, wrap it up, greenly of course, and gift it for Father’s Day. He’ll be proud to display his family on his desk at work.

Let’s get snapping:

Tip 1: Location, Location, Location
Location is very important. Pick a spot that reflects your personality. Some spots to consider are local parks, an urban setting downtown, or maybe even your beautifully landscaped backyard. Just make sure there are not any distracting elements in the background. Nothing ruins a great photo more than having something or someone in the scene to ruin it.

Tip 2: Dress for Success
What you wear is so important. I tell my clients you don’t have to match perfectly, just coordinate. Pick a few key colors and build around them. Also, think about footwear. Sneakers are just not that attractive in photos. I love it when clients go barefoot! Many photographers list suggestions of what to wear on their blogs. Doing a quick Google search should give you lots of great ideas.

Tip 3: Get in Close
One thing I always tell my families is to get in close. The closer you are, the less distracting elements there are to take away from your photo. I know it might sound funny, but don’t be afraid to have your faces touch. Plus, the farther you are from each other, the less it looks like you like one another.

Tip 4: Touch Someone
Similar to the last tip, having everyone in the photo touch someone else will also create that feeling of emotion in your photo. Obviously, you love your family or you wouldn’t want a photo of them, right? This rule is simple to do. Place a hand on someone’s shoulder or hold someone’s hand.

Tip 5: The Golden Hour
My favorite time of the day for great outdoor portraits is one hour before sundown. Photographers call this the golden hour. The light is amazingly beautiful at this time of day. The sun is low enough in the sky that it doesn’t cast annoying shadows on everyone’s faces. You don’t have to squint to see in front of you and the light has a gorgeous golden hue to it.

Tip 6: Just for Moms
Every photographer knows making Mom look good in the portrait is one of the most important things they can do to sell a photograph. Seriously, what Mother is going to want unflattering pictures of her hanging on her walls? If you are the Mom in the photo, I have some tips just for you. The first one is camouflage. No not the army green kind, this one is the kid kind. Use your children to camouflage any unflattering body parts you don’t want to show. This works amazingly well for hiding the mid section. Throw little Johnny on your lap and no more tummy issues. Another tip I love is the one butt cheek rule. If you are sitting down for your photos, try sitting on just one butt cheek and turn your body slightly in towards another person. This helps to slim the figure and create a longer torso. Lastly, is my chicken neck tip. If you suffer from double chin issues this tip is for you. Stick your chin out and slightly down. Sounds funny, but it works. Try it! (I use this tip all the time, it really works! ~Stef)

Tip 7: Have Fun

Tip 8: Repeat Often and Click Print
I encourage you to get your family portrait done once a year. You don’t have to always hire a professional to do it. Some of my favorite photos were done by family members. Capture those memories now because before you know it little Johnny will be all grown up. I have hardly any photos of me as a child and I so wish I had more. I think that’s what drove my passion to be a photographer.

With the rise in affordable DSLR cameras and super megapixel point and shoot cameras getting great photos of your own family is easier than ever. Just do me a favor and click print. Don’t let your memories sit on your hard drive gathering dust. Print your beautiful memories for all to see. (I highly recommend the online print lab Mpix to all my customers – they offer many of the same high quality products I offer my clients.)

tiffany

Tiffany is a wife, mother of two and photographer. Check out her Austin based, gorgeous family photography at tiffanyhicks.com.

8 thoughts on “How To: Take the Perfect Family Portrait”

  1. lyssachelle

    These are really great tips! I especially love the “kid camo” tip, funny but true! And if you’re doing an couples session and you’re childless, just replace “kid” with “pet” and you’re good to go! :-)

  2. stef

    @tiffany – your work is beautiful! And these tips are fabulous, and obviously work really well. Thanks for sharing them.

    And well done on that double chin trick! I learned that one on a super expensive photo shoot I was on once and have been using it ever since. You feel like an idiot doing it, but it’s priceless advice. I just did it on my Driver’s license photo!

    I’ll add a bonus tip I learned in my BFA days: shoot A LOT. If you think you have it, take more. Especially now that everything is digital, it’s simple to delete too much. But when you get home and realize someone has their eyes closed on the only shot you took of a certain set up, well…there’s nothing you can do then!
    .-= Stef´s last blog ..Run, don’t walk…MAC Marine life =-.

  3. Mel

    @tiffany – I want to bring my family to Austin just to have you photograph us! Beautiful work!! I love the kid camo tip, too! And it’s so true, if mom doesn’t look good, that photos not going anywhere – my only exception to that is my facebook account when my daughter was born – I look back now and can’t believe I posted those horrid pics of me…but she had to be shown off! Anything past that though – forget about it! The one hour before sundown tip – also excellent! That’s just my favorite time of day anyways – so serene. Beautiful beautiful pics, Tiff – you’re very talented!

  4. Thanks girls for the nice comments. I’d love to shoot you all anytime. Just come visit! I use the kid camo tip at almost every family session. @Stef I agree on shooting a lot…especially with families. Gotta love digital cameras.

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