Photography Tips: 5 Tips for a Great Family Portrait
Photography Tips: 5 Tips for a Great Family Portrait
As a professional photographer for more than ten years, I have photographed hundreds of families. I have seen thousands of family portraits created by other professional photographers as well as amateurs (i.e. moms and dads). Too often I see that these family portraits would be greatly improved if the photographer followed a few simple tips before clicking the shutter.
Photography tips ONE:
DESIGN the family portrait in advance. A great family portrait does not happen by accident. Every aspect of the family portrait should be thought out in advance. This includes the location, the clothing, who is to be included in the portrait and how the family will be posed.
Photography Tips TWO:
Gather your needed EQUIPMENT. I do not suggest that you use a cell phone to create a family portrait. It has too few limitations. A digital SLR or point and shoot digital camera would be best. Lighting is a very important component to a great family portrait. I always use off camera flash for the family portraits I create. I use speedlights almost exclusively because of their portability. As a result of using off camera flash, I can shoot at an aperture of at least 8.0 and will subsequently get everyone in sharp focus. At 8.0 if I need to cut out someone from the portrait to make a 5×7 of that person I can do so.
If I used natural light and shot at 2.8 the family portrait would not be sharp enough to allow me to cut out one person and then enlarge the image. When you use natural light, you will frequently see harsh shadows on the faces of those you photograph and get “racoon eyes.” The photo to the left illustrates this fact very clearly. You are unable to see their eyes- they look like they have no pupils in their eyes. The colors of their skin is washed out so they look very pale as a result of using natural light.
Some photographers like to use reflectors to “bounce” the natural light into the faces of their subjects. I have tried to use reflectors and found them to be very difficult to use. I also believe you must have a second person available to hold the reflector to ensure that the light is being directed to your families faces. They are difficult to control outside because they act like kites when they are caught by a breeze. Lastly, family members complain about the light from a reflector being reflected in their eyes and the fact that it hurts their eyes. As a consequence, they will be seen to squint in the final family portrait.
The family portrait to the left is a good example of one that is well light by off camera flash. You can clearly see the colors of their eyes! Their faces are evenly light by speedlights. The light was “softened” by using an umbrella or soft box. This lighting is flattering because is fills in the lines of age that we dislike so much as we get older. Consequently, when an older person is well light, they look more youthful.
Photography Tips THREE:
POSE the family members in a natural manner so everyone can be clearly seen in the final family portrait. The family portrait to the left clearly illustrates this fact. Everyone looks comfortable and relaxed. They have natural expressions on their faces and they are looking directly at the camera. Everyone is turned at an angle to the camera. This is a much more flattering pose because you appear thinner if turned at an angle to the camer. The women are holding gifts in front of their abdomens- this technique can be used to hide the area if this is a concern.
Photography Tips FOUR:
Get NATURAL EXPRESSIONS with everyone looking at the camera. Do not ask people to say “cheese.” Saying the word “cheese” makes your smile look forced. I find the best way to get natural expressions is to simply ask everyone to laugh! A fake laugh looks the same on camera as a real laugh. If you find that everyone is opening their mouths too wide then ask them to giggle. When you giggle, you show your teeth in a pleasant smile.
As an experienced photographer I have found that my clients prefer to clearly see the face of each person looking at the camera. The photo to the left shows the children all looking in different directions. They look distracted. The placement of their hands directly under their chins so they are supporting their heads distorts their faces and features. The family portrait below clearly shows the featured of the kids faces because their hands are not touching their faces. They are looking directly at the camera so you are drawn to look at them. Once again, they are clearly light so you can see the color of their eyes.
The family portrait to the right clearly shows the featured of the kids faces because their hands are not touching their faces. They are looking directly at the camera so you are drawn to look at them. Once again, they are clearly light so you can see the color of their eyes.
Anyone can take a photo of family members looking in different directions. However, we know from experience as photographers how hard it is to get everyone to look at the camera and to smile. The way that I do this is quite simple- I ask them to look at the camera. If they do not look at the camera I use the next photography tip.
Photography Tips FIVE:
Take CONTROL of the family portrait session. You are the photographer and therefore it is your responsibility on the day of the family portrait to direct everyone. Tell them where to sit/stand and where to place their hands. Don’t be shy. If they do not look natural then change their position or pose until you are pleased. It is your responsibility to solicit from them the facial expressions that you desire. They cannot see themselves as they appear in your lens and will appreciate your direction.
The above five photography tips will give you a good start on planning a GREAT family portrait.
For more information about Cynthia McIntyre Photography go to my mail website www.CynthiaMcIntyre.com or call 203-364-1592