10 Powerful Family Photography Tips to improve your photos
Family portrait photography is important for capturing and preserving memories and creating a sense of connection. Getting the right tips for portrait photography is fundamental to creating aesthetic & timeless family photos for your family or clients.
Read our guide on how to create amazing family photos that everyone will love.
1. Use a Professional Camera Over a Mobile Phone
Using a professional camera allows you to have a higher level of control and image quality than mobile phones, particularly when it comes to family portrait photography. This is because professional cameras offer a wider range of options for adjusting shutter speed, aperture, and ISO, which are critical elements in creating high-quality images.
See below for a comprehensive explanation of these concepts.
Shutter speed refers to the length of time that the camera’s shutter remains open when taking a photo. A faster shutter speed can freeze motion, while a slower shutter speed can create a sense of motion blur. Professional cameras allow for much faster shutter speeds than mobile phones, allowing photographers to capture sharp images even in low light or fast-moving situations.
Aperture refers to the size of the opening in the camera’s lens that allows light to pass through to the sensor. A larger aperture allows more light to enter the camera, which can create a shallow depth of field and blur the background, while a smaller aperture creates a wider depth of field and keeps more of the scene in focus. Professional cameras allow for a wider range of aperture settings than mobile phones, providing greater control over depth of field and creative options for composing shots.
A Camera’s ISO
ISO refers to the camera’s sensitivity to light. A higher ISO setting allows for faster shutter speeds and can be useful in low-light situations, but can also introduce noise and graininess into the image. Professional cameras typically offer better performance at high ISO settings than mobile phones, allowing for cleaner and more detailed images in low light.
Professional cameras also offer the flexibility of interchangeable lenses with varying focal lengths, which can be used to achieve different perspectives and creative effects. Popular brands for professional cameras include Canon, Nikon, Sony, and Fujifilm, all of which offer a range of options suitable for family portrait photography.
Final Thoughts on Cameras vs. Mobile Phones
While mobile phones have come a long way in terms of camera technology, they simply cannot match the level of control and image quality provided by professional cameras. For capturing formal and posed family portraits, investing in a professional camera can provide a level of quality and longevity that will be appreciated for generations to come.
- Interested in a family photoshoot? Hire a Family Photographer in London
2. Use Manual Mode on Your Camera
Using manual mode on your camera for family portraits is ideal. Manual mode gives the photographer full control over the camera’s settings, allowing them to adapt to different lighting conditions and achieve the desired look and feel for the photos.
Here are a few examples of why using manual mode is adaptable for various conditions:
- Low Light Conditions: When shooting in low light conditions, manual mode allows the photographer to adjust the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO to ensure that the photo is properly exposed without being too noisy or blurry. For example, in low light situations, a wider aperture (smaller f-number) can let in more light, while a slower shutter speed and higher ISO can help to brighten the image while maintaining image quality.
- Backlit Conditions: When shooting in backlit conditions, such as when the sun is behind the subjects, manual mode allows the photographer to adjust the exposure compensation to prevent the subjects from appearing too dark or silhouetted. For example, by increasing the exposure compensation by +1 or +2 stops, the subjects can be properly exposed while still capturing the beautiful backlit scene.
- Portrait Aesthetics: When shooting portraits, manual mode allows the photographer to control the depth of field, or the amount of background blur, to achieve a specific aesthetic. For example, shooting with a wider aperture (smaller f-number) creates a shallower depth of field which helps isolate the subjects from the background & create a more visually pleasing composition.
- Consistency: Shooting in manual mode allows the photographer to achieve consistent results throughout the photoshoot, regardless of the changing lighting conditions or locations. By setting the camera’s settings manually and using a consistent approach, you can ensure that all of the photos have a cohesive look and feel.
3. Choose the Right Camera Settings for Family Portraits
Building on the previous point using manual mode lets you adjust your settings as you want, however choosing the right settings can be difficult. That’s why we have outlined a few guidelines below to follow to ensure you have the rights settings for beautiful portraits.
Use RAW or JPEG Image Formats
First, it’s important to set your camera to its highest possible image quality setting, such as RAW or Fine JPEG (we recommend raw because of its ability to store more information so you will have more flexibility when editing as opposed JPEG).
Having a high-quality image format will ensure that you have the most detail and information available in your images, giving you greater flexibility when it comes to editing and printing.
Use the Right Aperture Settings
Next, consider your aperture setting. For most family portrait situations, you’ll want to use a wider aperture (lower f-stop number) to create a shallow depth of field and blur the background such as an F-stop of 1.4 or 1.8. This will help your subjects stand out and create a more pleasing, professional-looking image.
However, if you’re shooting a larger group or want to keep more of the scene in focus, you may need to use a smaller aperture (higher f-stop number) such as an F-stop of 4 to 6.
Ensuring the Right Shutter Speed for Family Portraits
Shutter speed is another important consideration, particularly if you’re shooting in low light or want to freeze motion. For most family portraits, a shutter speed of 1/125 or faster should be sufficient to avoid camera shake and blur from subject movement. However, you may need to adjust your shutter speed depending on your lighting conditions and the activity level of your subjects.
Adjusting the Right ISO for your Family Portraits
ISO is the final major camera setting to consider. Generally, you’ll want to use the lowest ISO such as 100 ISO to 400 ISO, to minimize noise and maintain image quality. However, in low-light situations, you may need to increase your ISO to achieve a fast enough shutter speed.
Higher ISO settings will introduce more noise and graininess into your images, so it’s important to strike a balance between image quality and practicality. We recommend using a maximum of 4000 ISO with modern cameras as they can perform well enough so the grain is not noticeable.
You can find the ISO camera setting on dials on cameras (i.e. Sony or Canon) and also internally in the navigation menu on most cameras.
4. Shoot Early in The Morning
The early morning is an ideal time for taking family portraits, especially when children are involved.
Firstly, children tend to be more alert and energetic in the morning, which can help to ensure that they are more cooperative and engaged during the photo session. By contrast, as the day wears on, children may become tired, irritable, and less willing to cooperate with the photographer, which can result in poor quality photos.
Another benefit of taking family portraits early in the morning is that it can help to avoid large crowds, especially when photographing in popular places like the Millennium Bridge in London. With fewer people around, it will be easier to find a good location for your photos and reduce the risk of distractions and interruptions during the shoot.
5. Ensure your lighting for your photo shoot is Ideal
Aim to Photograph at Golden Hour for Flattering Lighting
Golden hour is often considered the best time of day for outdoor photography because of the warm, soft light it provides. During this time, the sun is low in the sky, and its light is diffused by the atmosphere, creating a flattering light for portraits. The exact timing of the golden hour varies depending on the season and your location, so conduct research and plan accordingly. Their sites that can help you plan accordingly, such as the calculator from SunToday to help you find Golden Hour for your location.
What If I Can’t Shoot at Golden Hour?
However, it’s not always possible to schedule your shoot during the golden hour. In these cases, you may need to use additional lighting to achieve the desired results. There are several options available, including on-camera flashes and off-camera lighting setups which can help smoothen this.
Use On-Camera Flash to Create Flattering Family Portraits
An on-camera flash, such as a Godox flash, can be a useful tool for family portrait photography. When used correctly, it can provide extra light when shooting in low light or when you need to fill in shadows (fill in flash). For example, if you’re shooting indoors and the room is too dark, you can use a flash to brighten up the scene and make sure your subjects are well-lit. However, it’s important to use the flash correctly to avoid harsh, unflattering light. One way to do this is by bouncing the flash off a nearby surface, such as a wall or ceiling, to create a softer, more diffused light.
Use Off-Camera Flash
Off-camera lighting setups can also be a great option for family portrait photography. For example, you could use a lighting umbrella or softbox to create a more controlled, studio-style lighting environment. This can be particularly useful when shooting indoors or in other challenging lighting conditions, such as high-contrast situations where you need to balance out bright highlights and deep shadows.
It’s important to note that the ideal lighting setup for family portrait photography will depend on your specific shooting conditions and personal preferences. By experimenting with different lighting setups, you can find the one that works best for you and create stunning, professional-looking images that your clients will love.
6. Think About How You Should Pose Your Subjects
Start with the basics: Begin by posing your clients in a natural, comfortable way. Encourage them to stand or sit in a relaxed, upright posture, with their shoulders back and their chins slightly lifted.
- Create balance and symmetry: Consider the size and shape of each person in the group and aim to create balance and symmetry in your composition. This can be achieved by positioning taller people in the back and shorter people in the front, or by having everyone sit or stand at roughly the same height.
- Use leading lines: Use leading lines, such as pathways or staircases, to create a sense of depth and perspective in your images. Position your clients so that they follow the line of the pathway or staircase, leading the viewer’s eye towards the focal point of the image.
- Embrace natural movement: Encourage your clients to move and interact with each other, capturing candid moments of laughter and interaction. This can help to create a more natural, relaxed feel to your images.
- Pay attention to details: Pay attention to the details of your clients’ poses, such as the positioning of their hands and feet. Make sure their hands are relaxed and not balled up in fists, and that their feet are positioned in a natural, comfortable way.
- Focus on relationships: Consider the relationships between the people in the group and aim to capture their connections and interactions. For example, you might ask parents to hold hands with their children or have siblings hug each other.
7. Pick the Right Location For the Family Photoshoot
Choosing the right location for a family photo shoot is important because it can have a significant impact on the overall look and feel of the images. The location you choose can set the tone for the photoshoot and help to tell the story of the family.
When selecting a location for a family photoshoot, it’s important to consider the following factors:
- Meaningful to the family: Choosing a location that holds special meaning to the family, such as their home or a favourite park, can help to create a more personal and intimate feel to the images.
- Scenic and photogenic: Look for locations that offer beautiful scenery and interesting backgrounds. This can include natural settings like beaches, forests, and mountains, or urban settings like city streets and architecture.
- Safe and comfortable: Make sure the location you choose is safe and comfortable for your clients. This means considering factors like accessibility, weather conditions, and privacy.
- Versatile: Choose a location that offers a variety of backdrops and settings, giving you the flexibility to create a range of images without having to move to a new location.
Overall, the best locations for family photos are those that offer a combination of beautiful scenery, personal meaning, and comfort for your clients. By choosing the right location, you can help to create images that are both visually stunning and emotionally impactful.
- See the best family photoshoot locations in London here.
8. Ensure the subjects in the photoshoot are wearing the right clothing and styles
It’s important to wear the right clothes for a family photoshoot to create a visually cohesive and aesthetically pleasing image. Clothing choices can also impact the overall mood and feel of the photograph. Wearing clothes that match the location and season can also enhance the overall composition of the photo.
Here are some clothing tips to help create a great family portrait:
- Coordinate colours: Choose a colour scheme that complements each other and works well together. Consider using a mix of neutral colours and one or two accent colours to add interest and dimension to the images.
- Dress for the location: Consider the location of the photoshoot when selecting clothing and accessories. For example, if the shoot is taking place outdoors, choose clothing that is weather-appropriate and comfortable.
- Avoid logos and busy patterns: Clothing with logos or busy patterns can be distracting and take away from the focus of the image. Instead, opt for solid colours or simple patterns.
- Accessorize wisely: Accessories can add interest and personality to the images, but be careful not to overdo it. Choose a few key pieces that complement the overall look and feel of the images.
- Consider the season: Dress appropriately for the season to ensure your clients are comfortable and happy during the photoshoot. In the winter, layering is key, while in the summer, lightweight fabrics and breathable materials are a must.
- For extensive advice on what to wear to a family photoshoot click here.
9. Retouch your family pictures with powerful tools
When retouching family portraits you should consider using powerful editing tools such as lightroom or photoshop to improve the photograph. There are several tools available in both Lightroom and Photoshop that can be used to enhance the overall look and feel of the image.
Make Your Photos Pop with the Clarity & Texture Slider
The clarity and texture sliders in Lightroom are designed to make images look sharper and give a bolder look to the images.
What’s the difference between the texture and clarity slider? The clarity slider focuses on wider parts of an image holistically whereas the texture slider will adjust the finer parts of an image which is useful when you don’t want to enhance the image and just want to bring out the finer details. For example in the image below you can find the sliders which you can adjust to make a more provoking image.
Example of Before and After Using the Clarity & Texture Slider
Another useful slider is the tone adjustment sliders such as contrast, exposure, highlight and shadows – these can affect how the overall tone of the image looks like.
The graduated filter tool can also be useful for making adjustments to specific areas of the photo. For example, it can be used to darken the sky or enhance the colors of a sunset in the background of the photo.
Use Photoshop If You Would Like a More Expansive Software
In Photoshop, there are even more tools available for retouching family portraits. The healing brush tool is particularly useful for removing more complex blemishes or distractions in the photo. It works by blending pixels from the surrounding area to fill in the area being retouched.
The clone stamp tool is another useful tool in Photoshop, which allows you to clone pixels from one area of the photo and apply them to another area. This can be useful for removing distractions or enhancing specific areas of the photo.
Additionally, adjustment layers can be used in Photoshop to selectively adjust settings like exposure, contrast, and saturation. This is particularly useful for making subtle adjustments to the overall look of the photo.
Overall Thoughts on Using Post Processing for Family Portraits
When retouching family portraits, it’s important to use these tools in moderation and with a light touch. The goal is to enhance the image while maintaining a natural and authentic look, rather than creating an overly-processed or an unrealistic photo. By using the right tools and techniques, you can create a beautiful and timeless family portrait that captures the essence of your family and the moment.
10. Keep Children Engaged & Busy to Ensure Cooperation
To ensure the smoothest experience for a family portrait is to keep your subjects cooperative this especially is important for young children especially toddlers.
One of the best ways to keep young children engaged and happy during a photo shoot is to make it fun. Bring along some toys or props that the children can play with, and encourage them to interact with each other. This will help create a relaxed and natural atmosphere, which is ideal for capturing great family photos.
Communicate with Children During a Photoshoot
Another helpful tip is to communicate with the children throughout the shoot. Take the time to talk to them and listen to their ideas and suggestions. This can help them feel more involved and invested in the process, and it can also lead to some unexpected and creative photo opportunities.
Be Patient with Children During a Family Photoshoot
It’s also important to be patient and flexible during the shoot. Children can be unpredictable, so it’s important to be prepared to change your plans or approach if needed. This might mean taking breaks when the children need them, or adapting your poses or activities to suit their preferences.
Respect the Childs Boundaries
Finally, it’s crucial to be respectful of the children’s boundaries and preferences. If a child is uncomfortable with a certain pose or activity, don’t force them to do it. Instead, try to come up with alternative ideas that will make them feel more comfortable and engaged. For example, if you are trying to get a group shot of the family, you might suggest that the children sit on the ground while the adults stand behind them. Alternatively, you could try taking some candid shots of the children as they play or interact with each other.
Adam is the co-founder of WeShootYou photography. He is a reputable photographer that’s been featured on sites such as Medium, ZDNET and Business Insider. He specialises on crafting powerful and iconic images for family photography, dating photography and portrait photography.