There was a time when good family photography was only done by professional photographers. But now, thanks to the technology of today, anyone with a descent digital camera can learn how to take wonderful family photos. We do not even have to worry about if we brought enough film anymore. Now we can capture those laughs, smiles, and happy get-togethers with a push of a button.
Family portraits are a bit different though. These works of art are meant to offer something special about your family to the viewer. With that in mind, traditional family portraits do not cut it anymore. You know the ones I am talking about; you see them all the time: the immediate family in a staircase or diamond pattern, a nice pull down backdrop that looks all too familiar, all looking forward at the camera and saying ‘cheese’.
This in no way reflects anything personal or interesting about the family and eventually all of these portraits start looking the same. A family portrait should show how beautiful a family’s life is and how close they are. It is also a good to reflect a common interest that they share. So the next time you are setting up a family portrait, get creative.
Here are a few tips and ideas to keep in mind:
Theme – Some people think that themes are overrated. More than likely, they have a very boring family portrait. Find a theme that reflects the character of your family. My family likes to get dressed up as pirates for a local festival ever year, so last year we arranged our family portrait around that theme. They turned out great.
Activities – Are there any activities that you family enjoys doing together: camping, hiking, playing sports, or anything else? Arranging a shooting around a family activity not only reflects a close family with similar interests but everyone is more likely to have a good time and those smiles will be authentic.
Natural Background – Backdrops are convenient but they have been done to death. You will also start to see common backdrops between different families’ portraits. To go along with the previous two ideas, use natural backgrounds. Yes, this means that the portraits should be taken outside (be sure to set your white balance). Natural lighting can also be a bit harsh on sunny days so it is best to take these portraits just after sunrise or just before sunset.
Always Use a Tripod – If you are taking the portraits yourself, use a tripod. It is possible to hold the camera still enough to take a good shot, but it takes a lot of practice. It is much easier to just use a tripod, or at least a unipod.
Remote Shutter – If you have an SLR it may have a remote shutter function. This will allow you to stand off from the camera a bit and do a more natural distant interaction with the family. When the moment is right, release the shutter and capture a more natural looking scene. To do this, the area of the portrait has to be set up in advance, along with all camera settings for taking the shot: focus, aperture setting, and white balance. All of the subjects need to be made aware of the portrait boundaries. This tip is very optional but I have had good results with it; it takes a bit of practice though.
If you keep these tips and family portrait ideas in mind the next time you are setting one up, you are more likely to get the kind of results that look more original