Working as a pro photographer has taught me many things in my career and one thing that I get asked the most from my clients, especially parents, is what tips I have for parents to help them take family photos themselves that turn out ok. Because of this, I've decided to create this ultimate family portrait guide on how parents, like yourself, can take stunning family photos that you can be proud to hang on the wall. Let's get started.
Family Photo 101: Best Advice For Taking Family Photos
1. Understanding Your Camera Features Better
Almost everyone has a camera, but I believe not everyone knows the features their camera holds and how these functions can help improve your photos when used correctly. So, take the time to learn about your camera and its features. Take practice shots to get a feel of it and to figure out what each setting can do.
You'll be thankful you did. Remember, the last thing you want is to miss out on the perfect shot because you were too busy learning about your camera right there and then. You should know the difference between the shutter speed and aperture.
- How sharp or blurry your photos turn out when capturing something in motion depends on the shutter speed. You'll need a high shutter speed for action shots if you're taking shots in manual mode. I find this is best when taking photos of my kid while at play.
- In this case, I agree with the advice of the New York Institute of Photography about setting your shutter speed to 1/200. For outdoor shots, set it higher preferably, at 1/1000 or even higher on account of the natural light available to you.
- The aperture dictates how sharp or blurry your background comes out in the photo. Action shots with your kids in focus require a lower aperture, f/4 or f/5.6 is about right.
2. It's Alright to Use Your Camera Settings
I'll admit not everyone will be able to memorise what each setting does. It's why cameras also come with the P mode with automatic settings. P stands for Programmed Automatic. You don't have to feel bad about it. In fact, using it can help you learn more about your camera especially if you're a newbie to a DLSR. However, you're not completely on autopilot as you still have control over the following features.
- You decide to use the flash or not. As a rule, remember to turn it off if the shot you plan to take has a lot of light so you can minimise shadows.
- If you do turn off the flash, then be sure to consider the exposure. The last thing you want is an under-exposed shot.
- Grainy shots happen when the ISO is high, which is a downside of taking photos in P mode. Even so, you can adjust this and lower the ISO when you need to.
- Remember to check the white balance to make sure it's adjusted to the amount and the type of lighting you're using. Or you can use AWB (auto white balance), it used to be a bad thing to use AWB, but modern cameras are pretty good with AWB now. So go ahead and feel safe to use it.
3. The Light is Your Best Friend
Light is what will make or break your shot. Moreover, don't depend on the flash to give you the light you need. My advice to you is to use natural sunlight unless you can afford to purchase a pro lighting equipment.
- For indoor shoots, don't be afraid to open the curtains to let in the sun. The natural sunlight can do wonders for your shot. If you use a flash indoors, there's a chance the images will look washed out.
- If the light coming in is too strong, use a thin white cotton sheet to diffuse it. In this way, the lighting will be so much softer, creating beautiful light wrapping around your kids that only can be done with natural light.
- For outdoor shoots, the best times are during the early morning or before sunset. When taking the shot, make sure the light isn't at your back. If it is, then don't be surprised if everyone in the shot is squinting.
4. Keep the Atmosphere Light
In my experience, children aren't happy when they're forced to do something. Moreover, it shows on their faces. Regardless of how big their smiles might be. So, in as much as you want to take a great family photo, my advice is to keep the shoot casual and stress-free.
- Get your kids excited for the family portrait. Yes, it's possible. Decide on a colour theme, then let them choose which outfit they want to wear. In doing so, you'll get to capture their natural excitement on camera.
- On photo shoots with children, I find bringing along candy helps. If you don't like giving your kids sweets, then let them take along a favourite toy. You can even incorporate the toy into the shot.
- Make sure everyone is rested and full before the shoot. No doubt, you already feel the pressure of taking the perfect family shot. The added demands for nap time and food could send you over the edge.
- Take timeouts when needed. I do a lot of take-fives when shooting family photos. It gives everyone a break especially younger kids who are known to have shorter attention spans.
5. Have Fun and Be Creative
In my opinion, the best family photos happen when you're having fun. As a result, the images are natural and happy. No one has that pained look on their faces. In fact, I've done a lot of shoots wherein families break tradition and get creative.
- Chances are your kids are always in your bed. So, why not memorialise the fun of a tickle party in your bed with the kids.
- If you have a family pet, remember to bring them into the shot.
- Catch the family doing an activity they love, like playing ball in the garden.
- Take as many shots as you can, even the silly ones. I can't tell you how many times I've found a gem among tons of shots. Trust me, you'll find yours too.
Photos are a great way to record your family's life. In my experience, the fun is what makes them extra special when you recall the exact moment you captured each one. So, I’m certain you'll be prouder to show them off to everyone. Are you ready to take great family photos?
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