How to Improve Your Family Photos
With graduations, weddings, and family reunions right around the corner, we asked our talented staff to share with us their tips and tricks for capturing better family photos. Find out how they’ve managed to get that cranky baby to crack a smile or to get everyone in a group shot to look at the camera to create that perfect shot of your loved ones.
- Favorite Gear: I really like to use two particular lens/camera combinations when photographing families -my D7000, with a Tamron 17-50mm 2.8 lens, and my D600 with a Tamron 70-200mm 2.8 VC. With the D7000 and the 17-50mm, I like to get interesting angles, like shots from ground level – especially fun when photographing children at play. This combination allows me to stay on the move too – often with kids (and families with small children), I run around a lot capturing “the action” of the family “doing things.” With the D600 & 70-200mm it allows me to capture the family interacting with one another, whether posing or just having fun, without being right on top of them. The distance creates more of a natural relaxed state with your subjects.
- Best Advice: Photographing families is among my favorite things to do! There is a special magic that happens when you can see the unique dynamic of a family unfold for the camera – individual personalities shine through – whether it’s a child who loves spider man casting his web over things, or a parent’s love for their child… you can just “feel” the love shared amongst family members. As someone who grew up in a family of seven, I feel a special connection to the families I photograph – I live to bring to life the details of the family dynamic and the individual personalities that each person brings to the group.
- My advice for photographing families is to “do” things with the family who you are photographing -whether it’s a walk through a pumpkin patch or investigating nature or cool public art in your town . I find it adds something special to the portrait session and can help bring through the natural smiles and authentic family dynamic. And, you’ll have a lot of fun!
Diane Massie-Chicago, IL
- Favorite Gear: My camera, of course, because I can record memories with it!
- Best Advice: Archive your files and keep notes of who is in each photograph. I create folders on my computer and label the folders by event and date. Then within the folder, I include a journal of who was with me and any other details about the event. That way I really do have those memories forever, and am not staring at a photograph wondering “who are all those people?”
Christin Stoll-San Diego, CA
- Best Advice: What I have learned about taking pictures of my kid is to know how to make her smile with either a song she likes or a toy that lights up her eyes. Make sure to have all the tools you need going into the shoot. I take a bunch of pictures and I have one flash bouncing off the ceiling. Just have fun with it, because if you don’t, working with babies, kids or animals turns out to be a headache. And when it comes to kids, always shoot at their height level.
Zane Davis-Chicago, IL | Portfolio
- One day my wife and I will probably have a kid, but until then we will continue to excessively pamper our cat, Pynchon. But I think it is great training for if/when we eventually have kids, at least as far as capturing memories goes. I presume raising kids will be a bit different.
- Favorite gear: My D800, 28mm f/1.8 and trusty SB-800.
- Best advice: Don’t be afraid to use a speedlight. Seriously. Having a flash nearby to throw onto my D800 makes all the difference, whether I am trying to photograph our cat striking a pose or want to capture a few good shots of friends hanging out at our place. We have low white ceilings, so I usually don’t do much more than point the flash at the ceiling while it is set on TTL. I like a flash because it freezes the moment and the camera can usually get an accurate-enough exposure without me needing to fuss at all. Not needing to fuss means I can quickly capture moments as they happen without needing to think at all. And exposing for Pynchon is usually a challenge, so the less I have to think the better.To see what I mean, here’s a great series of a family trying to take photos of their dog. They should’ve used a flash!
David Gremp-Chicago, IL
- Best Advice:While raising my kids and documenting their early lives, I always seemed to be saddled with three cameras around my neck: one point-and-shoot with color film, one video camcorder and my medium-format camera with black-and-white film. It’s a wonder I ever got any good pictures. Of course my advice would be to use one camera at a time. My other advice is to never try to capture a moment with just one exposure. Take at least two. Every picture tells a different story.
Richard Newman-Pacific Grove, CA | Portfolio
- My favorite piece of photo gear for photographing groups or families is a small dog squeaker that I keep in my pocket or put under my foot. If I have somebody in the group that isn’t paying attention, I squeak the squeaker and everyone looks at the source of the sound. It gets everyone’s attention and works great for pets too!
These are just a few of the tricks that we’ve learned over the years to create better family photos. We’d love to hear from you about what tips or gear you’ve found helpful to improve photos of your loved ones.