For 15 years, I’ve made a business out of photographing families. One of the greatest joys in portrait photography is creating images that my clients love and will remain a part of their family's memories for years to come. One of the biggest compliments I receive from my clients is when they tells me I have perfectly captured their (or their child’s) personality. It has been an important part of my personal goals and business model since I first became a professional photographer.
But taking pictures of your own family can be a test of your patience and lead you down a path of frustration and exhaustion. It’s hard to get everyone in your family to smile at the same time, give their best, and not have you throwing in the towel. Because of this, I want to share with you some of my top tips of how to take great pictures of your own family—pictures that will become a cherished part of your family’s memories—that capture the love, personalities, and group activities that make your family unique. Take a few moments to read through these helpful hints before putting your family in front of your camera.
1 MAKE THE SESSION PLAY TIME
Instead of trying to capture perfection in your images, instead focus on awesome expressions. One of the fastest ways to ruin a genuinely joyful expression in your child is to try to ask them to sit still and smile. Instead, play games with your child while you take pictures of them. Kids love to play. Whether it’s playing peek-a-boo with a baby, hide-and-seek with a toddler, or silly faces with your school-ager, giving them the opportunity to see the session as play time will ensure you get genuine smiles and it will make the session go faster. Older kids require less game playing, but if you want your pre-teen to give you some awesome smile, just give them some bubble gum and tell them to blow the biggest bubble ever. Give your teen the opportunity to feel like the session is a model shoot—both boys and girls can show off their greatest talent or best clothing.
2 FIND AN ACTIVITY THAT EVERYONE ENJOYS
One of the best ways to get the family involved in doing pictures is to plan a fun family activity and photograph them doing it. This style of photography is called documentary and it allows the subjects to relax and be themselves. After a while, your subjects will probably even forget the camera is pointed at them. Whether the outing includes a peaceful family picnic, a thrilling day at a an adventure park, relaxing day at the beach, or just a just a lazy day at home putting together puzzles, your images will be sure to encapsulate a memorable day filled with genuine expressions of joy and love.
3 GET CLOSE AND SNUGGLY
One thing that I love to tell my clients to do is get in close, closer, and even closer. Gaps between family members makes the image feel disjointed and disconnected. Once you get that close to each other, snuggle up, lean in, or pile up. It all depends on your family’s personality. Kids love to pile onto their parents’ laps and on their backs. Creating a snuggly family picture can be as easy as hugging your child.
4 USE YOUR CELL PHONE AS A REMOTE
Olympus cameras make it easy to use your smartphone as a remote. Open up the OI Share app, hide your phone next to your body, and snap away.
5 MAKE SURE YOUR SETTINGS FIT THE SETTING
I love to shoot with a shallow depth of field. If I am photographing a single subject, I like to shoot at 2.8 or lower. The new M.Zuiko 25mm f1.2 PRO lens has a maximum aperture of f1.2! This is a perfect lens for capturing subjects with beautiful clarity while creating a soft, defocused background. However, if I am shooting a family session and need a greater depth of field, I will generally shoot at f4 or f5.6. This ensures that all of the subjects are in focus and will not compromise the clarity of their eyes.
Shutter speed is important if your subjects are moving quickly. In general, I Iike to keep my shutter speed around 1/125th sec, but it my subjects are moving, I like to pump that number up to 1/250th sec or higher depending on their speed.
No matter the personality of your family, creating long-lasting imagery that will stand the test of time is easy if you take the time to properly plan for an enjoyable session.