Tips & Tricks

10 Tips For Taking Family Photos

By Kirk Schuchardt

“Just remember: this will be in the Christmas letter next year.”

It’s true. As my family and I stand at the bottom of a staircase, waiting for the camera to flash, I have to remember that one of these photos is going out to dozens of people. So the pressure is on to look classy.

All sorts of problems can pop up when you’re taking family photos: awkward poses, strained smiles, clashing outfits, closed eyes, dim lighting, and hands that suddenly feel out of place.

This doesn’t need to happen to you. While this year's winter festivities have mostly passed, by following the ten tips below, you can make next year's holiday photos look even better AND make the photoshoot experience easier for your family members to enjoy.

  1. Get your family in a good mood so that it’s easier for them to give more natural smiles. Tell some jokes! A smile in the middle of a laugh typically looks more natural than a smile held in place for half a minute.
  2. Take several shots at once so you have several photos to pick from in case someone’s facial expressions get caught at a strange time. Check to see if anyone’s eyes are closed on multiple shots.
  3. Take some candid photos of your family doing something together, such as frosting cookies, in order to make the photo appear more natural.
  1. Coordinate colors in a way so nobody stands out awkwardly. If everyone is wearing neutral colors, then it might be best if your brother doesn’t wear his lime green Kermit the frog sweater vest. (Nor would it be ideal if everyone wore plaid. Plaid, or any pattern, can become visually overwhelming if too many people wear it.) Here are just a few family photo color schemes that work well in group photos:
    • denim and tan
    • blue, green, and yellow
    • red, grey, and black
    • light blue, tan, and white
    • red and green (for Christmas, of course)
  1. Ask your family members some questions to get them thinking as their photos are being taken. It will make their expressions look more focused and thoughtful.
  2. Take at least one fun, non-serious photo. Use some holiday props like a giant candy cane or some mistletoe held high. This photo isn’t meant to look nice. It’s just an opportunity for you to be strange or melodramatic in a socially approved way.
  3. Group couples together and let people take poses that feel natural to them. I can’t remember the last time I saw two people in real life stand back to back.
  4. Use the manual mode on your camera, not the automatic mode because then your camera will change settings automatically. It will take longer to adjust the camera to the lighting, but the results will look better.
  1. Make sure there’s a sufficient amount of light so that you’ll be able to see more depth and nuance in people’s expressions.
  2. Pay attention to where your hands are. Where you place your hands in a photo draws attention to that area. Crossing your arms can come across as a little aggressive whereas putting your hands behind your back may come across as standoffish. Put your arms around the person next to you or put one hand in a pocket. Or, keep your hands at your side.

I hope your holidays were excellent, however you spent them. And, now that your relatives have all crammed themselves into the back seat of a van and have hit the highway, take a break and get your family photos uploaded to FOREVER!

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