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Family Portraits: More Than Just Smiles on Canvas

Dad playing with his child. Family portrait photography

While our phones are filled with snapshots, there’s something special about a carefully crafted family portrait. These photographs are lasting keepsakes that serve as a tangible link between the past and future. They represent lineage, love, and life moments in a single frame – something that quick selfies and casual photos often can’t.

The family portraits photographer captures smiles, quirks, and poses but also the essence that binds a family together. From the stoic black-and-white portraits of the early 20th century to the dynamic, Instagram-worthy shots of today, family photography serves as an enduring touchstone across generations.

Without further ado, let’s see why family portraits photography continues to capture our hearts and imaginations.

How To Take Family Portraits

You can create meaningful photos of family portraits that go beyond surface-level smiles by learning how to tune into the unique characteristics of each family, select settings that contribute to the image, and use light to your advantage.

By following some guidelines, you can best capture genuine emotions in your photography! Let’s look at some of them:

Lifestyle family photo

1. Get to Know the Family

Before you even set up your camera, it’s vital to understand the family dynamics. Are they reserved or outgoing? Are there special bonds between certain family members that you should highlight? What are their common interests or hobbies that you can incorporate? 

This doesn’t mean conducting an in-depth interview; a relaxed conversation can provide many insights. Knowing the family helps ensure that the portrait isn’t just technically perfect but emotionally resonant.

Tip: Meeting the family beforehand, perhaps during a pre-shoot consultation, can make a significant difference. This is the perfect time to ask for stories that encapsulate their relationships.

2. Decide Between Indoor and Outdoor

This is not just an aesthetic choice but can impact how comfortable the family will be during the shoot. Indoors might be more suitable for older family members or young children, offering a controlled environment. 

Woman with a baby in her hands

Outdoors, however, can add a whimsical or adventurous touch. Consider the family’s lifestyle while making this decision.

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3. Let Kids Have Fun

Photographing children can be challenging. 

Trying to make a child sit still and smile can be counterproductive. Instead, let them play, move around, and even make faces. These candid moments often make for the most cherished photos. Parents will appreciate these shots when they see their children’s personalities shining through.

Example: Let kids blow bubbles or toss leaves in the air. These actions can create engaging and dynamic photos that capture their spirits.

Portrait photo of a child with bubbles.

4. Give Everyone Time to Become Comfortable

The first few shots are rarely the best ones. People need time to relax and forget the camera is even there. Spend some time chatting, make a few jokes, and let everyone become comfortable before you start shooting in earnest.

Tip: Start by shooting some candid shots without any poses. You can say, “Let’s take some practice shots!”. This will help reduce tension and make everyone feel more at ease.

5. Guide, But Also Go for Candid Shots

The first few shots are rarely the best ones. People need time to relax and forget the camera is even there. Spend some time chatting, make a few jokes, and let everyone become comfortable before you start shooting in earnest.

Candid family photography

Tip: After setting up a formal pose, keep your camera ready as the family breaks formation. Those moments of laughter and interaction as they relax often capture the essence of their relationship.

6. Take the Environment into Account

The backdrop can be a character in your portrait. Whether it’s a cozy living room, a lush park, or a scenic beach, the setting should say something about who the family is. Use the environment to add depth, interest, and context to the picture.

Tip: The location should match the family’s style and interests. It should also be convenient for everyone, especially if there are elderly family members.

7. Make Use of Natural Light

Natural light can add a magical quality to photographs, imbuing them with warmth and depth. If indoors, shoot near large windows if possible. If outdoors, the golden hours (shortly after sunrise or before sunset) provide the best lighting conditions.

Natural light family photography

Tip: For an indoor shoot, place the family near a large window with diffused sunlight streaming in for a portrait with soft shadows and bright eyes. For outdoor shoots, aim for either morning or late afternoon to avoid harsh midday shadows.

8. Include the Elders

Grandparents or older relatives add a sense of lineage and heritage to a family portrait. Their expressions often bring a depth of emotion that enriches the entire image. They are the living links between past and future generations.

Tip: Place grandparents seated comfortably at the center, with younger generations around them, to create a poignant portrait that honors their significance in the family.

Family photography with elders

9. Let the Pets Be a Part of It

For many families, pets are as much family members as humans. Including them can make the portrait feel complete and add a layer of liveliness and fun, resulting in the best family portraits. Make sure to consider the pet’s comfort and safety as well.

Tip: If the family has a dog, consider a park as a location for space to run and play. Capture the moments when the pet interacts with the family – like a child hugging the dog or the dog looking up at its owners.

If you’re not sure how to handle pets in your family shoot, this video can be enlightening:

Play Video about Family photos with pets

10. Use A Drone

Drones offer a unique perspective, quite literally. They can be used for capturing a large family in an expansive setting, making the portrait grand yet intimate. However, you should use drone shots thoughtfully and not just as a gimmick.

11. Bonus: Don’t Be Too Serious

While you aim for a perfect shot, remember that the most memorable photos often include some imperfections—someone laughing a little too hard, a playful shove, or a silly face. These ‘imperfections’ often make the portrait more ‘perfect.’

Family Portrait Ideas & Examples

Pictures of family portraits offer a great opportunity to capture unique dynamics, personalities, and relationships within a family. Here are some creative family portraits ideas that will inspire you:

Outdoor Adventure

Plan your family portraits outside – think of a camping trip or a picnic in a scenic outdoor location. Capture candid moments of the family members setting up tents, cooking meals over a campfire, and enjoying outdoor activities. These natural and relaxed moments will create a memorable photo story.

Family picnic photo

Generational Hands

Create a series of close-up shots focusing on hands. Show the hands of different generations holding precious family heirlooms, such as an old photograph, a pocket watch, or jewelry. This concept symbolizes the passing down of traditions and memories.

Family photo with generation hands

Silhouettes at Sunset

Arrange a family photoshoot during the golden hour, just before sunset. Position the family members in front of the setting sun, capturing their silhouettes against the vibrant colors of the sky. This technique adds a touch of mystery and emotion to the portraits.

Silhouette family photography

Storybook Theme

Choose a beloved fairy tale or storybook and have the family members dress up as characters from that story. Create scenes and poses that reflect the narrative, and add a touch of whimsy to your family photography.

Costume family photo idea

Chalk Art

Find a large area of pavement and provide colorful chalks. Encourage the family to create drawings, messages, and imaginative scenes on the ground. Capture candid moments of the family interacting with their chalk creations.

Chalk art baby portrait photo

Passion Project

Incorporate the family’s shared hobbies or interests into the photoshoot. Whether it’s playing musical instruments, painting, cooking, or gardening, capturing these activities in a family setting adds a personalized touch to your family photography.

Cooking family portrait photo

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Family Portrait Photographs To Get Inspired By

Imagine sitting down with a family portrait photo album that makes you rethink what family means in the first place. Each photographer on this list turns the camera into a storyteller, making you see family bonds in a way you’ve never considered.

Get ready to be inspired as we delve into what family portrait photography can be.

Sally Mann

  • Unique Element: Honesty and Controversy
  • Notable Work: “Immediate Family” series
  • Why It’s Inspirational: Sally Mann’s work is sometimes controversial, but it’s undeniably real. She portrays her own family in raw, unfiltered moments, sparking conversations about the boundaries between public and private life.

Jinky Art (Barb Uil)

  • Unique Element: Whimsy and Imagination
  • Notable Work: Various family shoots
  • Why It’s Inspirational: Barb Uil of Jinky Art is known for unique family portraits photographs that feel straight out of a storybook. The whimsical settings and playful interactions make for photos that capture family bonds and encapsulate the magic of childhood.

Michael Kormos

  • Unique Element: Natural Light and Candid Moments
  • Notable Work: Outdoor Family Portraits
  • Why It’s Inspirational: Kormos’ work stands out for its authenticity and the use of natural light. He has a way of capturing family members in relaxed, genuine moments, often outdoors, which adds a sense of freedom and natural beauty to his photos.

Elena Shumilova

  • Unique Element: Fairytale-like Environments
  • Notable Work: Photos of her children with animals in rustic settings
  • Why It’s Inspirational: Elena is known for her dreamy, almost ethereal photography style that includes pets and wildlife. The environments she chooses seem to transport her subjects to a different, magical world, making for an unforgettable family portrait.

Zalmy Berkowitz

  • Unique Element: Natural Light and Candid Moments
  • Notable Work: Outdoor Family Portraits
  • Why It’s Inspirational: Kormos’ work stands out for its authenticity and the use of natural light. He has a way of capturing family members in relaxed, genuine moments, often outdoors, which adds a sense of freedom and natural beauty to his photos.

FAQs

Hiring a professional for your family portraits ensures you’ll get high-quality, well-composed, focused, and lit photos. Professional photographers have the expertise to capture the essence of your family, making the investment worthwhile when you consider these photos will be cherished for generations.

Each season offers unique photographic opportunities. Spring and fall generally provide mild weather and beautiful natural backdrops. Winter can offer a magical snowy setting, while summer brings vibrant colors and longer days. The “best” season often depends on the family’s personal preference and the atmosphere they want to capture.

The duration of a family portrait session can vary based on the photographer’s package and the family’s needs. However, most standard sessions last between 1 to 2 hours. This allows time for different poses, settings, and even outfit changes, ensuring various photos to choose from. If you have young children or multiple locations in mind, it might take longer to get the perfect shots.

The expense of hiring a family photographer can vary widely based on factors such as the photographer’s experience, the duration of the session, the location, and any additional services you may require, like retouching, printing, or framing. Some photographers offer packages that can make a session more affordable by bundling services. It’s always best to discuss your budget and expectations upfront to find a photographer who can meet your needs within your financial means.

Conclusion

As a photographer looking to dive deeper into family portraits, understanding the various elements that make up a great portrait can immensely add to its emotional and artistic value. 

Fusing the right techniques, thoughtful composition, and genuine emotion can turn a simple photograph into an enduring family treasure.

But before starting, don’t forget to check out our other articles on OhMyCamera, where you can find more helpful technical and creative tips.

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Aleksandrs Karevs

Aleksandrs Karevs

Hi, my name is Aleksandrs and I am a full-stack digital marketer passionate about digital photography. In my free time, I enjoy taking photos with my everyday companion – FUJIFILM X100V. Read full story here.

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Aleksandrs Karevs OHMYCAMERA Founder & Author

ARTICLE BY

Hi, my name is Aleksandr and I am a full-stack digital marketer from Riga, Latvia. In 2018 I became obsessed with photography and decided to create this blog to share my knowledge about both photography and marketing. In my free time, I enjoy taking photos with my everyday companion – FUJIFILM X100V.

Disclosure: OHMYCAMERA.com is a participant in several affiliate programs and may be compensated for referring traffic and business to companies from affiliate programs at no additional cost to you.

Aleksandrs Karevs OHMYCAMERA Founder & Author

ARTICLE BY

Hi, my name is Aleksandr and I am a full-stack digital marketer from Riga, Latvia. In 2018 I became obsessed with photography and decided to create this blog to share my knowledge about both photography and marketing. In my free time, I enjoy taking photos with my everyday companion – FUJIFILM X100V.

Disclosure: OHMYCAMERA.com is a participant in several affiliate programs and may be compensated for referring traffic and business to companies from affiliate programs at no additional cost to you.

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Simply enter your email below to receive a FREE eBook filled with actionable tips for immediate photography improvements. 

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