So it’s under a week away, the time when families descend upon each other, often in numbers only seen once a year. It can therefore be a great opportunity to take a group family photo so here are 10 tips to help you take a better photo.
1. Choose your location. Outside is preferable as inside will rarely have enough light. Once outside unless near to sunrise or sunset when the light is softer, you need to be looking for shade to prevent harsh shadows when the sun is out. If it is cloudy you are all good and should be able to photograph in almost any direction/position as the cloud acts as a diffuser, but you will get best result with the sun behind you or to the side, rather than infront. You also need to look for a clean background. Gardens are normally good and trees can provide shade if required. If your garden is small or non existent, take a walk to a local park or a field. (don’t trespass on land without permission though). A quiet road can even provide a good backdrop but be very very careful regarding traffic especially when your group includes children.
If you have no choice but to photograph indoors try and use a large window or doors infront of the group to provide light. Conservatory doors for example would be ideal. If not available you may need to use artificial light in the form of a flash (or multiple for large groups). Most internal house lighting will not be powerful enough and is also rather unflattering . If using a flash it’s best to avoid on camera as it will create flat light and harsh shadows but if the only option is better than nothing.
2. Clothing. Unless matchy matchy is your idea of family fun generally you can let people wear what they want. It may be worth suggesting though to keep tones neutral, especially for those that like more neon colours, and perhaps a dress code if likely to get a mix. (I.e. casual, smart casual etc) as if someone is in jeans and a tee shirt it will look out of place with everyone else with tie and shirt.
3. Get your tripod out, if you don’t have one then you can improvise. Something at least a metre high normally, and stable that the camera shouldn’t fall off. Using a beanbag (or a zip bag full of rice) is ideal to stabilise the lens to stop the camera falling forward if using a DSLR. Using a tripod will allow you to interact with the rest of the family, allow you to take your time and most importantly with the help of point 2 be in the photo! Importantly if your camera or lens has an image stabilisation/camera shake mode turn this off when using a tripod.
4. Use a remote or timer. A family photo is just that the WHOLE family, if you’re behind the camera you’re not in the photo, but technology is here to be the saviour, so use it. A remote is the ideal option as stops you running backwards and forwards but if you don’t have access to one most cameras have a timer setting. You want a minimum of 5 seconds but more preferably 10 seconds to give you time to join the group without rushing.
5. Manually focus. If using a DSLR manually focus, this will ensure when using a remote/timer that the camera doesn’t refocus when the photo is taken.
6. Set a narrower aperture than normal. This is especially important with larger groups but will only be an option if you have a DSLR or bridge camera normally. The minimum I would suggest is F5.6 but you may want to consider up to F8. By using a tripod you can safely have a slower shutter speed. Most point and shot cameras tend to shoot at a narrower aperture anyway so you should be safe.
7. Bend Bend Bend! Ok a random one but if people don’t bend (knees/elbows/waist) they look wooden. Hands on a hip, finger through a belt buckle or thumb in a pocket (not hands in pockets as then people look dismembered!) get arms moving. if standing side on bend the nearest to camera knee so popping out the opposite hip. If only a few people sitting portraits can look good, and if larger groups you can incorporate people sitting at the front.
8. Interaction. You’re a family and you know each other so show it. Rather than looking like a school photo get people to interact. Arms round waists/shoulders, holding hands. Get people up close and personal as well, you want minimal to no space between people. Make sure to apply this rule to yourself when you join the group so you don’t look disjointed from the rest.
9. Stagger heights. There is always a desire to organise people in height order but this again leads to a uniform school photo situation. Instead jumble people up, as long as everyone’s face is visible and no one looks like they are particularly hidden then roll with it. This will also speed up the process of taking the photo and stop people becoming bored as there will be no ‘oh uncle bob is taller than me’.
10. Have fun! Tell some jokes, get people to adopt silly poses, play games. Put a child in charge of the shutter button for a minute (make sure on single shot and not multiple exposure unless you want a zillion photos). Do what it takes to help everyone relax.