Top eight tips for taking a family portrait

01 September 2015 ( 14 May 2018 )

Everyone wants a good family portrait for the mantelpiece. So why not take one yourself? Here’s how with our easy-to-follow tips.

1. Get smart

Ask everyone you want in the picture to wear their best clothes - perhaps consider a colour theme, or allocate people a different colour to wear, or go classy and monochrome. Perhaps even bring a change of clothes, in case of clashing colours, or just for fun!

However, ask your nearest and dearest to avoid bold patterns and logos as these will overpower the final image.

2. Take a lot of shots

You don’t want members of your family to look as if they are half-asleep so take as many shots as you can to avoid anyone blinking or looking in the wrong direction.

Take some fun ones too - these can lead to lots of laughter and make for some great candid shots reflecting your family life as it really is.

3. Consider lighting

Direct flash almost never works so you’ll want the fastest lens. This allows you to shoot in low light.

If you do decide to use flash indoors, use a diffuser which will soften the effect. 

Avoid direct sunlight. Everyone will look washed out, and will probably be squinting - or wearing sunglasses!

If you decide to take pictures outside on a bright sunny day, use a large white card or buy a reflector.

A reflector does just what it says – it reflects light. Make sure that the light is hitting the reflector and that your family are not casting a shadow on it. If you want to save money use a foldable car shade and cover it in tinfoil. If you don’t, you could use an old towel or a large white sheet. 

How to always look good in wedding photographs

4. Use a tripod

It’s worth investing in a good tripod.

Not only can it calm you down – it can be just as nervy taking photographs as it is being in them – but it also allows you to make eye contact with your family which is very important when coaxing expressions. 

Psychologically, the presence of a tripod might make everyone take the whole thing a bit more seriously.

And of course, it'll eliminate any issues you have with shaky hands.

Could your hands be showing signs of underlying health conditions?

5. Positioning

Position everyone so the tallest is at the back and keep the front reserved for the grandchildren. 

Remember, just because people can see the camera it doesn't mean the camera can see them - the last thing you want is a shot of just someone's eyes peeping around Grandma and nothing else of their face. Take a moment to make sure everyone can be seen clearly. 

6. Zoom

Try using a zoom lens which means you will be able to stand further back and the camera will be less distracting to young children, resulting in a more natural-looking photograph. 

7. Treats

If children are being tetchy promise them a treat once the session has finished.

Don’t give them treats while you are still taking photos as you don’t want their munching to spoil the session, but a promise of sweets afterwards will make them happy to pose for you.

And don't be tempted to use the stick instead of the carrot - suggesting that Santa might not visit if they don't behave will result in tears and panicked faces in the resulting snap. 

Dilemma: I want to spoil my grandchildren 

8. Closing in

Even though they are your family they still might not be getting close enough. Having everyone in tight truly makes a difference in the tone. When families are physically close, it creates warmth and showcases your affection for your relatives. 

Find out where to get your photos printed

Enjoy the new Saga Magazine app FREE until 31 May 2021

Enjoy the new Saga Magazine app FREE until 31 May 2021...

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.