How to Take Stunning Family Photos

by David Em

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Family pictures are an excellent way to cherish memories and share with future generations their ancestors who came before them.

Family of four walking in front of a tree.

Importance of family pictures

As a photographer, you play an important role in a family’s life when you’re taking their photos because you’ll capture moments of joy, laughter, and love.

Related: 5 posing tips for authentic portraits

The photos you take will be cherished and adored by the family, and future generations.

Time moves quickly, and kids grow up fast. Family pictures will serve as an authentic reminder of what a family was like.

Additionally, family photos will be passed down. They connect different generations who didn’t get the opportunity to live at the same time.

Related: 12 best Christmas card photo ideas

When you see photos of your ancestors, you’re looking at the people who came before you, and helped shape who you are today.

How to take better family pictures

The following are 5 ways to take better family pictures:

1. Light in the eyes without looking at the sun

Eye’s look the best when they’re well-lit. That’s why it’s important to capture light in your subject’s eyes.

Related: Ultimate guide to catchlight

When people’s eyes are well-lit, it adds depth and dimension. It makes the person look full of life, and draws a viewer in. It’s an exceptional way to make the image pop.

Using the right methods is important because you don’t want your subjects to look directly at the sun.

Instead, you can have your subject look in the direction of the light source. For example, looking at the sky is a great alternative to the sun because it’ll illuminate your subject’s eyes.

If you’re photographing family pictures at your client’s house, they can look at a window because that’ll be the source of light.

Related article: Creative maternity photoshoot ideas and tips

2. Stagger heads

When you’re taking family pictures, make sure everyone’s head is on different levels to avoid the straight line of heads.

Staggering the heads is an excellent way to add interest to the photo. Instead of a straight line, there’ll be a diagonal line that connects their heads, which is more dynamic.

Related article: The complete guide to children’s photography

3. Play a game

Photos that show the family engaged and interacting are often the best ones. If all of the photos you take have everyone looking and smiling at the camera at the same time, it’ll be redundant.

Generally, kids don’t like to pose and smile for the camera. If they’re forced to do it, the photos will look staged and awkward.

Let kids relax and play, it’ll allow you to capture a genuine photo.

Playing games as a family is a great way to engage everyone. The following are examples of games you can have them play:

  • Red light, green light.
  • Fly like an airplane.
  • Have a parent sneak up behind the kids and hug them.
  • Dance party.
  • Tickle time.

4. Use a smaller aperture

Avoid using a large aperture because you’re photographing more than one person. A large aperture is great for focusing on a single person, but it doesn’t do well in groups.

When you’re shooting family photos, use an aperture of f/5.6 or greater. A greater number means a smaller aperture.

Related: Understanding aperture in photography

The only time you’d be able to use a large aperture, such as f/1.4, is if everyone is on the same plane. Realistically, this would rarely happen, but it’s good to understand how it could work.

Additionally, using a fast shutter speed will benefit you because you’ll be able to freeze movement. You won’t have to worry about anyone moving because it won’t be blurry.

Since your subject’s will likely be at different depths, use a small aperture and fast shutter speed.

5. Shoot at the right time

Family pictures look incredible with natural light. Therefore, the time that your session takes place is important.

If you’re shooting inside a family’s home, it’s best to shoot late in the morning or around noon because the light won’t be shining harshly through the windows.

The late morning is when homes usually look the best when it comes to lighting. However, it can vary depending on your client’s home, so you can ask to see how the light looks prior to your session.

If you’re shooting outside, you can shoot in the morning or evening because you’ll be able to utilize the golden hours of the day.

Although there’s nothing wrong with harsh mid-day light, the golden hour provides excellent and warm lighting that makes family photos look beautiful.

When you’re shooting in the evenings, it’s common for kids to be tired. To combat this, you can tell the parents to make sure the kids take a late nap or have downtime before the session.

Frequently asked questions

What are the best poses for family pictures?

Although traditional and posed family pictures look great. Getting a relaxed photo with the family interacting is better and more genuine. Capture reactions, parents kissing the child, hugging, piggy-back rides, and the family goofing around.

What metering mode should I use?

Evaluative metering is the best option when you’re photographing more than one person because allows the camera to analyze the entire image.

What should the family wear for their photoshoot?

The clothes they wear should be the same formality and similar colors because they’ll represent unity. Stick to neutral colors, and avoid bright colors and logos. Keep the outfits simple and clean.


Family pictures document precious moments, growth, and allows you to relive a period of your life. As a photographer, you’re capturing the moments that’ll be cherished by a family for many years.

Featured image courtesy of Unsplash.

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