An Expert Shares 6 Tips for Getting a Great Family Photo

Family PhotoWritten by Lena Antaramian

It’s that time of the year again – time when people are either calling their family photographers to book a photo session, or chasing after their kids with a camera in hopes of getting a holiday-card worthy image.  In my (unbiased) opinion, nothing replaces images taken by a professional family photographer, but if hiring a photographer is not in your budget this year, here are a few simple tips on how to get great images for your holiday cards:

Tip 1: Look for the Light

I believe that light is the most important element for creating a beautiful image.  I recommend you lose the flash as it makes the colors look washed out and embrace natural light.

If you are at home, get your kids close to a window or a doorway (open entrance doors work great) and have them look in the direction of the light.

If you are outdoors, try to avoid taking photographs in direct open light: mid-day, when the sun is really high up, is one of the worst times to photograph.  If you have to shoot at that time, look for an open shade and have your kids stand there.

If possible, try photographing your children either early in the day or towards sunset, when the sun is low to the horizon.  Make sure they stand with their backs to the sun – you can get beautiful sun haze and sunflare that way.  And the sun won’t be blinding them, which is always good.

Tip 2: Pick out Card-worthy Outfits

Gone are the days when everybody wears the same red reindeer sweaters for their holiday card pictures. Outfits can definitely help enhance an image.  I recommend sticking to solids as stripes, patterns and big logos can be distracting in images and take attention away from your kids.  I advise against everybody wearing the same color, it looks a little like ‘Sears Photos’ to me. Try to choose a color and then weave it throughout the outfits to tie them all together.

When picking colors, my advice is not to mix warm and cool colors – e.g. browns and reds look great together (they both are warm colors) but browns and greys – not so much.  Warm colors feel more energetic and alive, while cool colors feel soft and calm – keep that in mind when picking your outfits.

Tip 3: Plan Ahead

Rome was not built in a day and you don’t have to get your images done in one sitting.    Start working on getting your images early on – I usually shoot mine in October – this way you should have plenty of time to get that perfect shot.

Kids (at least mine!) have a short attention span so it is best if you limit your ‘sessions’ to 10-15 minutes.

Tip 4: Remove Distraction

Before you click the shutter button, look around and behind your subjects and check for clutter or distractions.  If you are outside, be on the lookout for tree branches, poles, power lines that appear to ‘grow’ through your kids’ heads.  And if you are home, make sure that the background of your images is nice and neat – having too much stuff tends to take attention away from the children.

Tip 5: Make it Fun

Taking pictures for holiday cards does not have to be a chore (although sometimes it may seem like one!).  Let your kids do something they love to do – be it blowing bubbles, throwing leaves, jumping or tickling each other – and capture them in action.  Or let them do something they are generally not allowed to do – like have a pillow fight – you will get tons of genuine smiles this way!

Tip 6: Find What Makes Them Laugh

If you tell your kids to ‘look at the camera and smile’ I guarantee that you will get a fake looking smile.  So how do you get a genuine smile that lights up their faces?  Easy: you do something that makes them laugh!

What that ‘something’ is really depends on the age of your children.  It could be playing ‘peek-a-boo’, making funny noises or telling them ‘knock-knock’ jokes.  Or if they are like mine – any kind of potty talk will do – I tell them ‘underwear’ and get five minutes of laughter!

I hope you find these tips helpful.  And happy photographing!

Lena Antaramian is an award-winning family and children photographer, and owner of Live.Love.Laugh Photography in Ridgewood.





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