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Photography tips: Family Portraits

There are times when we are all too aware of the old saying about you can choose your friends but not your family. Our families can be a great source of joy, support and togetherness: yet at times they can drive us to distraction! Sometimes we look around and think that everyone else seems to have a better, happier or less complicated family life than we do: but other people are probably thinking the same about us.

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Whatever your family situation, just pause and take a moment to appreciate what you’ve got. As the words of Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi describe so well: “Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it’s gone.” Families change constantly, people come and go, and we often don’t make time to enjoy being with the family that we do have.

Life is full of good intentions but many of us also neglect the opportunity to capture family memories in a way that will last for years to come. In our instant, online culture we may take dozens of photos on our phone and perhaps upload some of them to social media but do we have any really good family portraits that generations to come will be able to enjoy in the future?

So next time you have a family gathering why not spend a few minutes getting some really good photographs that you can then circulate round the family in various formats such as photo albums or wall art. Whatever format they choose, you will all be able to enjoy the photographs and the shared memories that they bring.

Here are our five tips for getting your family portraits just right:

  1. Location, location, location Find somewhere that suits your family and will make a good background for the photographs. Outside may be better because of the light and because there is likely to be less clutter in the background. But choose somewhere that works for your family and is a good reflection of who they are.
  2. Take your positions Arrange the group well so that everyone can be seen. This generally means the taller ones at the back but you might want to break things up a bit by having some of them kneel at the front. Also do what you can to get people to relax: most people hate having their photo taken and many will look stiff and starchy. So get them to loosen up a bit, bend or turn slightly so they are not bolt upright. Also consider how the photograph will look through their eyes and make sure that everyone is in the most flattering position possible.
  3. Light and Shade Family portraits are much better when you have good lighting. Ideally you want light in everyone’s faces to brighten the whole photograph up. A good guideline is to make sure you can see light reflecting from their eyes: if not, then there probably isn’t enough light in their faces. Also think about the direction of the light; the best angle for family portraits is from the side, ideally around 30-45 degrees from the camera. Also make sure there are no terribly clashing colours right next to each other. This is something that can easily be overlooked at the time but looks dreadful in the finished result.
  4. Facial expressions Be clear about where you want people to look. You are probably better using a tripod for the camera because you can then chivvy people along and get them to smile and relax without being hindered by a camera between you and them. It also give you the opportunity to join in some photos and either use a remote trigger or have someone else press the button. So ensure you have the best settings in terms of exposure and focus, leave the camera on the tripod ready to roll once the group is organised. But do get them looking in the same direction otherwise it will look odd.
  5. Have fun! Last but not least. The photography session should be fun for everyone, not an ordeal. If you can get everyone relaxed and laughing, you will get much better results. This may involve you doing some entertaining banter from the camera end, but also get the children involved. Family portraits are just as much about them as everyone else, so it’s a good opportunity for them to have fun and amuse others while you snap away in the background.
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We hope the above tips will help you create some wonderful family portraits that everyone will treasure for years to come. But if you would rather put the responsibility into the hands of the professionals then why not consider having some family portraits done by Venture Studios? It could be an ideal Christmas gift for all the family to share and enjoy. To find out more about how we can help, why not get in touch with Venture Studios today!

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