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Guide to shooting family photos

You don’t need to head to a studio or hire a professional photographer to get great shots of your family. With these tips and tricks, you can capture beautiful family photos yourself.

How to take a family photo

Do’s and don’ts

  • Do familiarize yourself with your camera settings before you start.
  • Do get everyone to relax by being a little corny and silly.
  • Do zoom in and fill the frame with your family — not with the background.
  • Don’t shoot every photo from straight on. Experiment with different angles.
  • Don’t try to pose everyone just perfectly. Shoot plenty of candids, too.
  • Do let a child hold a toy to keep his attention.

“Some kids really don’t like to sit or even take pictures. So I let them do their own thing, and I just follow them, capturing how they are. You can really get some great shots when it’s not set up,” says Carolyn Finger of Yoli Finger Photography.

Tips for better pictures of kids >>

Tricks and secrets

“If you have other friends who have kids your age, try to take portraits together on a family outing somewhere — a park, a hike or a field trip,” suggests Arieanna Schweber, mother of 2-year-old Aiden. “I find that getting photos of Mom, Dad and children the most difficult because one of the adults is often behind the camera. With two families, you can take turns taking a few posed photos; then, you can have fun focusing on the kids for the rest of the time.”

If you don’t have others willing to help you capture pictures of your own family, set your camera on a tripod, use its timer and put it on continuous shooting mode. Then, get in the shot.

Schweber also takes the emphasis off of forced poses.”By taking lots of photos, sometimes you end up with really unexpected moments caught on camera. For example, we got a few great smiling pictures of my husband and Aiden in Hawaii, but the one I like the best is one where my son isn’t even looking at the camera — because it looks all snuggly and natural.”

Generally, having subjects at eye level or just slightly above it yields the best photographs; however, you can play around with extreme angles to create dramatic effects, as well.

Things to avoid when taking family photos >>

Tips from the pros

Fabulous family photos convey love and connections. To put your subjects at ease, photograph them in a familiar environment and get them talking.

“You want the viewer to sense the relationship of the family in the photo,” says Erin Myers of Erin N. Myers Photography. “There are a few ways you can accomplish this. Ask the family members to talk about their days. What happened that was positive? Did anything happen that made you laugh? Did monkeys climb down the chimney and eat all the cookies?”

Physical contact among family members can tell a story, too. “An arm around someone’s shoulders, holding hands, even eye contact can communicate a relationship well,” says Myers.

For families with small children, you have to make the process fun and interesting. “When taking a posed family photo, it is really important to make sure no one is blinking,” says Myers. “You could make a game out of it. Tell everyone to close their eyes until you count to three. When you get to three, everyone opens their eyes and you take the shot. It can be silly, and you will get a lot of genuine smiles.”

Watch: How to make your photos look retro

Turn your mainstream photos into retro coolness. This Photoshop video tutorial will show you how to apply a retro photo effect using professional, non-destructive editing techniques.

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