Family photography: The basic shots you need to know

May 7, 2012 at 6:36 a.m. ET

Family photos give you a snapshot of your family to hold onto. They freeze time and keep things just as they are forever, even if it’s only on that piece of photo paper. Learn these basic shots to help you get the most out of your next family photo session, whether you’re in front of the camera or behind it.


You’ve been posing for this family photograph for as long as you can remember. Everyone dresses in his or her Sunday best and you sit in a studio in front of a background, all lined up perfectly. Everyone smiles when the photographer says to, and you get a picture that’s beautiful, but not the most exciting picture you’ve ever hung on your wall. This shot is timeless and probably one the grandparents will love.

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Formal family portrait

Casual family photo


Casual family portraits are more laid-back than formal photos, but not as wild and crazy as some of the other types of photos, either. They usually involve family members dressed in a more casual manner (you never would have guessed that, right?), typically in jeans or khaki pants and often in shirts of one or two similar colors. They aren’t rigidly posed -- some may capture laughter or family members looking at each other instead of the camera. You’ll often find hands in pockets and small children on daddy’s shoulders in these easy-going portraits. Casual family photos are an extremely popular type of family photo at the moment and are what many professional photographers expect to take at the standard photo session.

Outside family portrait


Cloth backdrops are so ten years ago! Ditch the studio and step outdoors for your family photographs. No matter where you live, you can find a backdrop that fits your family’s style. Walk through the woods until you find the perfect fallen log to sit on, or climb a hill and take a shot overlooking your city. Visit a farm and pose in a barn or on a fence, or stop by a local lake or pond for a pretty water background. Play in the snow or walk on the beach -- the possibilities are nearly endless!

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Action family portrait


Action shots aren’t easy to get, but they’re fun to try for. Simpler action shots sometimes involve families walking hand in hand or a crew caught up in conversation. The more difficult (but also livelier) shots include everyone jumping into the air, running or kids playing. The smiles in these photos are most likely genuine because it’s so much fun trying to get the shot.

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Family portrait with dogs

Fur babies

People with pets often count their four-legged friends as family members, and this is still true come picture day. Cats and dogs (and sometimes other, stranger creatures) are likely as tricky to photograph as an unruly toddler, but your portraits are about capturing a shot of everyone you love, so be patient.

Family vacation ideas

Looking for more ways to enjoy your family vacation? Check out Family Travel City Guide TV -- you'll find everything from the best local staycation venues to the hottest family adventure spots all over the country.

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