Wildly passionate about her family, Ashley Ann Campbell captures the beautiful details of her life through a collection of powerful photos and words called Under the Sycamore. Follow Ashley’s latest adventures on Instagram and Facebook.
Capturing a family photo is a fun (and challenging) exercise that my family regularly partakes in around the holidays. I love documenting our family as a group. In fact, our group photos are some of my very favorite photographs. Here are a few tips to help you capture family photos for a holiday card.
1. Begin with family shots before individual shots – For most families, everyone tends to be more willing and happy at the beginning of a photo session than at the end. Snapping individual photos is a bit easier than group shots, so plan to capture the family as a whole first.
2. Pick your location – Scout out a location that compliments your family, not distracts from it. Whether you opt for an urban setting or a more rustic outdoors location, try to avoid a cluttered background. Most cameras handle large areas of open shade well in Auto. I recommend finding an area, whether urban or natural, that is well lit without harsh shadows or spotted direct light.
3. Practice & Set Up the Shot First – The key to capturing a family quickly, before everyone revolts or gets tired, is to be quick. Get everything set up on your camera before you ask anyone to stand still or look your direction. I recommend looking on Pinterest for posing ideas before your session, but don’t get overwhelmed by all the ideas there. Have your family stand in the area that you are going to take the photo. If you understand how to use the Manual mode of your camera, go ahead and pick all your settings now. If the Manual mode is foreign to you and you like blurry backgrounds, try switching your camera to the Av/A mode and select a number around 3.5 (f/3.5) – or the smallest number available to you. Take a practice shot, if not everyone is in focus, increase that number until all of your subjects are in focus. Take a few minutes to shoot some practice shots before you have everyone get into position.
Once you get everyone in position, start snapping photos. Sometimes you take the shot, celebrate that everyone but the puppy is looking, only to realize that the middle child has a water bottle cap tucked in his cheek.
And sometimes you get a shot without the water bottle cap, the puppy looking right at the camera and the oldest daughter is looking at her little sister. Group shots, especially with children, take patience but even the outtakes have their own charm.
4. The “Golden Hour” – Many photographers refer to the “Golden Hour” in regards to the last hour before sunset. At this time of evening, the sun sets with a beautiful golden glow over everything. This light is especially gorgeous when softly lighting your family from behind. Capturing back lighting (the sun behind your family) can be pretty tricky on Auto. For those that understand how to shoot in Manual, here are a few things I did to capture a back lit photo of my family. Like above, I found a location with even light and used my tripod. As far as settings, I used the tree to block the sun from directly hitting my lens and washing out any family members. I used the following settings: ISO 250, 1/320, f/2.8.
In the end, maybe you will have a ‘perfect’ image and maybe you won’t. If you can keep the whole experience fast and relatively fun for your family, the chances of walking away with an image that they treasure is far greater. While it is always fun to have everyone looking at the camera, sometimes a toddler spoils your plans and tries to run away the moment you snap the shot. And that is okay. One day that toddler will sit still and smile and your family will fondly look back at the shot of him running away.