5 Tips for Capturing Better Family Photos

Updated: April 26, 2019 Mpix Support Guest Post

5 Tips for Capture Better Family Photos

Kellie Bieser is the girl behind the camera at Shutter & Glass Photography where she specializes in kid and family portraiture. When she is not chasing people with her camera, you can find her at home with her chickens, goats, and five kids. She is online at www.shutterandglass.com and on Instagram.

As a photographer who trains her camera on her kids nearly daily and a professional who has photographed hundreds of families, I think that there is nothing quite as important as capturing your family as they are right now.

Kids grow up fast and it is worth capturing those sleepy newborns, diaper-clad toddlers, and toothless-grinned preschoolers. Because soon? They are going to be independent teenagers with driver’s licenses and you are going to want a bit of those earlier years to hold onto has they pack-up for college (cue the tears).

I also believe that it is worth capturing our families beautifully. There is surely a place for snapshots and quick phone pictures. I don’t want you to stop taking those! But I also know that there is a place for more intentional photographs that highlight who our families are rather than simply document an occasion.

These five simple steps can elevate your family photos and help you capture your family as beautifully as they deserve.

1. Don’t be stuck in the middle

Tip #1 - don't be stuck in the middle. Try playing with composition, like putting your subjects in a rule of thirds line, to keep your photos from looking boring.

When we take a picture of a person, our instinct is often to put them in the center of the frame. Because the middle is where the most important thing should go, right?!

Except putting your subject in the middle can make a photo seem kind of boring and static. And families are anything but boring!

So next time you take a picture of your family, try playing with composition to create a more interesting frame.

Putting your subject on a rule of thirds line will have them in the spot where mathematically, your viewer’s eye will naturally fall (ensuring that your subject is the first thing they see).

Using negative space can translate as room to move and can help lead your audience through the frame.

Or try getting in really close and filling the frame with your subject’s face.

Experimenting with composition will add variety to your photos and will help you tell a better story with your family.

2. Play with perspective

Tip #2 - play with perspective. Moving your camera angle will give a completely different look to your photos.

When you take a picture, how are you standing? Chances are, you are standing like you always do, just holding a camera to your face. But this means that every picture you take is going to be from that same perspective no matter who or what your subject is. Whether it’s a toddler or a teenager, the camera will be held at the same height.

You will be amazed at how moving your camera angle even just a little bit will transform your photographs. Getting down on your subject’s level will let you see the world from their point of view. Shooting from above will give you an authoritative, parental perspective. And shooting from below will make them look larger than life and heroic.

So next time you hold your camera, think about how you want to present your subject and then change your perspective accordingly. This will ensure that your viewer sees the amazingness that is your family just like you do.

3. No more saying “CHEESE!”

Tip #3 - no more saying "cheese!" Try different methods of getting real smiles so you can capture true emotion.

Unless you are a dairy farmer or super enthusiastic about a wheel of brie, saying “CHEESE!” isn’t likely going to give you a real smile. Instead, it’s going to give you a face that looks like it is yelling about Parmesan.

So instead of forcing fake smiles, work to get real smiles. Have a handful of silly jokes ready to go. Ask which person in the family is most likely to toot at the dinner table. Have a tickle fest. And wait until you see the smiles on everyone’s faces when you have the kids tell mom what they love most about her.

And if smiles aren’t what everyone is feeling right now? Don’t be afraid to capture the more serious moments, too. Kids and families feel all the emotions and a stoic portrait can be just as beautiful as a smiling shot.

4. Stop looking at the camera

Tip #4 - stop looking at the camera. Have your subjects look at each other rather than only looking at you.

I know, all Grandma wants is one shot of the whole family smiling and looking at the camera. And you can get that for her.

But when a family is looking at each other in a photograph, you are illustrating connection and that’s what family is all about! That shared eye contact tells your viewer that these subjects are important to each other and that they want to be together.

So instead of saying, “Look here and smile!” try saying, “Everyone look at Dad and tell him he is the BEST Dad in the world!” Dad is going to be beaming with happiness and your photo is going to remind him that he is the best every time he sees it.

5. Close the gaps

Tip #5 - close the gaps. Make sure your subjects are standing close to each other so there aren't awkward spaces between them.

When there is physical space between subjects, it looks as though they don’t like each other. Or like I tell the families in front of my camera, it looks like someone smells like stinky socks.

When you are posing your family for a photo, you want them to look like they like each other and you certainly don’t want them to look stinky! So be sure to have them standing close together so that there are no gaps in the pictures.

Siblings might protest this a bit (because chances are they are standing closer than they normally would at home) but it makes all the difference in the final shot. Try overlapping shoulders and putting arms around each other to make it seem less awkward. Giving people something to do with their hands will help them relax and help them embrace the close physical proximity.

BONUS TIP: Get your photos off of the computer

There is nothing worse than working so hard to get beautiful family photos only to have them trapped on your hard drive or buried in your social media feed.

So print your pictures and have them on your walls and in photo books and in frames on your desk. Your family is amazing and having them be the art in your home is the best way to celebrate them.

Now get your camera out and create family photos that show the beauty of your family as they are right now. I can’t wait to see what you capture!

21 Responses to “5 Tips for Capturing Better Family Photos”

  1. April 26, 2019 at 10:16 am #

    These are very helpful tips! Thank you so much! Now to get our photos off the computer and printed up.

    • Kellie Bieser June 7, 2019 at 11:17 am #

      Yay! Getting your photos in your hands is the BEST!

  2. Chris Finer April 26, 2019 at 11:01 am #

    Great tips! Thank you!

  3. April 26, 2019 at 11:09 am #

    Love these tips!!!!

  4. April 27, 2019 at 9:28 am #

    What is a good video camera to recommend? I have an iPhone but want longer videos and how can I preserve them to watch? Thank you

    • Kellie Bieser June 7, 2019 at 11:19 am #

      I have been LOVING the Nikon Z6 for video lately! That said, there are a lot of great options out there and I always recommend visiting your local camera store to try things out before buying 🙂

  5. April 28, 2019 at 6:51 am #

    Thank you for these great tips! I can’t wait to try them all! I’m not a professional but am still “the family photo taker”.

    • Kellie Bieser June 7, 2019 at 11:20 am #

      I am the family photo taker, too, and I use all of these tips for my clients AND my own family 🙂 Glad you found this helpful!

  6. April 28, 2019 at 9:30 am #

    I love all these tips!!!
    Thank you

  7. Matt Pranger April 29, 2019 at 9:40 am #

    Thanks for these tips. I am still new to the family photo photography and have a young family shoot this weekend. This is perfect timing!! I will keep these in mind, sounds so much more fun than the traditional poses.

    • Kellie Bieser June 7, 2019 at 11:22 am #

      I hope that your family shoot was great! I like to think that these tips keep things fun and make the images great 🙂

  8. April 30, 2019 at 7:04 am #

    Thank you!!

  9. May 13, 2019 at 7:58 am #

    Vary helpful Thank you

    • Kellie Bieser June 7, 2019 at 11:22 am #

      I am so glad that this was helpful! Thanks for reading 🙂

  10. August 1, 2019 at 4:43 am #

    Can you recommend specs for saving images for print? (Format, dpi, etc.)

  11. August 1, 2019 at 4:44 am #

    Can you recommend specs on saving images for print? Format, dpi, etc.

    • August 13, 2019 at 11:45 am #

      The Mpix printers output at 250 ppi. I hope this helps!

      Optimal resolutions:
      Optimal Minimum
      Mini 438×625 150×250
      Wallets 625×875 250×350
      3.5×5″ 875×1250 350×500
      4×5″ 1000×1250 400×500
      4×6″ 1000×1500 400×600
      5×5″ 1250×1250 500×500
      5×7″ 1250×1750 500×700
      6×9″ 1500×2250 600×900
      8×8″ 2000×2000 800×800
      5×15″ 1250×3750 500×1500
      8×10″ 2000×2500 800×1000
      8.5×11″ 2125×2750 850×1100
      8×12″ 2000×3000 800×1200
      10×10″ 2500×2500 1000×1000
      9×12″ 2250×3000 900×1200
      10×13″ 2500×3250 1000×1300
      12×12″ 3000×3000 1200×1200
      10×15″ 2500×3750 1000×1500
      5×30″ 1250×7500 500×3000
      11×14″ 2750×3500 1100×1400
      10×20″ 2500×5000 1000×2000
      12×18″ 3000×4500 1200×1800
      12×24″ 3000×6000 1200×2400
      16×20″ 4000×5000 1600×2000
      16×24″ 4000×6000 1600×2400
      20×20″ 5000×5000 2000×2000
      20×24″ 5000×6000 2000×2400
      20×30″ 5000×7500 2000×3000
      24×36″ 6000×9000 2400×3600
      30×30″ 7500×7500 3000×3000
      30×40″ 7500×10000 3000×4000
      30×45″ 7500×11250 3000×4500

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