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 and on .
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
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
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!”
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
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
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!