- Family Portrait Ideas #1 - Posing & Composition
- Family Portrait Ideas #2 - Clothing & Accessories
- Family Portrait Ideas #3 - Lighting
- Family Portrait Ideas #4 - Lens Choices
- Family Portrait Ideas #5 - Camera Settings
- Family Portrait Ideas #6 - Display & Delivery
- Full Frame Canon EOS DSLR users should look at the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8.
- APS-C Nikon DSLRs would benefit from the speed of a Nikon 35mm f/1.8G lens.
- Fujifilm APS-C shooters would like the Fujifilm 16-80mm f/4.0 zoom lens.
- If you have an MFT camera, the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 lens fits.
- A Sony Full Frame mirrorless camera can use a Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 ART lens.
photo by monkeybusinessimages via iStock
Families love photos of everyone together! Whether you’re taking pics for yourself and your own family or taking photos for another family, either for fun or profit, here are some family portrait ideas that you will find helpful.
Some of the most basic family portrait ideas may already be well known to you if you’ve been a serious photographer for a while. I always like to review for myself some basic techniques and methods before getting everyone together, plus, there are always new thoughts that come up when I search for more family portrait ideas.
Table of Contents
Family Portrait Ideas #1 - Posing & Composition
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How many are going to be in the family portrait? The number of people involved will help us narrow down some posing and composition family portrait ideas.
If you’re dealing with a small family unit, such as 3 to 5 people, the posing and composition options are plentiful. One of the things that tends to work well for semi-formal family portraits is to have the parents in the center area with their children around them.
Depending on how old or big the children are will determine how you might place them in relation to the parents.
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For instance, if the children are young and still small, placing them in front of the parents looks natural. With adult children, side by side or having them standing behind seated parents is one way to pose.
The family portrait may be all siblings or a mixed group of relations. In these types of family portraits, we can pretty much pose them as we please.
Interesting family portrait ideas of posing such as staggering heights, having some seated and others standing adds interest. We aren’t limited to that standard look of taller in the middle and shorter on the outside or lined up short to tall.
photo by Image Source via iStock
The more people involved, we can really start playing with our composition instead of just posing. Some groups of people tend to naturally arrange themselves in positions that correspond to photographic composition techniques. It’s an interesting phenomenon, but the more comfortable people are with each other, the more they tend to arrange themselves in a pleasing composition, requiring only some tweaks and hints.
photo by RonTech2000 via iStock
Everyone is always worried about what to do with their hands and how to hold their heads, where to look. Putting them at ease is one of the fundamental family portrait ideas that works with formal, semi-formal, and casual portrait settings.
We may not feel like a showman or a director, but as the photographer of the group, we actually do play those roles. Talk about the group, what they like doing, how they’re all related, what posing and position ideas they have. All of this will make the group more comfortable, which will show in the finished images.
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A tripod and a remote shutter release will be a great help as you implement these family portrait ideas, having them move around to different positions, talking to them, and gaining their confidence. With the camera on a tripod and a wireless release, you have a lot of freedom of movement, which can give you some great images in your family portrait session.
Family Portrait Ideas #2 - Clothing & Accessories
photo by Arundhati Sathe via iStock
Some groups want to have a unifying aspect to the portrait session, using similar clothing or accessories such as hats or jewelry items to match or be in harmony. Other family groups will think family portrait ideas such as that are corny. As the photographer, we can work with both ideas.
Some family groups will look to the photographer for ideas, so it’s a good practice to have a discussion ahead of time about clothing choices. If the group wants muted, subdued colors or styles, or if they want to show their personality through more noticeable clothing, this is something that can be decided on before the photoshoot.
For more casual sessions, perhaps spur-of-the-moment groupings, the clothing choices may be more limited. That’s where we go back to our family portrait ideas of posing and composition to make adjustments of who is next to who or in front of who. Many times, it’s a very dynamic situation, changes happening all through the photoshoot.
Family Portrait Ideas #3 - Lighting
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Family portrait ideas concerning lighting will be different depending on whether we’re in our own controlled environment or if we’re on location. Indoors and outdoors also factors in.
For indoor portrait sessions on location or at our own home or office, LED lights with softboxes or umbrellas are one way to go. LED continuous lighting allows for the photographer to see at a glance what’s happening in regard to shadows and bright spots. Softer lighting contributes to less contrast issues and a pleasing light quality.
In our own studios, we could have either strobe lighting or continuous LED lighting, whichever we’re used to setting up and using. The amount of control over lighting will be greatest on our own home territory, our studio, or our house.
photo by Alina555 via iStock
Outdoor family portrait ideas can take advantage of two technologies, TTL flash and/or collapsible reflectors. TTL flash is such a workable technology for outdoor portraits, letting us balance natural light with fill flash.
One of the most basic family portrait ideas is that a collapsible reflector or two can be placed in such a way to fill in shadows, lessening contrast issues. Reflectors can also help change the light quality to a cooler or warmer color temperature.
Family Portrait Ideas #4 - Lens Choices
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Believe it or not, one of the better family portrait ideas is that a kit zoom lens in the wide to short telephoto range is a very workable lens option for these types of portraits. These kit lenses are usually fine performers optically, but their shortcomings are in how rugged they are and how fast a maximum aperture they have.
A zoom lens works in these situations because of the flexibility of being able to change focal lengths in an instant, opening up all sorts of candid poses and expressions to be captured.
Sticking with a similar focal length range of the original kit lens that came with your camera, a nice upgrade is to pick up a faster or a professional build lens. Some great family portrait ideas for lenses can be found used for far less money than new lenses. If you prefer prime lenses, those can be found used as well.
I like to shop for used lenses at MPB because of their 6-month warranty, 7-day return window, and their commitment to providing only the best used equipment they can find. Here are a few choices available for some different cameras and formats:
You get the idea - a medium-range fast zoom or a normal to slightly wide prime lens with a fast aperture will pair nicely with the needs of group portraiture.
Family Portrait Ideas #5 - Camera Settings
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The balance for exposure settings when considering family portrait ideas is to decide on a lens aperture that gives enough depth of focus for handling the group while still softening the background if not in our own studio.
The sweet spot aperture of a lens, which is usually two or three stops down from wide open, is a good starting point for our exposure triangle and depth of field considerations. Plus, the sweet spot has the best optical quality the lens is capable of giving. Shooting at a lower ISO gives good results, though some ambient lighting conditions may require us to use a slightly higher ISO.
Capturing our image files in RAW format is also a good practice. RAW format can have the color profile assigned in post-processing, and RAW also allows for a wider range of exposure tweaks to enhance the final image. Nothing beats carefully calculating a correct exposure, but being able to dial or slide in those small changes in post can really make our finished photos stand out.
Family Portrait Ideas #6 - Display & Delivery
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The final consideration of family portrait ideas for great images is to decide how to display the photos to others. Obviously, social media and sharing via email is on many people’s minds, so we could provide JPEG final files to enable them to be readily shared. Be sure to have these things carefully spelled out in any contracts if engaging in family portraits for profit.
Some other wonderful family portrait ideas for display and delivery are large physical prints, canvas prints, and metal prints. Many families are already primed to ask for these specialty processes because they’ve seen them at other people’s homes or perhaps on your office walls. Give the subjects some options, see what they want, and charge appropriately when engaging in work for profit.
Share your own family portrait ideas with us in our Photography Talk forums. Let’s see what everyone is doing!