How to take great family portraits!

Family photos are such a fabulous way of documenting your family as it grows. Whether you are sitting down for a more formal ‘family portrait session’ or you just prefer to take snaps as they happen, it is important to know the best way of getting some great family photographs. Here are our tips to make sure you capture some truly fabulous images for your family photo album and learn how to take great family portraits.

Take lots of photos.

This has to be the number one rule of any type of photography. The more photos you take the more chance you have of capturing that perfect one… or if you are anything like me, this is the best way to get so many that you love that you find it hard to work out which is the best. This has to be a better situation than not having any images that you like at all! So whatever the situation, be sure to take as many snaps as you can. Surely in one of them everyone will have their eyes open!

Start with the big group/situation, then add or remove people as necessary.

Whatever the situation is, whether you have gathered the family for a more formal photo session or you are capturing the blowing out of a birthday cake, get a photo of the group gathered round as a whole first. This sets the situation and makes it easy to add or remove people as necessary. In a formal photography session for example, you’ll want to take a photo (or a few!) of everyone, and then ask the boys to leave and take a photo of the girls or just the children or whatever other group is you want to capture. In an informal situation, take a photo of the group gathered round the birthday cake, then you can zoom in or focus on the birthday boy’s face, or the present giver. By starting with the group it is so much easier to add or remove people as necessary.

Put the subjects at ease.

Although some people do love it, not everyone enjoys having their photo taken, so put subjects at ease by being friendly and not making a big deal of having a camera on you. You want everyone to be as relaxed as possible. The best idea to achieve this is to try and blend into the background so that people hardly realise that you are there, or what you are doing. Which leads us nicely onto..


Your family photographs don't all have to be formal, posed or with everyone looking at the camera. Reportage or documentary style photos make great family photographs as they really capture the hidden moments in a much more natural and genuine way. This is much more easily achieved if have managed to put your subjects at ease and blend into the background. Don’t make a big deal of having the camera, and just try and snap away as natural moments occur between a family, whether it’s the kids playing together or everyone groaning at another Dad joke. These ‘real’ moments are so much more likely to be loved as photographs, and really do look fabulous in a your family photo album.


If your inside, make sure to have your subjects parallel to a window, and not in front of it so that you are shooting out with the window as your background as this will just make your family come out really dark in the photographs. By having your subjects parallel to the window you can use it to light them and give them definition.

If you are outside avoid harsh sunlight which can create shadows across the face. Instead find or create a shaded area (but not so dark you can’t see your family!) or add a flash to counter the shadows.

You should also avoid standing with the sun behind you as the photographer as this will mean your family will be squinting at you and the camera which doesn’t make for a good photograph.

Get everyone participating.

You are going to get much better photographs if everyone is participating and enjoying themselves so as well as making sure everyone is relaxed, get them to have some fun together. This doesn’t just have to be a photography session but can be a real chance for your family to have some fun together. Get everyone to jump in the air, get the kids to run circles round Mum and Dad, or why not lie on the floor with your legs in the air. Or there is the classic, swinging the child between the parents. Whatever you do, have fun!

Use Clothing and Props to bring the image together.

Using props, or similar clothing, whether it is full outfits, or an accent colour can tie the family together and really make the photographs stand out. If you are all wearing the same clothes it can put everyone in a jovial mood which will help things from the start, but if that’s not your style give props a go. From purpose photography props, such as a pumpkin at Halloween or oversized glasses, don’t limit yourselves. Generic objects such as a chair or table can also be great fun, why not get everyone on the table, or someone sticking out from under the chair. Playing around like this will also add a sense of fun to the atmosphere which you can capture in your photos. It’s just about staying relaxed and finding the opportunities!

Use different positions.

Don’t be afraid to have fun, look out for different positions to those you would usually use, have people on different levels so that they utilise the whole space of the photographic rectangle. This will help to draw viewers in and to create a unified feel within the image. Have some people standing and others kneeling, or a couple on the sofa with some on the floor. Different positions will help reduce the formality and make the image more relatable. If you are taking reportage style photos at home, try moving around the event taking place. And…

… Be creative and change perspective.

Experiment with different view points. Stand on the table for a view from up high, or crouch down low to get a view looking up. Or why not place yourself on the ground on your back in the middle of huddle to get a view of everyone looking down on you. Or use some foreground imagery to lead you into the focus point, such as a view through some plants. Bougainvillea or wisteria are great summer plants for these sorts of photos. Such unusual and different viewpoints can really make a photo stand out. And imagine your family photo album filled with such unique images!! It will be stunning!

Get everyone involved to keep up interest.

Enlist some help from family members. If you are taking family photos of children, it is always a good idea to get someone to stand as close as possible behind you in order to get the kids looking your way. Why not give the camera to an older child to get some photos of Mum and Dad together too, and ask the younger children to cheer or make faces at the parents. As well as keeping everyone involved, this can be a great way to capture some genuine emotions in parent shots. And if you have a second camera, maybe someone else can take some photos of the kids as they have fun cheering at their parents?!

Think about the use of the photos.

If you know you are going to want to use the photographs you are taking on social media, keep this in mind when taking the images. For a Facebook banner it is a good idea to have the action taking place to the right of the image, while profiles images should be more central. Instagram images are square so make sure the image is central and easy to crop. By keeping these things in mind when taking the photograph, you won’t be disappointed when a great image doesn’t work because you have had to cut off part of it, and let’s face it, we have all been there! If you are taking photos to frame or blow up, make sure you are using a good quality camera that allows high quality images to be taken so that they won’t pixelate when enlarged. And if you are going to end up making a photo album with the images, try not to make the photos too similar as this will get boring. Using different viewpoints and layering will help with this. Whatever the purpose of the photos, by keeping it in mind when taking them you are much less likely to be disappointed with the result, and will instead have some great family portraits that are perfect for their intended use. What’s not to love about that?

Same photo yearly.

It can be a really lovely idea to recreate a specific photo yearly. You can do this by getting everyone in the same position year on year, with the parents acting as a height chart as the children grow around them, or you can go full blown, and each year take a photo of the family wearing the same clothes and in exactly the same position. Either way it’s going to be a great reminder of how much your family has changed and a wonderful memento to look back on if you keep them all together. I took a photo of my son every week for his first year and it is fabulous as you can really see how he changed, something you don’t notice from picture to picture but as you glance across the chart of photos it is pretty dramatic! Why not try the same?!


Whether you are taking family photos of an event, as moments happen, or gathering everyone together for some family photography, the key to getting family photos you love is definitely in keeping everyone engaged, and having fun. Although meltdowns can make some great photographs too with the innocent childlike dramatism, it’s all about capturing those natural moments and emotions that only pass between a family. So go out there and above all else, have fun! In having fun together you’ll find that not only do you get some great photos, but you also create some wonderful memories which the photos will help you to cherish!

And Other Memories create personalised family photo albums using your images. Fully customisable in design, and look, album prices start at £300. This includes design and printing, and each luxurious album comes beautifully wrapped in a gift box in which it can be kept safe for years to come. We love helping you to cherish your memories.


Recent Posts

See All