How to Get Awesome Family Photos (Stephane Hachey)

 So yesterday I see a message from Kyle (Dee’s husband), saying that she is looking for a guest blogger to talk about tips on getting great family photos. A little short notice but I figured I could put together some great tips to help you get stunning portraits that will look great for years to come.

I’ll start off with what you can do if you’re getting photos taken by someone else and then I’ll give a few photography tips.

What to wear and more importantly, what not to wear.

– Stay away from busy designs and absolutely no graphics. No stripes or patterns.  Look back at family portraits taken in the 80’s or 90’s, don’t you think theres some wardrobe regrets there?  Solid colors will still look good in 10 years, a Justin Bieber shirt won’t (in no way am I saying that Bieber shirts are cool now).
Stay away from busy designs

– Try and keep the whole family in the same color tonal range. They don’t have to be all the same color, but don’t have three people in black and then one of the kids in a bright yellow shirt.  When you look at your family portrait afterwards, you don’t want anyone in particular to stand out more than the others. It really ruins the harmony of a family portrait. Different tones of blacks, grays or different shades of white work well together. But try not to mix them.  If the family prefers color that’s fine as well, just keep all the outfits in the same tone.  My personal favorite is blue jeans and black shirts.

Neutral Colors Work Best
Keep clothes similar in tone

– One rule to always keep in mind is that the eye always goes to the brightest part of an image. You definitely want that to be the face in the photo(unless they are wearing white, don’t pull out the white makeup). So the next tip is to always suggest long sleeves and pants. This rule is definitely meant to be broken in the summer when it is 1,000,000° out.  But pale white arms will always stand out in close-up shots. If it’s not too hot, I always suggest to my clients that long sleeves are more flattering.

– Another thing that can cause distractions in a portrait is a watch.  For some reason they only ever look good in watch ads, and that’s because they are meant to stand out.

-I shouldn’t have to say this one.  But if your family shows up wearing white running shoes, you’re going to have some pretty awful looking photos. Unless you are all wearing white suits with white dress shoes there is absolutely no reason for this.  Again, the brightest part of the photo should be the face.

Okay, so we’ve covered some points on what to wear.  Now for some tips for those of you who are taking the photos.

– One of the most important things is to find open shade to put your family in. Harsh sunlight is never very flattering for portraits.  Cloudy days are actually perfect for portraits.  Just set your white balance to cloudy to ad a little warmth.

– Now this is one of my biggest ones. Find a clean background. You don’t want any distractions back there. Move around and get an angle that places nothing but even clean space behind them.  No trees growing out of random family members, horizons cutting heads off, strange out of focus bystanders or ugly protruding buildings.  Just empty space or a nice continuous pattern.  Now here’s a tip within a tip.  The longer the focal length lens you are using, the easier this becomes because of compression. It also blurs your background a lot more which helps your subjects stand out. My favorite portrait lens is my 70 to 200mm and I almost always shoot at 200mm.  This gives me the isolation and softening effects i like on my backgrounds.

Family Photography
Clean backgrounds work best

– A very quick way to improve your portraits is to just not shoot in bad light.  All my portrait sessions are booked within a few hours of sunset or sunrise.

– I’ll finish off with a few quick tips on posing family’s. Think triangles. Triangles, triangles, triangles! You want to position each person so that they compositionally form triangles. Never line up their eyes with each other. Try to go from one person’s eyes to the next person’s chin. Another thing to do is to get everyone really close, awkwardly close.  Empty space between them breaks the visual flow, or feng shui of the pose.  You should also always give them something to do with their hands.  Remember Talladega Nights?  Thats how people in front of a camera feel.  Guide them.  “Hook your thumbs in your pocket, rest your arm on your knee, hug your wife, place your arms around his neck” etc…… And finally for my last posing tip, use the kids to hide any areas the parents might be subconscious about, put them in the front.  And just have fun.  Remember to capture the moments in between poses, those can be the best.
Think triangles when posing groups

Full disclosure.  I’m aware that some of my sample photos contradict what I just wrote about.  What can I say, not everyone feels the same about what to wear.  And rules are meant to be broken.  Except for the white running shoe rule, don’t break that one.

Wow, I went a little longer than I intended. There’s just way too much information for one post.  I really hope that this can help some of you receive or create better family portraits.  After all, I believe your family portrait is the most valuable piece of art in your home.

Dee, thank you very much for the opportunity to share with your readers.

To see more of my portraiture and fine art you can find my website @

If you have any photography questions you can find my brand-new blog for photographers @

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