No one can have too many family photos. Children are born and grow up, new family members enter the clan and, sadly, some will depart. Family portraits capture memories that you will always treasure. If your family is planning a reunion, picnic or other event spending time outside, make it a point to shoot some group photos. Learning some techniques and factors to consider will help you take outdoor family portrait photography of which you can be proud.
Before you start snapping photos, make sure you have the proper tools for outdoor portraits. A digital camera with powerful features and a fast lens is a good portrait camera. A tripod will provide stability when you are shooting to avoid shakiness that can ruin an otherwise perfect shot. Using a tripod enables you to rest the camera in any location without the need of a wall or other structure, which you are less likely to find when photographing outdoors. This can be particularly helpful if you wish to be included in the photos. In addition to a tripod, you might wish to utilize a cable release. Although most cameras feature timers, using a release affords you better control over the shots.
Choose the Right Time of Day
There are several factors that go into deciding what time of day is best when shooting outdoor family portrait photography. In regards to outdoor lighting, photographing early in the day or later in the afternoon are generally the best times, as the sun is lower in the sky than at midday. This means you avoid glaring sunlight yet still have adequate lighting.
Another factor to consider is the time and length of your gathering as well as the subjects involved. If you are concerned about rowdy tykes mussing up their hair and dirtying their clothing, you might want to take the photos at the beginning of the event. On the other hand, some children (and adults) are more compliant when their bellies are full, so shooting after mealtime, if applicable, might be better. Take your group into consideration when making these decisions.
If it is an overcast day, take heart as cloudy day photos can produce the best results as the clouds filter the sun's rays for a flattering effect.
Select the Best Background
When deciding where to take the photo, compare the background to your subjects. Colors in your natural setting should complement and not clash with or washout the clothing, hair and coloring of your family members. Opt for subtle colors so that the background does not compete with your portrait as well. Using an aperture setting of about f/2.4 to f/4 will enhance the difference between your subjects and the background. Finally, before you shoot, take a good look to make sure that no twigs or flowers seem to be growing out of your subjects.
Pick Perfect Poses
Once you have decided when and where to shoot, you can get everyone into position. While you can certainly use a traditional pose, such as children in the foreground with adults standing or sitting behind them, there are many different poses you can incorporate to produce fun, interesting and memorable portraits. For instance, if you are shooting an extended family you might wish to position children around their respective parents with the grandparents in the center. Alternatively, ask your subjects to stand with their backs to the camera and then look back over their shoulders for an entertaining shot with red carpet appeal, or situate everyone on and around playground equipment. They can face the camera and say, "Cheese!" or you can direct them to look away from the lens for a more candid result.
Choose a pose that embraces your family's personalities and you will surely end up with a portrait the whole bunch will cherish.
Kodak Gallery: Five Tips for Taking Great Portraits
Smithsonian Studio Arts Blog: Family Portraits
Cable Release: sxc.hu/Neil Gould
Ice Cream vs. Ali: sxc.hu/Michael Chambers
Family: sxc.hu/S Brumley
Precious Baby: sxc.hu/Simona Balint