How To Take The Perfect Family Photo

How To Take The Perfect Family Photo

Taking a family photo can be exhausting and the results can often be underwhelming. On the other hand, getting a professional photo done by an experienced family photographer can be expensive, not to mention the difficulties of coordinating everyone to get their family photos done!

We’ve compiled a list of tips and tricks for you so you’ll be able to grow the skills you need to take beautiful family photos you’ll treasure forever. No corny hand-holding here; we’ve got some great family photo ideas for you to take natural family portraits with ease.

Planning your family photos

The most difficult part of taking family photos is posing and direction, particularly when working with children. It may take time, practice and a whole lot of patience to ensure your family photos look natural!

Pre-planning is key for family photos. If you have a solid idea of your location, which shots you need and a few options for poses, there’s no reason your shoot needs to take more than a couple of hours.

Our tips:

  • Meet for the photo shoot at a time that will be convenient for the family, and if there are kids involved, ensure it’s not too late. If they tend to get cranky in the afternoon, plan the shoot for earlier in the day, not long after a meal. Give the parents or whoever is organising the shoot a checklist. If there are children involved, advise them to bring drinks, snacks and toys and also be prepared with items of your own
  • Bring anything that will keep children occupied on the shoot, or even in between shots, like bubbles, toys, stickers or some wildflowers. These will keep them busy and can even add interesting detail to your shots as props
  • Even if children aren’t involved, you may want to incorporate some items like different clothing items or a ball to play around with for your family. Your subjects may also want to bring a personal hairbrush, a small mirror and a compact powder or blotting sheets to remove any shine on the face. Over time, if you’re looking to continue with family photography it’s worthwhile starting to create a “kit” for your shoots with items like these

girl bunny family

Family photo outfits

Before the photo shoot, give direction on what your family should wear. Ideally, you want your family to be wearing similar colors, or have some kind of cohesion in their outfits. It’s going to look very strange if someone is wearing a very casual ripped denim jacket and another family member is wearing a formal dress or suit.

Remember, there’s a fine line between coordinating and being too matchy-matchy. A family taking a family photo should have similar outfits but not wear exactly the same thing! Avoid too many patterns or loud prints, especially for adults. Ask your family to wear layers; that way they can remove any outer layers which may not work in the shot. It also means they won’t get too hot or cold on location.

grandparent family photo

Match your location to their outfits, or vice versa. If you’re shooting in a park, your family may want more casual clothes, whereas if you’re shooting at a house or a more formal location, your family could be wearing something a little more formal, like jeans with a blazer or sports jacket.

Tip: Above all else, ask that the family wears clothes that are clean, pressed and without rips. These factors can easily become distracting in the shot.

Directing your photo shoot

Try to make the family feel at ease, so much so that they forget that you’re taking photos of them at all. It’s easy enough if you’re shooting your own family or someone you know. But if you’re not a professional family photographer and you’re shooting a group you don’t know; it might not be so easy. You want the family to trust you and feel that they can talk to you, and you need to establish all this fairly quickly!

To help the family feel at ease, talk to the adults about light topics, and smile at the children and try to keep them entertained. Ensure that you communicate with them that it’s fine if they need to stop at any time, and ask them if there’s anything they want to try. If you are warm and friendly, it should be a breeze.

family father son

Tip: When taking group photos, ensure you take multiple photos of the same scene. The last thing you want to happen is to finish the photo shoot and discover that you only have only one good image of a scene but someone has their eyes closed. It’s difficult to coordinate everyone in the shot so that this doesn’t happen, so keep this in mind. Take several photos in several different poses and locations. It’s better to have more options than less. 

Posing for family photos

When directing for poses, ideally you should have a number of poses in mind that you’d like your family to use. When telling your family how to pose, try being as clear as possible. Instead of using directions like left and right, try to use objects to direct. For example, you might say “turn towards the tree,” or “look towards your partner”. Using directions like left and right can get confusing, as your subject doesn’t know whether or not you’re talking about your right or their right.

The key is giving constant direction. The moment you stop giving directions, your family will start looking uncomfortable and awkward, and this will really show in the shots.

Give your family things to do to be active in the shoot, like running, walking, playing or talking with each other, in order for you to take candid shots. Often these shots can look much more natural than posed shots. During posed shots, family members may become uncomfortable and therefore you’ll find it difficult to take the shot.

Tip: In your photo shoot, alternate more posed shots with candid sequences so your family doesn’t become too stiff and uncomfortable.

family swinging

Using light

Ensure you don’t take your photos so that your family is looking directly into the sun. Contrary to popular belief, this can result in ugly shadows being cast in the front of the face and down the nose and chin. Your subjects will also be squinting and this can become very uncomfortable very quickly and it will be difficult to get a shot of the family with their eyes open. Instead, get them to turn around and shoot the opposite way.

Look for areas that offer some shade, like under trees, or on a porch. Always aim to shoot in the “golden hours” in the morning or evenings but if that isn’t possible definitely avoid shooting around noon as the light will be too harsh and will cause harsh shadows.

beach family photo

Family photo ideas

There are so many different ways to shoot a family but we’ve compiled our best suggestions here:

  • Popular destinations could be the beach, a park, a garden, the family home, or a location that is meaningful to the family in some way. Avoid busy areas as this can become very distracting for both you and the family!
  • Try different poses in the same area if possible; sitting, standing or leaning against a wall
  • Use different levels in the same shot; standing, sitting, sitting on a parent’s lap, crawling under a chair
  • Encourage movement! Ask your family to run, jump, lift each other up or even dance. You could even turn their favorite music on to make it look more natural
  • Embrace the shots that aren’t planned. Sometimes the outtakes can be even more interesting than the shots you had planned. Don’t stop shooting in the mayhem, as this is when you can get some really memorable shots; a girl pulling her brother’s hair, a loving look, the whole family laughing; you never know what you might capture in the moments between shots

baby sky dad

Photographing children

When working with children, you need to be flexible and aware of things like meal times or if they’ve just eaten. If you’re working with babies or toddlers, ask the parents what they are like and how long they’re likely to stay awake or stay happy for. For some babies, you may only have a very short time frame to get your shot before they get cranky or need a nap. Ensure the parent has snacks or toys to distract and entertain. Before the shoot, suggest that the baby has a change of clothes just in case they drool or become sick on their clothes, as babies often do.

small child overalls

If you have a few shots to take, ensure you’re clear on your plan with the parents before you begin. For instance, if you were planning on doing couples shots of the parents as well you may want to try doing this before or after. 

Tip: Keep an open mind about your results when working with children. You may be set on getting a certain shot but it just doesn’t work on the day, or during the shoot, you discover better angles or shoot ideas. You need to be constantly flexible and adapting to what the shoot has to offer. Change to a faster shutter speed. Children often move fast and unpredictably, so you’ll need to be equally fast to capture their movements.

Editing family photos

When it comes to editing family photos, try to keep things as natural as possible. Start with cropping and doing basic color corrections and other classic editing styles.

The key is for your family photo to remain timeless and not have trendy edits that are popular right now.

What to do with your family photos

Once you have a collection of beautiful family photos, most families will want prints. At Canvas Factory, we have a large variety of print options for your family photos. Some ideas are:

  • Wall displays: For a large wall, create a wall display featuring a number of family photos. Try to ensure that the background is similar for all the photos. This will tie them together nicely
  • Canvas prints: Our classic canvas prints are ideal for one large family portrait, or perhaps two smaller portraits to hang in living spaces or bedrooms. You could use portraits of children to hang in children’s bedrooms or playrooms, and couple shots for the bedroom
  • Metal prints: Our aluminum prints are extremely durable, and are great for high-traffic areas such as playrooms, corridors, kitchens or even outside

Whatever you decide, it’s more than worthwhile getting your timeless memories printed in some way, if it’s family photos for yourself or for friends. Get started and browse our full range by clicking here!


Megan is Canvas Factory's resident Social & Content Manager, and has worked with countless other homewares and interior design businesses over the years. It goes without saying that she also has a passion for decorating her own home!

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