How to take better family photos – 10 professional tips

Are your family photos always blurry, too dark or have at least one persona blinking in them? Get professional tips and learn how to take better pictures.

Stuart Nicol, former head of pictures for The Daily Telegraph, is a world-renowned photographer who has captured images from celebrities to the Royal Family during his 40-year career. He has also taken more family photos than he can remember.

10 professional family photography tips

So were delighted when, in partnership with Cartridge Save, Stuart has kindly shared his 10 top tips for taking a family photo you’ll want to print with us.

1) Use different levels

Always try to compose your group pictures so you have friends and family seated, or standing on different levels. This will give you a much more dynamic picture, forcing the viewer’s eye to jump around the scene.

This type of composition also allows people to adopt their natural stance, meaning you can capture an authentic family shot rather than a forced pose. You’ll end up with a much more dramatic and fun group photo too – a genuinely true-to-life shot.

2) Forget boring head-on shots

Get creative and look for inspirational angles, or get really close. Climb on top of the table and shoot down onto the group, or lie down on the floor and shoot up.

I love shots of families huddled in a circle with the photographer on the floor looking up. I know this is a favourite with the selfie generation!

So look around you and take advantage of any platforms and props that can give your photos an edge (make sure you’re safe though).

3) Have fun

Ask your family to jump, run, dance, play fight and, basically, have fun. Incorporating movement instantly relaxes your subjects, which improves the chances of getting a natural shot.

Plus you’ll transform what could be a very traditional and boring shot into something creative, fun and unexpected. Of course, a professional Sarasota family photographer can ensure you’re getting the best shot possible, and make sure you’re included as well! 

4) Steal a moment in time

The greatest thing about photography is that a picture steals a moment in time. Some of the best family photos are the ones where subject doesn’t know they are being photographed, or where subjects look like they’re sharing a genuine moment.

A great example is the one Kate Middleton’s dad took of Kate, Prince William and Prince George, as their first official family photo. The three of them looked relaxed, happy and completely absorbed in an authentic family moment.

One way to do this is to organise your photograph around an activity you all enjoy, like eating a meal, chatting around some patio furniture, or all piled onto a picnic blanket.

5) Take the lead

Too many cooks spoil the broth – a saying that is certainly true when it comes to taking family photos. You need to be the ‘director’, and decide who stands where (especially in a family group where everyone has an opinion)!

As director you need to pull the group together and make the photo quick and painless. Make it clear everyone knows who’s in charge and I’d recommend that this always the one taking the photo.

6) Get in close

When families are physically close, it gives the impression of warmth; exactly what you should be aiming for. So squish your group together, or get everyone to hug each other – a great way to get capture a fun family group.

7) Use natural light

Sunlight is the cheapest and most flattering form of lighting. So if you’re shooting inside, try to position your group facing, or parallel to, a window to make the most of the sun. If the sun is very bright and causing very harsh shadows, try hanging a white sheet onto the curtain pole to soften the light.

If you need to use a flash, try and point the flash at the ceiling to ‘bounce’ the light. This will eliminate harsh shadows.

8) Use the sun to add feature

The great thing about shooting outside is that you can use the sun to add interest. For example, if you position your group so the sun is behind them, you’ll end up with a lovely silhouette. Getting them to jump high with their arms out wide can create great pictures.

If you’re taking the photo, avoid having the sun behind you or your family will end up squinting at the camera. If the sun is especially bright, look out for a shaded spot like a porch, beach umbrella or gazebo. Natural shade will convey a lovely summery feel and save your subjects’ retinas!

9) Use props to unite the family

It sounds really cheesy, but small gestures do help to unite the group and say ‘yes, we’re a family’. I often ask groups to wear neutral or pastel colours. You don’t want everyone matchy matchy as this looks very forced. But a sense of unity can be conveyed through matching splashes of colour.

10) Watch for blinking

Make sure you take lots of versions of the same shot to ensure you have at least one where everyone is wide-eyed and smiling (as opposed to blinking and mid-smile).

It’s hard to get everyone together at the right time, the right place, so make sure you take advantage of the opportunity and take 10-15 versions at a time, to ensure at least one can be saved for prosperity.

Want more photography tips?

You can find more professional advice in these articles:

Don’t let you precious family photos sit on your phone or camera! You can print them out on personalised objects or gifts on Cartridge Save’s Print What Matters site