Probably the hardest picture to set up and pull off is the group family photograph. These pictures only really work when everyone is on the same page, looking at the camera and smiling at the same time. Synchronizing by getting everyone to say “cheese” is the typical way to get everyone smiling. But it doesn’t always work.
Here are some things to think about when trying to snap that lovely family portrait to make everyone happy:
Put the Group at Ease – It is essential that all participants in the photo are at ease and comfortable with each other as well as the photographer. If the photographer also happens to be a family member then being at ease should not be a problem. With no strangers in the midst, relaxing before the camera is not a problem.
Move into Scene – Don’t be afraid to move into the scene, cutting out the background and focusing just on the people. Crop off the top of the head of the taller people, in order to emphasize a connection among family members. Allow the drama of kinship and love to play out before the camera. Let the family members interact before snapping the picture. Saying “cheese” while always listed as one of the most important family photography tips, is not always a good one, and will make people go rigid and become less candid, so sit them down and let them get comfortable. The good shot will follow as you watch.
Blur the Background – Blurring out the background makes the people aspect more dramatic. It makes the family the focus of attention, because, after all, the family unit is what you’re shooting.
Candid within the Group – There is always someone in the family at a gathering who doesn’t want to sit for a picture. Today’s small compact cameras make it simple to get candid shots without have to pose everyone. Keep the camera in your pocket as you work the room. Find your shot and compose it and shoot quickly. It takes practice, but grab-shots do come out well with a little thought and focus.
Taking Multiple Shots – When trying to capture everyone in one group, the only real successful way to do it is to take many shots, and quickly. Shooting in rapid bursts of three or four shots at a time will get the good shot for which you’re looking. The first shot is usually a throwaway shot. However, the second or third will probably be the keeper. Shoot some shots before everyone is ready. Some of the best pictures are of the actual organizing to sit part of the activity.
Timing is Everything – Choosing your timing carefully will make or break the shot. However, true timing can only be learned with practice. Another of the suggestions that tops the list of family photography tips is that the quicker you learn to compose or to know what you want in composition the better will be your timing. Try to work taking of the picture within the natural flow of events, when the family is naturally together rather than artificially posed making them more rigid.
Lighting – No matter what type of photography, lighting is probably the most important element. In most instances a small flash will be sufficient. However, bigger family groups may require more lighting. Taking the photograph outside in natural light makes for an easier, less stressful shot.
Taking Control – It is paramount for the family photographer to maintain control of the situation and communication is the key. Keep talking to your subjects making them understand what you want to do and need for them to do to make for a happy situation. If you have a really large group to photograph, then use a tripod and have someone act as your assistant.
Smile – Finally, there is nothing worse than a grumpy old photographer, so smile. That will put everyone else who has to take part, at ease. Have fun, act like you’re enjoying the process. It’s okay to crack a joke or two in order to get everyone to loosen up. And don’t be afraid to be creative. Think outside the box. The group can be a group without sitting down next to one another with another row standing at attention behind. Emphasize other items of “family-ness.” Play with it. Enjoy!