Taking an annual family portrait is a wonderful way to capture the passing of time, make memories and create a family tradition. Photography has become much more mainstream these days with the phone camera, so practically every occasion is photographed. But there is a lot to be said for using a decent camera to photograph special occasions, and an annual family portrait is no exception.
You don’t need to be a professional photographer to take a great photo and using a standalone camera designed just for taking photos will go a long way towards keeping your precious memories precious, and not part of the collage of selfies taken by your tech-happy toddler.
The Case For A DIY Photo Shoot
The best way to capture your family at their best is to set off together with the intention of having fun. If you have paid a photographer, there will be an element of stress to ensure you get the ‘right’ shot. And time is money, right? If your kids are tired or you don’t know the photographer well, chances are the children will feel self-conscious or uncooperative, and will be less likely to be spontaneous. Doing it yourselves means you can turn it into a fun activity, pack a picnic, go somewhere beautiful and have a bit of fun together in front of the camera.
DSLR vs Point and Shoot
If you’re interested in taking beautiful photos of your family then a DSLR is worth the investment. Primarily because it has a shallow depth of field, so you can focus on the subject in the photo, thus enhancing the subject and letting everything in the peripheral, fade into the background. Another advantage is that it takes the photo much faster than a ‘point and shoot’ so you’ll have more photos to choose from, increasing your chances of the perfect shot. A standard ‘point and shoot’ will still take a lovely photo, but won’t have the clarity and crispness of a DSLR.
What To Wear
Consider what you will all wear, but don’t overthink it. If one of you is in stripes, one in florals and one in summer prints (think Hawaiian shirts) it’s going to affect the composition of the photo. You don’t want your outfits to take over the photo as it will detract from the image.
Wear what each person is comfortable in, but be mindful of how it will look as a whole. Try to coordinate your clothes, but don’t aim to match. Layering clothing items works well in photos, so consider layering if the weather permits. Don’t buy anything new, you want you and your kids to look comfortable in what they are wearing – new clothes can take some getting used to. Think smart-casual so the photo doesn’t look overdone.
Where to Go
If you know you want an outdoor shot, go on a reconnaissance prior to your shoot. You’ll waste too much time otherwise and end up with grumpy and tired looking children in your family photo. Make sure you visit the spot in the morning, afternoon and evening so you can consider the light at each time of day. Morning and dusk are the best times for photography, but may not be the most convenient, so think about when your children are at their best and work with that. Take some test shots so you can decide what time of you day you like best. Some ideas for outside locations include the beach, the park, a wooded area or bushland, a local landmark, an attractive bridge, an orchard, or an old train station.
Wherever you end up, make sure it’s comfortable for everyone. There’s no point perching the kids on a hard stone wall if they are going to want to jump off in minutes. Often unposed shots produce the best photos. So rather than perching the kids on that wall, bring some toys, or go to the beach or the park; encourage a bit of play. Make some jokes to get them laughing. By making the environment playful, you’ll capture them at their most natural.
A Few Extra Tips
- If your camera has the capability, set it to take three shots in a row – this will increase your chances of getting a great shot.
- The kids will get bored and frustrated quickly, so take the key whole-of-family shots first so you at least know you got what you came for.
- Try to avoid the standard family pose – try to make your photos dynamic with action, such as laughter, dance or play.
- A perfect family photo is one that captures the essence of your family; the way you interact, the personalities of your children and the love that you all share. Trying to keep things stress-free and low key is the best way to capture this.
- A tripod is useful for when you use the self-timer for the whole-of-family shots. For amateur use, tripods also come in budget options and are often available in camera-tripod-lens packages.
The key to capturing the perfect family portrait is using a camera that is designed for its purpose, and adding in an element of fun. Making it fun means it won’t be a chore where everyone ends up grumpy because they had to sit still for too long. Turn it into a fun annual event and you will capture beautiful photos of your family as they grow through the years.
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