Family photographs are one of the most popular types of portrait shot. A family group shot is a great record to look back on over the years and reflect how the family has grown. It can be a challenge to get everyone looking their best in one picture, and group portraits require patience and planning.

Many people think you need to shoot family portraits in a studio, but they can be just as effective taken at home or outside. Studio lights aren’t the only option for lighting portraits, and daylight can produce more natural results. Relaxing your subjects, capturing natural expressions and posing the group in a balanced way are more important than the equipment you use.

The following tips will help you shoot great family portraits.

1. Consider the lighting.

Lighting is key to any portrait photograph. For family groups, make sure that everyone is lit evenly. A shadow across one person can ruin the whole picture. If shooting outdoors, avoid direct sunlight. Shooting indoors with studio or flash lighting gives you greater control, but it takes practice to get a natural look. Position people so that they aren’t squinting in bright sunlight or glare if shooting outdoors.

2. Arrange the group for a balanced look.

Posing family groups can be an art in itself. The larger the family, the harder it is to get a balanced appearance. The eye is usually drawn to the center of a picture, so this is the place to position key family members. A portrait of grandparents surrounded by their offspring can be particularly effective. Couples should be together in a group, and any children should be with their parents. Take the time to move people if the shot doesn’t look right, as getting the family together can be a rare occasion.

3. Make it fun for children.

Getting children to pose in a group can be a challenge. For the best results, let them be themselves and make the shoot fun. Parents should be able to help if children aren’t cooperating, but it’s down to you as the photographer to get them to smile and look at the camera. Young babies look best if held by a member of the family, and it’s important to check that you can see their faces. Don’t keep trying if younger members of the family won’t stand still or look at the camera. Take a break and let them play for a while, then start again.

4. Take plenty of shots.

Getting a group of people to smile in one shot isn’t easy. There’s always a chance someone will blink or look away just as you take a picture. Shoot plenty of pictures of a family group to ensure that everyone is looking at the camera and smiling. Experiment with different family combinations, and break the family into smaller groups so that you have options to edit later.

5. Check the focusing.

It’s a real disappointment to check the results of a family portrait shoot and realize that the focusing isn’t right. For larger groups, having a broad depth of field is critical. Close the aperture to at least F8 to ensure everyone in a group shot is in focus. Very selective focusing works well with portraits of one or two people, but there’s a danger of some people appearing blurred if you use this technique for family group shots.

6. Consider clothing and appearance.

If you’re shooting a formal family portrait, ask everyone to wear appropriate clothes. It won’t work if one or two members of the family turn up in jeans or casual clothes and everyone else is smartly dressed. For a casual portrait, make sure the colors people are wearing blend well together. A bright pink shirt could will stand out for the wrong reasons if others are wearing pastel colors.

7. Shoot on location for a picture to remember.

Studios are great for formal portraits, but shooting on location can create more memorable pictures. A beach, park or spot where the family enjoys vacations can turn a group portrait into something really special. As well as a reminder of how members of the family looked in the past, shooting at a memorable location adds emotion and nostalgia to a portrait.

Follow the tips in this article and your pictures will transform from snapshots into family portraits. Take a portrait of your family every year, and you’ll build up a collection of photographs to treasure.

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Family group shots are one of the most popular subjects for photography. Getting everyone to look their best in one picture isn't easy, and the results are often disppointing. This article lists seven practical tips for planning and shooting great family portraits

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