Family Picture Ideas and Tips from the Pros
"Nothing photographs more clearly than discomfort," says Andrea Raney co-owner of Raney Images, Inc., a traveling photography studio based in Chicago. That's great advice for anyone looking for family picture ideas and tips to ensure perfect pics. Usually she doesn't have to worry about her subjects feeling uncomfortable, though, because she and her husband Matt regularly photograph weddings, birthdays, and engagements—intimate moments when people are too busy being happy to feel awkward.
But when it comes to a family portrait session, things can get really awkward really quickly. As parents themselves, Andrea and Matt have a unique understanding of how families can make their shoots go more smoothly. (Do: get a manicure and a hair trim. Don't: "go 'Extreme Makeover'" right before the shoot.) So we sat down with Andrea for portrait tips that'll ensure you get stellar family photos without Photoshopping new faces on everyone.
Before the Shoot
Choose your photographer based on what they've done, not what you think you can get them to do.
Review their portfolio, and if you see something you like, let them know you want something similar. This is also a great way to get inspiration for family picture ideas. But never, never, never ask a photographer to duplicate another person's work. "If you want something that another photographer did, you should hire that photographer," Andrea advised.
Meet with your photographer.
This is a chance to get to know each other and to go over any questions or concerns. Some things you should ask:
- How soon will my photos be ready?
- How many outfit and location changes are included?
- Will the rights of use belong to me for all photos or just the ones I purchase?
- Do we need to get permits for a particular shoot location?
- Can you turn my photos around in time for the holidays?
Take the whole family to the shoot location.
This is especially key if you're shooting with small kids. "You never know what's going to freak them out," Andrea said. Let the kids roam around and get comfortable, and if they gravitate toward any part of the space, make sure to mention this to your photographer. The photographer does not need to join you on this jaunt. "A good photographer will be able to do anything in any environment as long as the kids are comfortable," Andrea said. At a park, for instance, test out the slides or the swings if you want your children to be photographed on them, especially if they've never tried them before.
Raney Images, Inc.'s traveling photo studio.
Consider shooting at home.
This could be the best option, especially with young kids. Toddlers can be difficult to corral, and being at home makes the entire process less stressful. "Also, if the child needs a nap, a snack, a certain toy, everything is close at hand," Andrea said. Like Raney Images, plenty of photographers can bring along lighting and other equipment for indoor shoots.
Try on potential outfits.
"The photo shoot should not be the first time everyone's wearing these clothes," Andrea said. Once you have a few family photo clothing ideas, make some outfits, put them on, and move around; make sure they fit well and comfortably. Never forsake comfort for color coordination. "If dad hates his shirt, it's going to show up in the photos." To that end, don't wear anything that draws attention from your face. This means no crazy prints, day-glo colors, or shredded fabrics. Prints might work against a white backdrop, but in other locations, especially outdoors, they compete with an already busy background.
During the Shoot
This is halfway to being the perfect shot.
Look at the camera, not your kids.
"Everyone who can look at the camera should be looking at the camera," Andrea said. Parents should focus on smiling and let the photographer coax the kids into a good pose. "We're going to keep snapping away, and we'll capture that two seconds that your child is looking at the camera. In that two seconds, if mom and dad are focused on their child, they'll be the ones who ruined the photo."
Relax! Stay relaxed and open.
"Those are really the two most important things," Andrea said. If your toddler won't sit still, that doesn't mean you're guaranteed awkward family photos. Instead, go with it! You never know how great those action shots might turn out. Besides, your kids know when you're ill at ease, and keeping calm is the best way to get your child to chill.
Hero by Groupon. Other photos courtesy of Raney Images, Inc.
This article was originally written by staff writer Aimee Algas Alker. It has since been updated by our editors.