How to: shoot your own family photos

How to: shoot your own family photos

 While professional photography certainly has it’s place, it can be rather pricey. Follow our tips for great family pics that won’t cost a fortune.


You don’t need an expensive, professional camera system to take decent photos. Use what you have handy – smartphones take really good photos these days, too! Remember that the camera is only one piece of the puzzle! ‘You can create some amazing photos with your cellphone,’ says Devin Lester, a Joburg-based professional
photographer. ‘There are great apps that can enhance your cellphone images, and the same applies when it comes to composition and lighting. However, you might be faced with more of a challenge when it comes to fast-moving objects (like children!).’
If you’ve asked a friend or family member to help you take your shots, make sure they’re patient and good at following directions so you can be sure to get the shot you’re aiming for. If you’re using a tripod, set up your camera, frame your shot, and have someone press the shutter button for you, or use the camera’s remote control or self-timer setting.

Tip: When using a tripod it’s a good idea to have someone near the camera to get the kids’ attention and to make sure no one is making funny faces at the camera.


Location, location, location

Your choice of venue will drive all the other decisions about the shoot, such as lighting, timing, and clothing. Consider somewhere that’s convenient for the whole family – perhaps a pretty spot inside your home, your garden or even the local park.

Pick a location that’s familiar as everyone will feel more comfortable, which means more engaging photos! If you’re
shooting in a public space, find a location where you can set up and shoot undisturbed.

Tip: Check on the weather forecast. If there’s even a slight chance of rain, and you’ve planned outdoors, make sure you have a backup plan.

Coordinating clothing

Bring our your inner stylist – it’s not every day you take family photos so it’s important to make an effort. Perhaps you could have your make-up professionally done, or you could do some extra styling with your child’s hair? The point is that you want to look back at the photos and feel proud. In terms of outfits, it’s possible to coordinate without having to buy new clothing.

Tip: Start with the most difficult person to dress in the family – put together an outfit for them and then plan everyone else’s clothing from there. ‘Try and stick to a colour palette of about two to three colours for everyone,’ suggests Devin. Your images will look planned and professional.

Stay away from:

  • Neons
  • All white
  • All black
  • Any items of clothing that will date quickly or that are too casual
  • Hats
  • Logos or wording of any kind

Opt for: 

  • Solids
  • Small prints
  • Different textures across the outfits
  • The more neutral tones, the better

Note: If possible, ask family members who wear glasses to remove them before shooting – if it’s not possible then play with the angle of their face (tilt their chin) to minimise glare.


Pay attention to lighting

Lighting can be the difference between a good shot and a great shot! Location and lighting go hand in hand – early mornings or late afternoons are best for outdoor shoots because of the soft light available while the sun isn’t too bright. If your only choice is to shoot during the day, then opt for something indoors near a large window or open door. ‘Be creative by placing your subject in front of, alongside or even behind the window,’ suggests Devin.

Tip: Soft, natural light works best, and will add a beautiful look and feel to your photos.

Keep hunger pangs at bay

Make sure everyone is fed and watered before the session begins. This goes for adults and kids alike! If everyone
has had something to eat and drink, they’ll be more willing to cooperate and less likely to wander off mid-shoot
to grab a bite to eat or something to drink. The same can be said for toilet breaks – make sure everyone’s
comfortable before shooting to avoid stop-start sessions.

Tip: If shooting away from home, pack snacks and bottles of water.

A different take

Try photographing the family from different angles and arranging everyone in a few different poses. While shooting,
move around, check often on the photos you’ve just taken and soon you’ll find the sweet spot. ‘Most importantly, when taking photos of your kids or pets, it’s best to get down to their eye level. Yes, the odd low or high angle can work well, but more often than not you’ll take more engaging images at eye level. It also means you can chat to them or pull a funny face to make them laugh,’ explains Devin.

Tip: The best images are those caught in the moment. Formal poses and cheesy smiles can look forced, so let the family interact naturally and take photos candidly.

Bribe the kids

Sometimes the kids may need to be bribed with sweets to help them cooperate. Devin suggests another way: ‘Rather let kids have the odd break during the shoot. I also give them a chance to “take the photo” by
allowing them to push the shutter button and then run back to mom and dad – when I, of course, grab the real photo!’ Don’t expect them to smile or be involved for hours on end – find a way to make the shoot worth their while and keep them entertained and interested. Consider their feelings and that they may be camera shy
or even intimidated. Remember to breathe and be patient. If you’re stressed they’ll feel it, and it’ll show on their faces!

Tip: Asking someone to stand behind the camera and blow bubbles works wonders for toddlers, and provides a distraction.

And most importantly…have fun!

Photoshoots – whether paid for or not – can be stressful. Everyone has made an effort and taken the time to be there, so naturally you want it to be a success. Remember to keep it light and fun, and before you know it, you’ll have the perfect shot, or hopefully, shots!

Tip: Genuine laughs and smiles beat “CHEESE” every time!’ says Devin.

Joni van der Merwe

About Joni van der Merwe

Your Family’s Digital editor. Avid retweeter. When I’m not scrolling Instagram you’ll find me in my garden. Keen on DIY and I don’t believe there’s anything that can’t be fixed with some chalk paint.


Send this to a friend