Family photo time has always been chaotic at our house. I have no idea if other people experience this, but our family photo time usually involves a round up of family members that can only be compared to a cattle herding with one or two determined family members circling the rest of us and keeping any stragglers on course. And don't you try and get away or you will get the dogs sent out on you! I might gripe and groan with the rest of us herded cattle, but I actually love family photo time and not because I am a photographer. No, what I love most is how perfect an example this is of our crazy family. There is shouting and laughing and silly faces. I love the inevitable "Is this really necessary?!" from a bold faceless voice in the crowd and the immediate yells back from two or three others, "Yes, now shut it and smile!" My cousin's Danny and Ben will undoubtedly attempt to ruin at least 4 out of 5 photos with silly faces, intentionally closed eyes, or some other ridiculous gesture. And when everything is all said and done you find that one family member who escaped to the bathroom and you start all over again.
I can't mention family photo time without mentioning my grandfather who was always behind the camera! He was even an expert at opening eyes in Photoshop. Not everyone is as talented at taking and editing photos like my grandfather or any other professional photographer, so I decided to make a list of tips and tricks to get great family photos right out of your point and shoot camera!
DISCLAIMER: As a photographer I do have to say that these tips and tricks do not replace having professional family photos at least once a year! What I want these tips and tricks to do is help with all those times in the in-between! Enjoy!
Avoid full sunlight! This is probably the number one error I see in family photos. The full sunlight leaves harsh shadow lines, half closed eyes, and over exposed skin. Ekk!
Find open shade. If you are lucky enough to have an overcast day, congratulations! Try and avoid shade by a tree since this shade usually has a mix of bright and dark spots that can appear "blotchy."
Use the preprogramed functions in your camera! Many people don't like taking pictures in the shade because it can leave the images too cool (overly blue). If you switch your camera mode to "Cloudy" or "Shade" it will bring out the warm, natural skins tones that you are looking for! Likewise, your camera has settings for indoor lighting as well. Don't be afraid to move that dial!
You can see the blue tones in the photo on the left verses the more natural skin tones on the right.
Don't back light! When looking for open shade make sure there is no bright light beyond in the background of the open shade. Your camera takes in light from the whole image to determine how to set the exposure and back lighting the subjects will result in underexposed family members. But hey, at least you won't have to worry about open eyes and smiles!!
In this photo, all Will and I had to do was fully turn around and like magic you can see our faces again! In the photo on the right we had the advantage of having shade on our faces and behind us with the light in front of us! Perfect picture location!
Let your family members be themselves. My favorite photos are the ones of us being ourselves, not necessarily that perfect end result. Take advantage of getting pictures of the process, not necessarily just the lined-up-in-a-row-shot!
Use one camera. I don't know if I will ever convince the folks to do this, but the best way to keep everyone calm, cool, and collected is to use ONE camera and then share the photo between everyone! Will and I use Flickr to share the family photos and you can read more about that here. I will admit that having 5 cameras for one family is entertaining if nothing else...
Use the photo timer or get a stranger to take a couple shots for you. This will help get everyone in the picture without having to do a hundred and one combinations! Just about every point and shoot has this option, so use it!