9 Tips For Taking Your Own Family Photos

If you're now realizing that Thanksgiving passed without getting a family photo for your holiday card, don't fret -- you are not alone! If you're finding that the pros are booked up (check out the Boston Mamas mamapreneur business network for lots of great photographers!), I've got some tips to help you shoot on your own. Because the reality is, even as a professional photographer, there is still kid wrangling and a variety of factors to consider!

Before The Shoot

1. Pick a date and time

If you're going to try to take your own photos treat it like a session with a photographer and put the date and time in the calendar. My personal preference is to take photos about 90 minutes before sunset for optimal natural light (look at the gorgeous light below!) but you can do what works best for your family. I use the Time and Date website to determine when the sun will rise and set.

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2. Select a location

Once you have a date, location scout. Decide if you want to take photos in a city or park. If possible, visit in advance with a willing participant to take a few test shots at the time you are scheduled to photograph your family. This will help you see if you need to make any adjustments. The more prepared you are the smoother it will hopefully go!

3. Choose outfits

Deciding what to wear can be tricky for some people. I always recommend selecting one outfit and working from there. Instead of trying to match everyone (i.e., all blue) think about adding in complimentary colors. For our photos, to get my daughter on board, I bought her a new sparkly outfit. I knew this would help her get excited about the whole thing. To compliment her, my plan was to dress everyone else in pink, blue, and red tones. Here is a great resource for family photo session outfit planning.

At The Shoot

When I tried to take our family photos, everything fell apart. My son wouldn’t change his clothes and insisted for 20 minutes on wearing his bike helmet. He also wouldn’t remove his name tag from Hebrew school earlier in the day. My husband wore the wrong outfit and invited his parents at the last minute. Also, once I got my camera out my son starting screaming that he was hungry and we realized he hadn’t eaten lunch. Hello, REAL LIFE! If things don't go as planned, here are some tips:

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4. Focus on what you can take

In order to not waste the time, I focused on my daughter and my husband. It is okay if everyone isn’t looking at the frame. You can still capture their relationship and love by having them interact.

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5. Make a game out of it

Once my son came around to participating, I worked on a photo of my children together. My son was making awful faces so I made up a game. In the photo below, I asked my kids to jump from the rock and then run as fast as they could. The photo I wanted was one of anticipation.

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6. Drop perfectionism

Taking photos of your own family or kids is hard. Really hard. It is so much easier for me to take photos of other people’s family than my own. My son insisted on roaring and acting like a dragon. Despite this I think we still captured something pretty cute and funny.

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And, then a few moments later this happened.

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7. Be silly

Since we were having a hard time getting Ezra to cooperate my husband and I decided to encourage silliness instead of stillness! Below we asked the kids to tickle my husband. The kids went directly for the newly grown beard instead, which makes for a humorous photo.

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8. Don’t forget to get in the frame

After about 40 minutes of pure chaos, I had scrapped the idea of getting a photo of us all together. I wasn’t in any photos but then remembered to hand the camera over to my husband. The settings were set and he took this lovely photo of my daughter and me.

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9. Bribe your kids, I won’t judge

Even though I had given up on a photo of the four of us, I somehow managed to convince everyone to attempt one more try with a bribe of ice cream. Before taking the photo I increased my aperture to f/5.6 to make sure everyone would be in focus.

There are four different ways you can take a photo of everyone.

  1. Hand the camera over to someone else
  2. Selfie stick
  3. Self timer feature
  4. Wireless remote

I opted for the wireless remote since I know that my children love to push the button. Well, we will didn’t get a fantastic photo but we are all in the frame. And being together is the whole point!

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