How To Take Family Photos

Does your photo album need attractive images of your family members? Here are some tips for taking great pictures for future memories.

"Say cheese!" Perhaps one of the most recognizable expressions in the English language, these two words remind us of how much everyone enjoys snapping photographs of friends and family. And why not? In this hectic era of crowded schedules and distance relationships, a family photograph captures a special moment for all time. Instant, disposable, and digital cameras provide a variety of ways to build family memories.

But it's not always easy to capture an attractive pose on film. The subjects in the picture, especially young children, may blink, frown, look away, or do any number of things to detract from the value of the photo. Here are some hints that may help:

1. Choose an attractive background. Don't line everyone up against a busy wallpaper pattern, or you may find "background noise" in your developed prints. Find a solid wall color or wood panel, preferably light but not blindingly white in hue, to use as a backdrop. Dark colors can work well if they don't wash out your subjects. Experiment with an old but gracious drape laid over the back of the sofa or chair. Or seat the person at the piano or desk, or even on the furniture as long as it blends into the background and doesn't compete for the viewer's attention. Outdoor settings work well when the weather is nice. Find a spot with a great distant view or a smaller background area to juxtapose against your subject who is posing.

2. Give everyone a chance to tidy up. Announce at the end of your holiday meal that you will be taking photos in ten minutes. That should give everyone a chance to comb their hair, wipe mouths, adjust collars, freshen lipstick, and whatever else needs to be done in preparation for their informal photo shoot. Little ones can be urged to use the restroom or bribed with a sweet for after the picture-taking session so they will pose agreeably rather than put up a fuss.

3. Check your lighting. Ideally, the strongest light should come from behind the photographer. Arrange your subjects and setting so that the light is behind you, facing them. Artificial light can be adjusted, whereas natural outdoor sunlight cannot. Use the camera's flash function as needed to get the best quality image.

4. Take a variety of shots. Get some of individuals, pairs, family groups, and intergenerational relatives. Try close-up head shots, full-body prints, and distant group pictures. A digital camera may be easier to work with when taking lots of pictures, since you can delete the ones you don't want to make room for more rather than spend money having pictures developed that you may not want.

5. Arrange thematic patterns. If a relative is mentioned in a newspaper article, get a shot of close family huddled around the person holding the newspaper. Or if several family members have joined a diet club, have each of them hold a copy of the accompanying diet plan or book. For someone with a broken arm, urge relatives to wrap the same right or left arm in a towel for a humorous picture. Have fun trying out a number of positions, groupings, settings, and props to make memories for the future.

If you haven't already done so, consider taking a photography class to learn more about camera basics, lighting, or posing subjects. Photography makes a terrific hobby and leaves a rich legacy of fun family times.

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