Family Portrait

by | Jul 12, 2012 | Tips & Tricks | 5 comments

When it’s been 6 months since the whole family has been together and when the newest member of the crew is only 2 month old, than you know it’s time for a family portrait!

4076_Salem-West Virginia-USA_Canon EOS 40D, 40 mm, 1-30 sec at f - 8.0, ISO 100

Here are a few thoughts from a landscape photographer’s perspective on taking family portraits:

  • Watch your aperture. In landscapes, I’m always trying to get both foreground and background in sharp focus so my aperture is usually above f/8.0. For portraits, even a group of people, you’ve got to zoom in and use a lower aperture (f/4.0?) to get the desired bokah in the background. Perhaps you will notice the simi-artificial blur in the background of this picture. Oh, well. It was fun spending time in Photoshop in an attempt to fix my mistake.
  • Remember that everyone might not be enjoying the heat. I’ve learned to get used to all kinds of environments and discomforts, but if I’m sweating bullets than it probably means everyone I’m taking a picture of is too. Instead of taking my normal good ol’ time (flowers don’t sweat), I had to do the shoot quickly to insure everyone wasn’t drenched in perspiration by the time I got around to releasing the shutter.
  • The foreground is more important than the background. Though I like the background with the house in it, I think it is a little overpowering. Perhaps I should have moved the group further away from the house to make it a less prominent object in the background. I’m just so used to making the most of every element in a composition I guess.
  • But you know, I think I actually did do one thing right! The decline on which the family is standing slants away from the camera. Composition wise, this gives a perfect, natural cover for the feet and blanket that we are kneeling on. Also, the composition with the tree leaning in on the left helps to pull the foreground and background together perfectly.
  • You can interact with you subject. Imagine that! If folks aren’t in the right position, than I can re-position them anywhere I want to! You can’t exactly do that with trees and boulders very well. In this picture, I took special care to get all the heads on different levels because it helps the group to not look square-ish. When we’re standing, we’re all about the same height so it was kinda hard to accomplish, but it was totally worth the trouble.

So anyway, that’s my two cents on taking family portraits. I hope I can remember these things for the next shoot. Smile

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  1. Benjamin Cahill

    Nice job! On the other hand of the aperture decisions, I’m used to the low focal lengths (and therefore large depth of field) of small cameras, so I figured that f/5.6 would be plenty of depth of field for a recent family photo. It was alright, but on closer inspection, I noticed that one row was a decent amount blurred.

    On a similar note, I still struggle with perfect focusing with my 70-200mm f/2.8. According to a quick test I did recently, at 200mm (and 2.8), depth of field is less than one inch! However, I think that depends on subject distance as well (the test was from about eight feet); I should research that more.

    Good point about discomfort of your subjects. I too will endure many things for a photo, but many times forget to take my subjects into account. This becomes more important exponentially as you add small kids; I now have seven nieces and nephews!

  2. James

    Perhaps in the future, I’ll stand back a little more and use use a lens with a greater focal length. This would give more depth of field while still being able to use an aperture around f/5.6 for sharp faces.

    Perfect focus with the telephoto lenses is very important and, from experience, is something I’ve learned to pay more attention to in recent months.

    Wow seven nieces and nephews! That would make a family portrait fun to take. 🙂

  3. James

    ROTFL! Creative, expressive, hilarious.

  4. chad

    Totally love it!…James!…that’s amazing!


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