Family photo shoot tips

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    Gabbi van Baalen

    Hi there everyone!
    I’m currently planning to do a family photo shoot soon in a canola field next door to my house. I’ve never really done this before, and I would like it to turn out well. I have an automatic Nikon camera, though my lens is 28 – 300mm and can only focus manually. Does anyone have any tips?
    Thanks so much!

    Lydia Bennett

    Welcome to the forums, @gabbivanbaalen!

    A couple questions:
    – When are you planning to do this photo shoot?
    – Is this your family, or another family?
    – Tell a little bit about your photography experience. Do you shoot in Manual? What types of photography have you done before?

    The Lenspiration ebook “30 Tips for Perfect Family Photos” is definitely an excellent place to start. I purchased it when I had some family photo shoots to do, and it gave me such inspiration and confidence. It’s really worth getting! You could also try searching “family photos” in the search bar here on Lenspiration and look through the posts that come up.

    I have an automatic Nikon camera, though my lens is 28 – 300mm and can only focus manually.

    Huh, this is interesting. What kind of camera do you have, and what kind of lens is it? 🙂

    Kina Lamb

    @gabbivanbaalen One tip I learned the hard way – if you are trying to make it clear all the way to the edges, don’t set your aperture lower than 8. Aperture affects how much light is let in, yes, but it also affects the ‘depth of field’ and having a lower aperture will make the edges blurry… which is great in many circumstances, but when you’re dealing with peoples’ faces, especially if it’s a large group, it’s best to stick to a higher aperture number and get your light from another source (shutter speed & ISO.)
    Also, golden hour is absolutely BEAUTIFUL, but it can get a little bit intense! Perhaps try to go out when the light is more ‘manageable.’ Hope it turns out great! 😀

    Caitlin Compton


    Gabbi! 🙂 Welcome to the forums! I was so delighted (and surprised!) to see one of my friends on here. 🙂

    A canola field is a great place to take pictures. The canola is coming out near our place, too. I’m hoping to get a chance to do some landscape photography. 🙂

    So, I’m by no means an expert in family portraits, but here are some tips of the top of my head.

    Work out what groupings you want prior to the shoot
    I recommend writing down the groupings you want to take pictures off so that nothing gets lefts out! For example – you and your sister with your dad, siblings together, parents together, brothers together, brothers with mum for example. Whatever you guys want!

    Get some posing ideas!
    For me, one of the first things I think about before a photoshoot is what poses I’m going to do. Normally I would type in Family Posing Ideas on Google for ideas. But, it’s not something I would actually recommend as a lot of indecent images can come up. You could always do a rough sketch of ideas on paper. If I come across some photos of poses I think might work, I like to print them out on a sheet of paper that I take with me for a reference when doing the photoshoot. Like @bennett-family said, I would also recommend the book 30 Tips for Perfect Family Photos. It’s a great book on portraiture from a Godly perspective. Good posing ideas in it, too!

    Time of Day/Lighting
    Lighting has a lot to do with what time of day you decide to take photos. Golden hour (the hour before sunset) is a beautiful time of day to take pictures! But can be a bit challenging. Still, I would recommend taking photos later in the afternoon as the sunlight isn’t as harsh then.

    Coordinating Outfits
    If possible, get everyone to wear clothing colours that are complementary to each other!

    I guess your going to want to be in some of the photos, so a tripod is going to be necessary.

    Shutter Release
    I presume that your camera has a 10 second timer or something that you can set. That way you can run in front of the camera for the shot. 🙂 If you wanted to make a small photography investment, you can buy camera shutter releases that you can use. Basically its a remote controller for your camera so that you can essentially ‘click the button to take the photo’ while being away from your camera. I got one of these for my birthday, and it makes family portraits a lot easier! It’s great! 🙂 You can get them at camera shops and they aren’t too expensive. I recommend getting one that’s a stand alone one – NOT attached to your camera via a cord.

    Most importantly, Do your best! Practise makes perfect!
    Hopefully all these tips don’t sound complicated and confusing, but really, like everything in life, practise makes perfect. You don’t have to try to implement all these things this time. You can just do some of them and try more next time. 🙂 I’m always making mistakes and making mental notes on what I can improve. When it comes to my photos I can be a bit of a perfectionist and I want my photos to turn out like the pros. 😉 (Which of course doesn’t happen because I’m NOT a professional.) But comparing yourself to others is never a good idea – it always ends with feeling discouraged and frustrated! The most important thing is that we do our best as unto the Lord and have a fun time making memories with our families.

    I’m sure your photos will turn out great! 🙂 If you have more questions or if things I said don’t make sense, keep asking! 🙂

    Gabbi van Baalen

    Wow thanks for all the informative answers!
    I plan to do the photo shoot as soon as we have time and when there is a sunny day. My lens can’t focus automatically; I often have my camera set to AUTO because the manual modes often make my photos ”grainy”, though I can’t figure out why. It will be my family (luckily!!) so it doesn’t have to be perfect, though a good shot would be nice.
    It was so great to receive a reply from you, Caitlin! I’ll definitely check out the book you all recommended, it sounds great!

    Ernest Lloyd

    Hi @gabbivanbaalen!

    I often have my camera set to AUTO because the manual modes often make my photos ”grainy”, though I can’t figure out why.

    What you said makes me wonder… is it a really high ISO by any chance that makes your photos grainy when shooting in Manual (M) mode??
    Other than that, maybe there’s another setting that is making your photos grainy when you try shooing in Manual mode.
    My advice is to try putting the camera in Manual mode for a little, and then try tweaking with the different settings to see if you can find out what the problem is. (There are probably some shortcut buttons on your camera that you can use so that you can take control of the ISO or aperture while your camera is in Manual mode.) Hope it all makes sense! 🙂

    James Staddon

    I hope the photoshoot went well? Many excellent tips have been shared here, so thank you everyone!

    Since you intend to use manual focus, I had a couple thoughts. First, my guess is that you’ll want to use a tripod. I’ve never done a family photoshoot without autofocus, but it seems to me that a tripod would help. Secondly, I would suggest you focus on arranging the people and fixing little details before taking a shot. There are two styles of portrait photography, one is quite off-the-cuff and candid in nature, snapping lots of shots while the subjects are doing things and interacting with each other; the other being more formal with intentional posing and close attention to detail. Without autofocus, I doubt the first would be very easy to do.

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