Creative and Quirky Family Portrait Tips


Family photograph… yawning already?


Well who wants a regular family portrait these days? Here at iPhotography™ we are stretching boundaries, pushing limits and “getting funky with it”… as Dad would say. Brace yourselves, family portraits are about to be turned upside down and inside out!

We are going to share some exciting suggestions with you, that will make your Nan so proud she’ll be sharing them with all her friends down at the bingo hall!!

Family photos are a tradition that have existed for centuries and will undoubtedly live on until the end of time; they are a treasured possession. Parents and grandparents all want timeless shots that stand the test of time and remind us of particular moments and events throughout our life journey – they are priceless, personal and more valuable to us than anything else we own or keep in our houses. Everyone in the world, and of any age, wants to stop time and snap those precious moments, whether that be at weddings, parties, birthdays or even personal intimate moments like pregnancy.

Be aware that creative family portraits take longer to set up than regular self-shots, so you will probably need to set aside a day of the diary to work on them; however, the outcome of the images will be worth it, when you find yourself revisiting them and smiling over and over again. Of course you’ll also get to spend the day with the family as well, which will help to provide even more lasting memories, so it’s really a win win!!

Hats off to photographers that dedicate so much of their time to photograph and demonstrate how creative and inspiring a family portrait can be!

To inspire you, we have put together some ideas to get the ball rolling. If you’ve never done a family or group portrait before don’t be intimidated or put off by the idea, just start off by working amongst your nearest and dearest. We are sure your family will be excited, willing participants eager to help you out… and they’ll even get some great family photographs to take away at the end.

Use a tripod when possible.

A tripod is pretty essential in the world of photography, and it’s one piece of equipment you will need if you’re going to get that perfect family shot!! It will give you more freedom to experiment with different locations, positions and compositions. A tripod will also allow you to focus on getting the settings right (aperture, ISO and shutter speed).

If you have small children (or even adults) you may find that initially they feel rather intimidated by all the camera equipment. Be aware of this, as if they feel uncomfortable or forced into an awkward position, it will show through in their faces and therefore in the shot – nobody wants an awkward family photograph now do they? (so cliché).

If working with children, you can make gestures, use silly voices or pull faces to get the kids attention. You’ll instantly get better, more natural expressions by interacting with them, than if your eye is fixed on the viewfinder or you’re hidden away as a mysterious person behind the camera. It’s important to consider and connect with the people you are shooting.

Shoot in Manual exposure mode.

We all know that generally speaking, the best photographs are achieved using manual mode, well, the same rule applies for family portraits. Once you’ve got your exposure right you shouldn’t need to keep messing around with settings, (that’s assuming you have control of the elements around you and you’ve chosen the location carefully.) However, remember, if you change location or adjust positioning, recheck the settings again in your camera.

Lock the focus or use manual focus.

Just as you do not want the exposure to change from shot to shot, neither do you want the focus to be adjusted. This is of course assuming you’re using a tripod and will not be moving. If you have posed and positioned family members, they are now likely to behave like statues and less likely to make any drastic movements.

Arrange people with heads staggered.

Stagger those heads in the shot, there’s no science behind it – It’s just more interesting! You’ll find not everyone is the same height, so go with that. Diagonal lines are more dynamic and add interest to an image, so try to work that in with the people in your group. Mix it up and make use of levels within the environment or your location.

Allow kids to be kids.

Bring props, toys or even bubbles!! We understand it’s very frustrating to try and get that perfect image, but children are so unpredictable! Don’t set your expectations too high, if they don’t want to smile, don’t force it. Play with them, entertain them, make noises, sing songs, have fun and then be ready to capture the moment when it happens.

If it bends, bend it.

Remember these aren’t professional models you’re working with. Quite often when you pose people they go rigid and stiff, and this will come across in your images…not what you want. Loosen them up, bend elbows, tilt heads, shift the weight on legs… anything that makes them look natural and not robotic.

As we know eyes are important, especially in portraits. Eyes can often tell us the story and portray emotion and expression! To aid this, make sure you get some light into the subjects eyes! There are many ways you can do this:

1. Chose a good time of the day when the sun is lower in the sky. (This is known to photographers as the golden hour, an hour before sunrise and an hour before sunset)

2. Make sure the background isn’t overly lit up or the subjects will be too dark – unless you’re using additional studio lighting.

3. Avoid days that are overcast, we all know what effect an overcast sky can have on the general mood of the photograph…GREY.

4. Use a reflector, a photographers best weapon is a reflector! It will instantly brighten up faces and catch light in the eyes.

Have a little fun with it and let go!! If you’re unsure which way to go with the family portrait we would suggest starting off with a few ‘serious’ shots, then quickly move on to the wacky, silly stuff! It’s great to have a good mix of both types.

One of our own students Lucia, has taken some truly stunning family photographs. If you haven’t seen her work in the gallery, then where have you been!? Check out these images for some serious inspiration.

Well that’s the serious stuff over with, so let’s get a little bit silly. Here’s a few ideas we have put together for those of you wanting suggestive or quirky family portraits!

1. Line up some wellies, each family member has a pair. See what shots you can create (ideal if family members have prior engagements).

What’s that? … you don’t have wellies! Well, why not try a similar shot using pairs of trainers….

2. Remember those prints your parents always kept when you were younger? The ones where you put your hands and feet in paint and got extremely messy, but your parents would hang them like you were the next Van Gogh? Well, why not re-live your youth and get the whole family in the artistic mood! Stay away from those cream carpets though, mum will not thank us (or you)! Photograph the outcomes and see how creative you can get with it.

3. This one isn’t for the feet lovers out there…

Get your family on the end of the bed and rest all the feet over the end of the bed; this is often most effective in black and white! Don’t forget to tell dad to get a pedicure before doing this. Or you could find a bench or branch and simply let their legs and feet dangle – this is a beautiful shot if it’s on a sunny day.

4. Reflections or shadows can also be really effective, especially if you have been camping or on an outdoor excursion and don’t have your make up to hand or can’t be bothered getting dolled up for the occasion!

5. Why not try taking a photo in a frame? Try getting a large frame and holding it up, why not pull a silly face too?

6. Fancy a bit of palm reading: why not try joining three generations of hands around each other? Consider using a zoom or macro lens for this and really focus in on detail.

7. Why not try and create an old traditional family portrait photograph? Shoot in sepia to create a vintage vibe.

8. This one is a personal favourite… why not get each family member to dress up as their favourite book or film character! You know you’ve been looking for an excuse to dress up as Harry Potter for ages!

9. Source or make your own letters (fairly large so they are readable) spelling out ‘F A M I L Y’. Get each member of the family to hold one letter each; alternatively, line them up and gather your family behind the letters.

10. Find some little handmade dolls or puppets, print images of each family members face and attach those to the dolls heads, then play around with composition and photograph them.

11. All you need is a pen and dads fingers! Get creative and draw some pen self- portraits on the end of the fingers and photograph your creations!

12. Overhead birds eye shots can be really effective and natural! Try taking overhead shots of the family at dinner or a picnic and see what outcomes you get. You will need a ladder for this one… remember, safety first guys!

13. Instead of a overhead angle why not mix it up and take an image from the ground to the sky! Get the family to hold hands or create images with their fingers. Watch out for those double chins though, or a few of your family may not thank
you at the end!

14. Oh we do like to be beside the seaside! Why not take your family (and the tripod) to the beach; have fun, jump and be silly! Capturing the elevated ‘jumping’ effect may take several attempts and a lot of rehearsing, but the results are
good fun… plus, it’s a great way to keep fit and tire the kids out!

15. Keeping with the beach theme, why not take photos of each family members foot print? If that doesn’t excite you, why not find some pebbles and shells and try filling in the imprint?

There are no limits to the different style of shots you can take – so get creative and unleash your imagination.

Learn photography the iPhotography™ way

There’s no right or wrong way to take a photograph. But, if you spend all your time obeying the ‘rules’ of photography, your work will simply look like everyone else’s.

A shot can be technically perfect but aesthetically boring! That’s why iPhotography Course not only teaches you all the standard technical expertise, settings, skills, and special effects with your camera – but we also show you how to use these skills to develop your own individual style as a photographer.

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