How to take Family Portraits

Photographs, by their very nature, are a picture of something at a point of time in the past. The minute, no, the second they are taken they are out of date.

You see, a picture is a memory. A piece of history.

If a picture is of you and your family, it is a part of your past. A part of your history. And the picture becomes so much more powerful when it is shared.




So family portraits are a powerful, meaningful and caring way of sharing your family with your audience. A photograph can capture the essence of you and your family and make it possible to share that kinship with your family near and far.

So let’s talk about some of the technical aspects that make a photo “good” and what you can do to take better photographs of your family.

Lighting Your Family Photograph

If a photograph captures a point in time in your life, then it is going to have to be a moment where the lights are on because photography is all about working with light.

You’ve probably seen those photos of a person in a dark room with no lights on them. Well, you probably haven’t because those are the photos that just get thrown out.

You’re going to need to light your family photograph and natural light, in my opinion, is best.

Morning and afternoon glows make everything beautiful and if you can convince your family to sit or stand still for you in this light, you’ll automatically look like a better photographer.

Now direct sunlight is good for these photos but not ideal. For anyone that has tried to get their whole family to stand still in the sun on a hot knows that this is true.

Bounced light is better. Light that has found its way through an open window, for example, that is not direct light is going to give your photos a nice colour.

Image of a beautiful smiling child photographic portraits using natural light from an open window.
Family photos at home using the light from an open window

Failing that, and depending on your camera, your photos are going to look better if you can reproduce a natural daylight colour to light a dark photograph.

Now, there are technical settings for lights, lamps, fluorescent tubes and led lights that will blow your mind, (and one handy article on daylight colour temperatures is this one: but the setting you need to concentrate on here is “Daylight”.

On the box and in the store you’re looking for lights that say “5000 Kelvin” or “Daylight”.

Now bright lights like work lights or spotlights are good for lighting your family up in a dark room, but a single bright light is going to create shadows in the background and make your whole family look washed out (not to mention blinding them and make them cranky).

Professional foamily photographers often use a variety of lights and diffusers (think photography umbrellas and soft boxes) to spread that light and light stands to recreate all of the wonderful things that the sun can do for you at a lot less cost.

But, as a last resort, two or maybe three led work lights on stands and all running at the same nominal temperature (ie daylight) can get that effect going for you inside a dark room.

Some led work lights already have a diffuser over the LEDs. If you can see the individual LEDs in your light then that light isn’t going to be as good as one with the diffuser built-in.

Set up a couple of lights in your dark room shining at or towards your family portrait moment. Have them coming from different angles so that the faces of your family are well lit but not so brightly that everyone is squinting.

Now, all other things being equal, your family portraits should now be well-lit and you’re getting closer to some beautiful pictures.

Let’s talk about posing.

Posing your Family Portrait Photograph

Natural photographs of family moments are my favourite – especially if you can take a photograph that catches your family’s eyes. How your family’s bodies are shaped at the moment of the photograph is the posing.

If your family is like mine, this is not going to be a thing. Getting them to simply all look at the camera at the same time is hard enough. Capturing that moment is another challenge altogether.

But there are some tricks to how to have your family standing or sitting in your family photograph.

Trick number one is to try to avoid everyone standing straight on with their body facing directly towards the camera. It’s not a police line up so let’s make your family photograph appear a bit more natural.

Image of a Brisbane family posing for a photo in a Brisbane park

Slightly angled bodies (as viewed from the camera position) make a more interesting photo. I’m not suggesting your family contort themselves into weird positions – just have them stand or sit naturally. Let them talk to each other or smile at each other. Face the camera but angle their bodies slightly to the left or right to get the most beautiful images.

For supermodel family members, level up with slightly angled arms and legs with bodies angled slightly away and faces and eyes looking towards the camera.

Looking good.

Now, what about a good camera!?

Selecting a Camera for Your Family Photograph

You can spend as much or as little as you want when buying a camera so you can take photos of your family.

On the cheaper end is the camera you have in your pocket – your phone. 9 times out of 10 for a quick family snap this is the camera you will have easy access to. Let’s face it, the camera you have is way better than the camera you forgot.

in the middle of that range are specialist cameras with a flash and memory card. Most mid-range cameras come with a zoom so you can get closer without getting closer and a manual mode so you can play around with the details.

For irregular family portraits, the quality of these cameras is perfect. Keep the battery charged and enjoy your family snaps.

At the heavy-duty end are mirrorless and DSLR cameras from Canon, Nikon, FujiFilm, Sony, Panasonic and a host of other suppliers. You can buy special lenses, professional-grade lenses and fixed focal length (prime) lenses to suit just about any type of family photography.

For irregular snaps these cameras are overkill. For a hobbyist or a professional photographer, these are the tools of their trade.

So the camera you have is the best choice for a camera. You can always upgrade to a digital mirrorless or SLR camera once the habit grabs you and you want to take more photographs of better quality.

Now, how about sharing your photos?

Sharing Your Photography Images

As a moment-in-time image, it is important to get those photos you have captured out to your family and friends as quickly and simply as possible.

Again, the phone camera is great for that because you have many of the sharing tools you need already loaded on that bad boy. Instagram. Facebook. Pinterest. Twitter. Email.

These are the family-friendly ways of showing off your images in a format that looks good, is easy to share and won’t slow you down.

As you get more professional you’ll want to tweak your photos a bit.

Crop your photos to get the aspect right. Fix the lighting and make a dark photo a bit brighter. Rotate an image that isn’t quite square.

For the most part, this editing can be done on your phone or on your computer. We use professional software like DPP from Canon, but Google Photos does a great job of improving an image and then lets you share those images quickly and easily.

Brisbane Family Portraits

You are more than welcome to take your own family portraits, but if you would like My Beautiful Baby to take some photos of you and your family in the Brisbane area let us know.

Drop us a line using our Contact Us page and let’s get this conversation started.