There’s nothing like an “official” family portrait to capture a moment in time and create a memory you’ll treasure.  Of course, there’s also nothing like a family portrait for capturing awkward poses, unfocused subjects, and a lifetime of wondering, “Why does Grandpa look so odd?” Or, “What happened to my hair?”

If you’re tired of family portraits that look rushed, stiff or just plain amateurish, here are a few tips for how to create shots that look like you had a professional photo shoot (and they won’t turn up on Awkward Family Photos!).

  • Squish groups together. For the most part, the closer you can get people to stand together, the better – more personal and natural – your subjects will look.  Avoid the police line-up look… and the class photo arrangement (grouped by age, kids on their knees in front).  It’s OK – better, even – to mix it up a little.  Get everyone together then… get closer!
  • Coordinate clothing. For starters, make sure everyone avoids busy prints, extreme colors and logos on their clothing.  Coordinating a color or two – while allowing each person to choose their clothing – can really help.  For example, everyone could wear khaki and white, with some in their choice of shorts, some in pants, some in skirts, etc.  You don’t want it to look like a uniform, but you do want a little coordination to keep the photo clean and simple.  Some professionals say coordinating clothing is the #1 best thing you can do for a great portrait.
  • Say something funny. Actually, say a few things that are funny.  As you’re setting up the shot and getting everyone in position, keep the mood lighthearted and silly.  Tell a few jokes.  Avoid drill sergeant orders or threats.  Save your best one-liner or joke for the moment right before you click the shutter.
  • Take a lot of shots! With digital cameras, the more shots, the merrier… and the better your chance of getting the perfect photo.  Check the screen often for accidental blinks.
  • Blur the background. If you look at really great family portraits, you’ll notice something they all have in common – the backgrounds are a little blurred, out of focus, allowing the eye to focus on the people.  How do you accomplish this professional’s trick?  Set your camera to a low f-stop to widen your aperture.  This results in a shallow depth of field and makes the background a bit blurry.  It’s OK… take your camera out of “automatic” mode and give it a try!
  • Have fun! It’s our best advice.  Having real, true authentic fun, together with your family, will result in a beautiful portrait you’ll treasure forever.