WFMW How to take a great family portrait (Bowling Green KY Family Photographer, Bowling Green KY Family Portraits)

When it comes to taking pictures for family, I’m a little worse than useless.  I don’t know what it is that makes me so nervous, but it seems that whenever I’m under pressure to get that “perfect” shot for my own family, everything I’ve ever learned about composition and lighting and exposure goes completely out of my head.  Last week was one of those times.  My husband’s family is rarely all together at one time and I desperately wanted to get a great picture for them.  My family even managed to convince all the kids to wear coordinating colors, which I’d imagine took the type of negotiating prowess necessary to convince Ozzy Osbourne to dress in khakis and a button down.  But alas, they were all looking to me to get the perfect picture.  The result?  I did just about everything possible to mess it up.  The good news?  I didn’t put them in front of a brick wall.  The bad news?  Well, I’ll let you see for yourself:

(There wasn’t enough room to add the fact that there is a gigantic tree coming out of my brother-in-law’s head, and my son is sitting in a stroller (he wasn’t feeling well that day.)

The redeeming side of all this is that it gives me a good opportunity to show you how NOT to take a family portrait.  🙂

Aside from nailing the exposure and not doing goofy things like position people so that trees are coming out of their heads, there are a few basic compositional rules that help to make a good group portrait…

1.) Use triangles.  This is just a basic compositional rule, triangles allow the eye flow better through the picture, and make the subjects more interesting.  In this one, the triangle is used in two different ways:


2.) Stagger the heights.  This is another compositional technique, used to make a portrait more interesting.  In the following picture, if you were to draw horizontal line through each persons eyes, you’d see that none of them are the same height.  That works diagonally, too… if possible, try to keep people’s noses from being on the same vertical line, (don’t put one subject directly on top of another.)   I have also made use of the triangle here:


3.)  Create diagonals.  Compositions that are oriented diagonally give the eye a vertical and horizontal direction to travel through the photograph, making for a strong dynamic in family portraiture.


4.)  Make relationships obvious.  When photographing a large family, a creative way to pose family members is to make the relationships between the individuals obvious through use of posing.  In the following picture, putting the grandmother and grandfather in front and to the side, while grouping children with their families behind and to the right makes the relationships between the subjects obvious:

The same technique was used here:


5.)  Angle your subjects.  Throughout each picture above, I tried to make sure that my subjects were not facing straight toward the camera.  Turning your subject a little to the right or the left makes them look thinner.  If your light source is coming from the side, you’ll generally want to angle the women so that their backs are toward the light (which makes them look thinner.)


These are some basic principles to work with in family portraiture that will help to make your image stronger.  Hopefully, these tips will help you do better when photographing your own family than I did.  🙂

For more great tips on just about every subject, visit Works for me Wednesday



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8 Responses to WFMW How to take a great family portrait (Bowling Green KY Family Photographer, Bowling Green KY Family Portraits)

  1. Jo says:

    That was VERY helpful! My photography professor won’t talk about composition b/c she wants us to experiment to find what WE think is pleasing. I LOVE you showing the picture and critiquing it with a photographer’s eye!!

    • Rina says:

      Jo, that’s an interesting approach, I wonder if a lot of students end up naturally gravitating toward the “rules” of composition. I know when I started learning, I was surprised to find out that a lot of what I was learning were things I was already doing with pictures, only now I knew “why” I liked them that way. I’m glad you found it helpful!

  2. Great tips! I have a lot to learn as well.
    P.S. Visiting from WFMW!

  3. Kayla says:

    Love the tips! Getting a family photograph is one of the biggest stresses in my life!

  4. Pingback: How Much of it is Photoshop? A quick guide to taking better pictures. (Bowling Green KY Child Photography, Bowling Green KY Child Photographer) | Rina Marie

  5. S tell a says:

    Excellent help! Thank you!

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