I love to take family photos! But I HATE the pressure! Since when do we need to look like we belong on the cover of a magazine? (oh Pinterest, why do you exist?!) But then again, can I please be that family for at least one photo?! (oh Pinterest, you inspiration you!) And then factor in a couple toddlers with agendas of there own, which I’m pretty sure is to do the exact opposite of what you want, and family photos are just lucky to happen…
In the past, about once a year I hire a photographer to capture our family. However, I want to take family photos a little more often than I can afford, (I guess because I love the chaos of not being able to control the toddlers…) So I thought I better figure this thing out and I took a risk. I tried to do it myself. And to my surprise, (not going to lie, I half expected to only get one photo…) I actually came out with a collection of photos that I love!
Please note: I love getting my photos professionally done! So I am not saying you should avoid the professional! But if for some reason that’s not in the cards this season, then this post is for you!
6 steps to take family photos yourself:
1. Make sure your husband knows it won’t be quick.
If all you want is one photo, ok that’s easy! But if you want a full blown photoshoot and collection of photos, then make sure your husband understands that good things take time. I told my husband I wanted him to be prepared for an hour just like if we would have hired a photographer. Preparation is key, but don’t expect it to be a walk in the park (no pun intended). Professionals make it look like a piece of cake. And that’s a good thing. But you need a plan and the right mindset to make yours as smooth as possible, and the last thing you need ruining your pictures is a grumpy husband.
(This ended up taking an hour and a half. Whenever I’ve worked with a professional, it’s taken an hour, so for the first time, and spending a lot of time reviewing the photos and giving my sister feedback, I was proud of that. Gotta keep it fun for that long though… Keep on reading for those tips!)
2. Don’t get too specific.
Don’t go in with a list of exact pinterest photos you want, otherwise the kids will not enjoy themselves and you will remember just being frustrated trying to get poses. You want to capture your happy family, not your frustration trying to get the family to smile.
Thankfully I went in with two strategies, because this was my first strategy it almost had me pulling my hair out! I had a small list of very specific shots that I wanted to capture as a family, and a few for Betty’s first birthday photos. Of course both girls did the exact opposite of what I wanted and it didn’t go the way I imagined… With that being said….
3. Base your photoshoot off a theme and with photos for inspiration rather than exact photos that you want.
The second strategy was based on a theme. Playing as a family in the park. It was a fun theme to keep everyone interested! I pulled lots of inspiration of the photography style I liked and discussed it with my sister (the one behind the camera) before the shoot. I had no expectations, we were just going to “see if we could get anything good.” This actually worked out better than I planned. We were naturally smiling, were totally comfortable and best of all, everyone was having fun and our photos showed this!
4. Pick a location with many backdrop options.
I went with a park so that way a) I could keep the kiddos interested by changing locations when needed. b) I had several shaded areas. And c) I had a pretty background no matter which way they turned… because Betty was always trying to walk the exact opposite direction I wanted!
5. Snag the unexpected opportunity.
By this I mean that your toddlers will probably do the exact opposite of what you want. I wanted a shot of Betty with all those beautiful flowers behind her. Of course, she refused to turn around. So I snagged the camera my sister, jumped to the other side of the flowers and captured shots that were better than I could have imagined!
6. Grab a friend or family member that is semi familiar with your DSLR camera.
I’ve been doing this with my sister for a while, so she is used to handling my camera and she is also used to me getting specific about framing (aka what’s in the photograph and what’s not). But whenever I hand off my camera to someone less familiar with it, I have a series of short directions I tell them:
First, I find the camera settings prior to passing off the camera.
- I tell them to check the photos every few shots to make sure the lighting didn’t change. (If it changes, I adjust the shutter speed)
- I take a photo first and then show the photo to them so they can see the angle I want and I can specify exactly where I want the subjects placed (otherwise people usually place the head in the exact center of the photo and I don’t like that.)
- I have them take the photos a couple steps back in case I need to crop.