Family Portraits fall into three main categories; traditional family portraits, candid family portraits and lifestyle family portraits.
Most families have had their picture taken, but few have had a chance to have their portrait shot, because of the difference between the two. One is a quick snap, with little attention given to the technical aspects of the image; the other has more consideration given to how the final result should look.
It's often said that a good portrait captures the personality of the subject (s), and that's true, but what it also does is record the subject (s) in a way that's different from other pictures that they've taken of themselves. By using a couple of simple techniques – anyone can move from the realm of 'snapshots' to discovering how to deliver distinct family portraits.
An essential for a successful family portrait? Expression. Capturing expressions portraits emotion and adds dynamics to the photograph. Portraits can be left feeling incomplete without capturing the expressions that make the image more engaging. While traditional family portraits are posed (think school pictures), I feel expressions are best captured 'un-posed' in a candid portrait setting.
Some great tips on how to do this include avoiding using flash when possible and shooting from a distance. This is not to say that all successful family portraits are shot on a whim. It simply means that developing a rapport is important. Actively involve yourself in directing the subject (s) to pose naturally and comfortably – and you'll find it can achieve a great deal!
Creating a Candid Look When Posing Subjects
Whether taking individual portraits or group photos, creating a candid look is a great way to create a different type of image. Get them laughing – engaging people in a friendly, open manner will get you those shots where the subjects have stopped being self conscious!
Another easy way to achieve a great looking candid shot that has been posed is to have your subject (s) look away from the camera. This type of 'casual candidate' positioning can also be used in larger group shots. Having everyone look at each other can create a unified mood to the photograph, a connection that the viewer can sense.
Props are also a great tool to utilize when photography children. A child's honest reactions to their immediate environment make them the very best candid portrait subjects. Even when aware of the camera's attention – candid shots from children shine!
Try another Perspective
The general rule for family portraits is focus on the eyes and set a wide aperture to throw the background out of focus while keeping the faces / subjects sharp. While this is standard in the context of photography, consider occasionally photographing the subject from various angles and perspectives. Sometimes changing your view helps emphasize mood and can help set the 'expression' of the photograph. Try photographing a family from behind, walking away. Perhaps a lifestyle type shot of everyone's bare feet in the sand etc.
Change Your Framing
Many people think of portraits as a vertical photograph. Instead, try taking holding your camera horizontally and offset you're subject to one side rather than the middle. Being conscious of switching from one framing style to the other can provide some pleasant results from the same pose.
Most photography generally insists that the horizon be a straight line. The same is not always necessarily true in portrait photography! Using the horizon line to add creativity and a fun 'mood' to the image can be a great way to step out of the box!