How To Take The Perfect Family Photo

by Love Barnett
Originally Published: 

Holidays can be frustrating and exhausting, but it’s still kinda mandatory that you at least get a few pictures of the family for posterity. The problem? Taking a GOOD family photo will bring you to the very edge of insanity. Here are some helpful tips for how to take the perfect family photo:

1. Time your photos well. About 45 minutes past nap time seems to be a popular time for the self-elected photog to jump up and shout, “Hey everybody! Let’s grab a picture of the WHOLE family while we’re all here!” Poor clueless Cousin Jack. He means well; he’s just never tried to get a cranky two year old to sit still and smile on command. Holiday smarter this year and form a preemptive strike! As soon as everyone has arrived, and preferably before your holiday feast (see #2), gather the fam bam for a quick photo shoot. Everyone should be a bit more jolly at the beginning of the visit.

2. Take pictures before you eat. Perfectly prepared parent though I’m sure you ARE, (you probably have an extra change of clothes and ten metric tons of baby wipes in your diaper bag!), not everyone will have come as prepared, and cranberry sauce isn’t really a good look on anyone.

3. It’s almost impossible to get more than two people at a time to look in the same direction; work it. I know most people would prefer a full-on formal portrait with everyone sitting straight and smiling deeply into the camera lense, but 98.54% of the time, that’s not going to happen, and that cruel expectation is what causes a majority of photo frustration. You probably don’t want a picture to include the back of someone’s head, but other than that, it’s perfectly okay if not everyone is staring at the same spot. And if they are, it’s probably that gravy stain on your shirt (see #2), but that’s okay, too.

4. Don’t be afraid to use bribery.If everyone will just look this way and smile, I promise to only take three pictures, and then we’ll have pie!” Who could say no to pie?

5. If you have a very large family, skip the props. You don’t need a bale of hay or shafts of corn stalks or even a Christmas tree when you have a ton of people in the photo. Focus on the important and skip the nonsense. It probably wouldn’t hurt to have Grandma or one of the kids holding a sign with the year or family name on it, but anything else is taking up space that you probably don’t have in the frame.

6. Know your camera’s limits. I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, but your iPhone 3 is not going to take a great photo of 40 people all in one sitting, unless they’re piled on each other’s laps (see #7). And even then, it’s still going to cut off two or three people on each side. Break up the family into smaller bite-sized groupings for a family collage later if you have to. Or you could, you know, dig out a real camera.

7. Squish everyone together. It’s entirely possible that your family isn’t all lovey-dovey with people they see only a couple times a year, and it’s also entirely possible that one of the kids needs a diaper change, or Great-Uncle Gus passed wind, and the smell is wafting across the group as we speak. Even so, they’re going to have to tighten it up and get ALL up in each others’ personal space if you want this picture to actually contain everyone who’s suppose to be in it.

8. Don’t forget to GET IN THE PICTURE. They make tripods and auto-timers for that. Or you could just take turns swapping out grown-ups behind the camera. You could even call a neighbor over to snap off a few. Just make sure you don’t turn into the invisible-always-behind-the-camera lady. Floof your hair and pop a kid in your lap, and BOOM, you’re ready to go.

9. Don’t spend hours snapping impromptu family pictures. Kids get bored and cranky. Adults get bored and cranky. If you haven’t gotten some good pictures by now, they aren’t going to get any better the longer you drag it out.

10. When all else fails–screw it and use Photoshop. Massive amounts of wine and Photoshop have produced some perfectly decent family pictures. No shame in it. In fact, it’s probably less stressful and much quicker than trying to get the kids to sit up straight and be still for a once-a-year photo with all 37 first cousins.

Related post: The Perfect Picture

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