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10+ Easy Large Family Photo Ideas For The Holiday Season & Beyond

The more, the merrier.

Originally Published: 
Family laughing while posing for pictures — large family photo ideas
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Do you want to schedule a photoshoot for your big family? Or are you already dreading trying to figure out how to get your entire extended family in the frame over the holidays? You may not have any clue where to begin with the planning process. The thought might even intimidate you so much that you put off even taking the first steps. But, listen, you’ve got plenty of other things to stress about right now (don’t we all?) — large family photo ideas shouldn’t be one of them.

With the following large family photo ideas, you’ll find all the tips and advice you need, no matter the size of your brood. Whether you’re a parent to several little ones or hosting your family for the holidays and want to commemorate the occasion with a photo session, you’re covered. Yep, that includes suggestions on what to wear, where to take the photo, how to pose, and more.

So, be sure to bookmark this page and refer back to it the next time you’re planning a photoshoot with that wild and crazy bunch you call your kin. Let’s get started.

Large Family Photo Ideas: Wardrobe

Need some large family photo outfit ideas? Clothing should coordinate, but it doesn’t necessarily need to match. In fact, it’s usually best if you don’t match (keep reading for one exception). If you’re unsure what that looks like in practice, here are a few ideas to get you started.

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  • Dress yourself first. C’mon, you know what you want to wear. The rest of the family might not care as much. Plus, if you’re the one coordinating, you get to call the shots! So, choose one “main” color and have everyone wear varying complementary colors for a cohesive look. Don’t shy away from patterns either, but do keep it simple. Rule of thumb: Patterns are OK if they don’t distract from happy, smiling faces.
  • Consider your backdrop. Live near a beach? There’s no prettier backdrop for a family photoshoot. If you choose a waterfront setting for your photo session, light and airy colors may look good. However, be mindful that certain colors can blend into certain environments. Or, for example, a white shirt at the beach could cause light to bounce up and hit subjects’ faces. Or if you’re standing against a black wall, wearing black could make you look like a bunch of floating heads.
  • Think about your home decor. There are many possible color schemes out there, which might give you a case of decision paralysis. If you get stuck, take a look at the colors in your home. You’ll be hanging these photos up if all goes well, so draw inspiration from your interior design.
  • Consider comfort and practicality. If people are uncomfortable, it’ll show up all over their faces… especially where kids are concerned. You also want to make sure that if your photoshoot has people walking in sand (like at the beach) or hiking through the woods, they are wearing the right shoes for the occasion. But on the subject of shoes — or really any athleisure wear — steer clear of neon hues. You’d be surprised how much even a tiny strip of neon can pull attention away from the people in the picture. The same goes for words, logos, and characters on clothes.
  • Have matching shirts made for everyone. Say hello to the exception to the matching rule! Is this a little campy? Sure. But what’s a family photo without a bit of camp? Besides, if you’ve got a large extended family gathering for a reunion or special event, it makes sense to have t-shirts designed to mark the occasion. Practically speaking, it saves you the hassle of getting everyone on the same page when it comes to ensembles. If you go this route, keep the shirt design simple and the rest of your attire casual.

Large Family Photo Ideas: Venues

Along with what to wear, you may also be wondering where the best place is to hold a family photo session. It’s a valid question. To start, let’s cover some basics. Good lighting is key. Natural lighting — being outside or near a sunny window — is best. But if you’re taking photos outdoors, opt for a shady area or plan to take the pics during the “golden hour” right before sunset to avoid the harsh glare of the sun. Now, let’s discuss some location options ideal for a large family photoshoot.

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Gunnar Svanberg Skulason
  • An outdoor location is a natural choice. Think: an open field, forest, or other scenic areas. Framed by trees or blue sky, a family photo taken outdoors showcases a large group perfectly.
  • Spend the day at the beach. If you’re fortunate enough to live within an easy drive of a beach — lake or ocean — this is a beautiful setting for a family photo any time of year. Make sure to dress appropriately for the weather to keep everyone comfortable during the photoshoot.
  • Try a staircase on for size. A staircase works well because family members can line up, and everyone is visible. No one gets hidden behind anyone else. Try a well-loved staircase in a family home or a set of steps in an outdoor public space.
  • Set up in front of the family hearth. This makes an elegant winter backdrop. If you have a hearth decorated for the holidays, have everyone gather around for a classic photo opp.
  • Take a seat. Another easy and aesthetically appealing option is to have the family sit side-by-side (by-side-by-side) on a joggling board, dock, or another seating area.

Large Family Photo Ideas: Posing

Every bit as important as what to wear and where to take your family photos is how to position everyone. Trying to get pictures of a large group with everyone in the frame — and no one’s head cut off at the top — is no easy feat. Logistics matter, and it’s important to map out where everyone will stand (or sit) ahead of time so that there’s no confusion on the big day. Below, we’ll cover a few ideas for poses and grouping to help you plan your next family photo session.

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  • Group individual family units together. If you’re taking pictures with extended family, group each family unit together, parents with their kids, couples paired up, and so on. This makes it easier to tell the story of your family tree when sharing the photo with friends.
  • Line up horizontally. You can put adults in the back and kids in front of their parents or have everyone standing next to one another, but either way, this is an easy pose if you want to make sure to see everyone’s smiling faces.
  • Everyone should bend something. This may seem like odd advice, but hear us out. Standing stick straight makes you appear stiff and rigid. Have everyone in your party bend a body part — cross arms or ankles, put a hand on a hip, and so on. This gives off a much more relaxed and natural appearance, making for a better photo.

Tips for Photographing Large Families

  • Try not to take too long posing everyone. For group photos, your subjects may become restless more quickly, especially the kids or older folks. So have poses in mind before you start shooting, and don't be afraid to place people exactly where you need to be.
  • Pay attention to detail. Lookout for smudged lipstick or an awkward hand. It's annoying, but even if everyone else is perfect, a kid with a noticeable boogie on their face can ruin the entire picture. Scan each person before pressing click.

Bonus Tips: Keeping Kids Happy (Grownups, Too!)

Trying to get a good group photo can be a lengthy — and sometimes tricky — process. If you have young kids in the mix, things can go south in a hurry once they start getting hungry or tired. Here are a few tips to keep everyone happy and help the photo session go as smoothly as possible.

  • Schedule wisely. Pick a time when the kids have energy and definitely do not plan your photoshoot during a mealtime. In the morning, after breakfast tends to work well.
  • Pack snacks, lots and lots of snacks. Be sure not to pack anything messy so that clothes don’t get dirty in the middle of a photo session, but having quick and easy snacks on hand can save the day when a hangry child is melting down.
  • Take breaks when needed. Kids have short attention spans, so it’s helpful to take breaks every so often and let them have a snack, stretch their legs, and get their wiggles out. You’ll all be happier for a few pauses in the end.
  • Do a last-minute check. Make sure everyone takes scrunchies off their wrists, keys out of their pockets. Are any kids chewing gum? Let them know it has to stay in their mouth the entire time or be spit out before the photos start. Check for flyaways, lipstick on teeth, the whole shebang!
  • Bring items to keep your kids preoccupied. If your child has trouble sitting still during a photograph, there are a few ways to keep them occupied. Have them sit in a chair so they’re less likely to run around or away. Bringing their favorite stuffed animal to set is a great way to keep them distracted. And if the toy is small enough, you won’t even notice it in the photo!
  • Make it an active photoshoot and play a few games with the kids. Not only will this make for some awesome photos, but it’ll help your child get rid of their extra energy. Then, when it’s time to go, they’ll either fall asleep in the car or go down for a nap when you get home. Two birds, one stone.

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