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Family photograph fails and how to avoid them

Are you fed up of cringeworthy family photos? Want to know how to make your family look great for all posterity? Learn from those that got it wrong, with our advice on how to get it right.

The Pose

Family Photograph
Source: http://style.iprima.cz/sites/default/files/rodinnefoto2.png

The most important rule in group-shots is to stagger the heads, avoiding a straight row. Try to position heads so they are not directly on top of each other, or directly beside another. Staggering heights can be achieved by having some of the group sitting, or if you’re outside, standing on logs or rocks, whatever is available.

Ensuring everyone’s eyes are open is an art form. Try asking everyone to close their eyes and open them after a count of three, then click away.

Getting your family to look natural can also be tricky, so use any of these posing suggestions to add some movement to the shot:

  • Move weight onto one foot, sticking out a hip so the subject is side on to the camera

  • Cross one leg in front of the other

  • Put one hand into a pocket, or hook a thumb around a belt loop

  • To avoid highlighting any double chins, photograph from above the eye line

  • To disguise excess weight, get them to lay down and pile the kids on top

What not to wear

Source: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/C0odyzgUAAAtM6N.jpg

The rule of thumb is to co-ordinate your wardrobe without being too matchmatchy. Maybe an overlapping colour scheme, all wearing jeans, all looking more formal – really whatever everyone is comfortable with will work best. So, if you all love being active and outdoors, it’s probably not a great idea to pose in suits.

Do avoid extreme colours, prints, heavy textures and clothing with logos or writing on, all of which will detract from the overall effect.

Location & props

Source: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/ea/ec/a3/eaeca3a2bab6c0a7336412b11017c62a.jpg

First, be aware of the background. Unfortunately, this family failed to prepare in this respect. If you have the opportunity, use a location that all the family favour, such as a local park, the garden or a beach, but during the summer months do make sure there’s some shade.

To help with styling, consider using props which reflect your lifestyle and hobbies. So, if you all enjoy reading or playing chess, use books and chess boards to provide a focal point for the photograph and give everyone something to do.

If older relatives are included do make sure they have something to sit on, to ensure they’re as comfortable as possible.


Lighting will make a huge difference to the success of your photograph, so trying to get it right is important.

For the best natural lighting take your photograph about an hour before the sun goes down, when the sun is low in the sky and the light more directional and diffused. Try to avoid the harsh overhead light at midday, but if that’s not possible, take the shot in the shade, preferably under a large tree. Overcast days do offer softer light but the direction isn’t great.

The trick is to light faces with light coming from a good direction, so whether using sunlight or a flashlight direct from the camera, a 30-40 degree angle from the light source will be a great start point.

Have some fun

Source: https://thechive.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/awkward-family-photos-5-16.jpg

Try photographing the unposed moments when family members may feel more natural and unguarded. Also let the kids be kids and fool around – the shot will be much more charming than any formal pose.

To lighten the mood, you could also take some deliberately silly shots of everyone crammed too close together or piled on top of one another.

Leave it up to the professionals

If you don’t have the time or inclination for DIY family photography, why not leave it up to the professionals. They have the experience, props and styling expertise to help capture your family memories.

Some professional outfits, such as Boggio Studios, will work with your family – not just for one shot but over years, even decades, to document your family life. These treasured photographs can help to keep the memories of your family alive for generations to come.

by Dakota Murphey

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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