Photo Tips for Taking Thanksgiving Family Pictures

Man, girl, woman at table with turkey
Trying to carve a turkey is a memory; photo Cottonbro, Pexels

The time-honored tradition of Thanksgiving often brings mixed emotions. Look at all that Thanksgiving entails:

  • Early U.S. history and lessons of survival
  • An array of traditional American food—or not so American
  • Questions on cooking the food
  • Family blessings
  • Family hurts
  • Awkward conversations
  • Lots of happy talk
  • Wondering how to bring families together
  • Early shopping for the holidays

There’s so much to capture in all of our family Thanksgiving photos.

Here are tips to guide you in taking shots that you’ll enjoy and that you’ll want to store for generations to come.

Remember: you’re not just taking pictures for today, but for the future. Read on and we’ll cover how to store your photos online for a lifetime, plus 100 years—guaranteed.


Use Natural Light

Nothing makes your meal look worse than orange artificial light.

This tip from says:

Put dishes near north-facing windows and illuminate from behind. Try to keep food out of direct sunlight. With the help of natural light, it’s possible to accentuate the color, shape and texture of your dish.


Get Behind-the-Scenes Shots

Young Woman rolling sausage dough with girl
My daughter and her niece making sausage balls.

Cooking is a big part of Thanksgiving memories, whether you’re making a larger family meal or having a dinner out for two. This shot above is one I enjoy. Sausage balls.

What’s one of your favorite side dishes or main dishes?

Another part of Thanksgiving is the hustle and bustle of going to see family. We’re often hurried and not feeling our best. Maybe the kids, or grown-ups, are anxious about seeing cousins, aunts, and uncles.

Guess what?

You might not be feeling great at the moment, but those shots can be quite entertaining several years or longer from now. Think of the phrase, “We’re going to look back on this and laugh.”

We like everything to go smoothly and perfectly, but catastrophes happen, and we live with tensions.

So, if mashed potatoes slide off the platter and onto the kitchen floor by accident then snap a shot! It could be funny sometime into the future.


Catch the Generations

What better way to show the continuation of family than snapping shots of older relatives with younger ones?

We impact each other’s lives, don’t we? It’s a way of remembering and of storytelling. This picture of my father playing piano with his great-grandson is extra special because we lost my father in early 2021.

Older man playing piano with little boy
My Dad and his great-grandson playing the piano.

Pose the People for a Portrait Shot

Candid shots serve one purpose while posed images serve another purpose.

Plan ahead and think through how your family members will be arranged. A good tip from says to create interest by “staggering your ‘models’ throughout the frame. Some can be seated. Others can stand, but aim to have each individual at different heights.”


Get Outdoor Shots

Variety is nice so make sure you capture outdoor shots. Frame using the bare branches of trees as a background. Make sure there’s no glare in the lens and take some photos at twilight.

You’ll be working with the challenges of low light while shooting Thanksgiving photography, especially in the later afternoon. Adjust your settings on your digital camera or smartphone, notes

“As you will likely handhold a lot of your shots, you may decide to shoot in Shutter Priority. This will ensure that your shutter speed doesn’t go slower than the amount you need to get sharp photos.”


Select and Store Your Photos

Choosing the photos that you’re going to keep may seem tough when you have so many. But think through what you or others will want to see in a few years or longer.

Note who was in the picture, where it was taken and why the shot is important to remember.

What was happening?

As a photo coach, I help my clients store their photos in an online, digital album where they’ll have guaranteed access for a lifetime, plus 100 years. It’s an album that they own, not rent. They’ll not get locked out or have the Terms of Service change which is what can happen with all the big-name providers.


Photos as Gifts

You can also turn Thanksgiving pictures into photo books that you can give as gifts during Christmas or holidays throughout the year.

Our pictures are our memories and they become truly important.

Another holiday gift idea is offering the research of your family history as a gift.


How can I Help?

Office Hours with Melody Event
Melody Whitehead, Safeguard Your Memories

I have 26 years of experience helping clients organize and preserve their photos as a photo coach.

I believe in following Best Practices and making use of the most effective technology available.

Let me know how I can help you.

Contact me for a brief consultation.





Check my Events page for photo storage, gift ideas and more!

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