Tips for Taking Family Photos that You’ll Love and Remember

Woman sitting with children
Perfect shot? Maybe not. But memorable?
Photo by Josue Michel,

Family photos help create a legacy that we value and yet they’re often a chore to take instead of a joy.

Here’s the most important tip to remember: have fun and smile!


Make Picture Taking Fun

Have you seen family pictures where everyone is scrunched together, or the photo is painfully staged, and people look miserable like they don’t want to be there? That’s not a memory that you want to preserve.

When taking family photos, whether it’s a professional-looking portrait or just an impromptu family gathering, you have to make it fun, enjoyable, and an experience that years later you’ll look back on with good memories of the moment.

Great advice. Now, how do we do that?

Here are answers to that million-dollar question.


Follow the Leader

If you hire a professional photographer, let that person bring people together in a pleasant and no-stress manner. Photographers who shoot events and groups have to have a good personality. They need to:

  • direct others while putting everyone at ease
  • work with kids of all ages (infant through late teens) with no pressure and no stress
  • create a sense of cohesion in the crowd

It should just flow naturally to get that perfect family portrait.


If you are not using a pro and you’re shooting the pictures yourself – it’s the same principle. Don’t make

Man wearing glasses with camera
Lon Casler Bixby

it a chore, put people at ease, and most importantly – have fun with it.

A professional photographer in Burbank, California, Lon Casler Bixby, has taken lots of headshots for actors, models, and, yep, families. He advises that you turn picture-taking into a game.


“As a professional photographer, one of the things I usually do when shooting a family or even a single person portrait is to have the people make a goofy face and take a few shots of that.

“This usually relaxes people, breaks and tension, and just makes everyone feel more at ease about having their photo taken.

“A lot of times, it really helps with kids who don’t want to smile and just want to make a scary or goofy face – it lets them get it out of their system before you take the award-winning shot,” says Lon.

Remember. You’re taking pictures so you can have memories of that day – so make it a memorable experience.


Accept Imperfections

Shots in the moment from a normal setting like mowing the yard, having dinner, or getting ready the night before graduation can make memorable, candid shots. The faces should be as clear as possible, but otherwise don’t go for the perfect shot.

You’re not shooting for a major publication using high-end equipment and you’re not taking pictures of celebrities at a Red Carpet premiere.

You’re taking pictures to memorialize a moment in your and your family’s life. No matter how together you are, none of us lives truly perfect lives. Is a smile not quite right? Is the lighting off a little?

Imperfect photos reflect reality and that’s fine.

Now, that you know it’s important to have fun, let’s look at some key details.



As we cover this part of taking pictures, remember that the eyes and someone’s smile draws the viewer in. Use clothing to enhance features.

Choose clothing based on the type of photo you want.

Do you want a family portrait where everybody in the image is dressed in their Sunday-best (suits & ties, nice dresses, etc)? You know, the type of portrait that hangs above the mantle of a fireplace.


women kneeling on beach
The same style clothing here makes sense. Photo by Jackie Parker on Unsplash

Or, are you wanting something a little less formal? Maybe family photos from a picnic, BBQ, or a birthday celebration. In these settings, it’s best to just capture people how they are – casual and in their everyday clothes.

How people dress often reflects their personality.

So what you wear for a picture depends on what type of event it is and the attitude you’re looking to capture.

Another option is where everybody dresses the same – usually a look or theme from the latest fashion fad. Lon makes this important point.

“These images can be a lot of fun at the moment,” says Lon. “But keep in mind that depending on your sense of humor (or fashion sense) these photos may not hold up in the future.

You may just look back at them, shake your head, and wonder what you were thinking.”


Framing a Shot

If you are using a pro photographer – leave framing the photo up to them. They’ll know the best composition to get the best photo.

If you are shooting the image yourself – just be aware of what is in the frame of the photo.

man and woman on scooters
My husband and I creating symmetry in the frame.

“Headroom is one of my pet-peeves when taking or looking at an image,” notes Lon. “I know that you’ve seen a photo of a family or even a single person where the person(s) is small in frame and there is nothing except sky, or something that’s not important, filling the rest of the frame.

Basically too much empty space above the person’s head in the frame – that is a no-no.”

There may be a reason for the empty space if the person is standing in front of Mount Rushmore or the Statue of Liberty.

Otherwise, fill the frame with the person or people that you’re shooting.  On that same note – make sure not to cut off the tops of their heads either.

Camera Settings

Start off with the camera on automatic. And for most instances this is just fine and you will get perfect to near-perfect images. And if not, then at least it’s a good starting point where you can adjust your settings to get the photo you’re looking for.

You might be shooting an athletic event and with the camera set on automatic, the action is blurry. At this point you may want to adjust your shutter speed to a faster setting so you can freeze the action in the photo.



Lighting is one of the most difficult aspects of taking a good photo. More than likely you are not going to have a professional lighting kit, so the best tip is to make sure that people’s faces are not obscured by shadows. Position them so their faces are evenly lit.

“It is a balancing act. You don’t want their faces in shadow, but you also don’t want everybody squinting into the sun,” says Lon. “Luckily, most cameras, and phones with cameras, are pretty forgiving and as long as the lighting/shadows are not too severe, the automatic settings should even out the lighting quite a bit.”


Organizing and Storing Your Photos

Permanent Storage example photoThis is where I can help you as a photo coach by giving you a system that’s simple and easy to use. We might get started quickly and you’re off and running.

Then I can check back with you to help or give my input as needed.

Melody Whitehead
Melody Whitehead, Photo Coach, Safeguard Your Memories

And …

… if you like helping others organize their photos then I’ll be glad to share my 26 years of entrepreneurial experience and give you ideas on setting up an income stream.

The need for photo coaches and organizers is definitely in demand.

Contact me and let me know how I can help you.

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