It’s officially holiday photo season. Even if you don’t send holiday cards, gatherings with family and friends are an excellent time to get pictures of your favorite people. My extended family just did this over the Thanksgiving weekend. We love doing it every time we are together. It is incredible to look back over past years and see how our family has grown. For all the other DIY-ing we do around here, family photos are just another thing on the list!
This year, for our little family, we went really simple. Casual clothing from our closets positioned in front of a wall in our house. We enlisted the help of my dad, who was visiting for the weekend, to hold the camera and I love how they turned out. Yes, I have a little practice taking photos and yes, I’m on the side of being more rather than less knowledgeable about my camera. However, this is no reason not to believe that you too can organize and accomplish great looking photos. Here are a few things to take into consideration.
Tip #1 – Coordinate clothing
This tip isn’t as challenging as it sounds and will give the photos a much more cohesive look. Choose a few colors to create a palette the group can choose from. Doing this will allow each person to dress in the color and tone they are most comfortable in (comfort, a very important element indeed). We went with red, gray, white and denim (if you want to count it). A palette could be navy blue, white and yellow, another black, white and bright peony pink. Then there is the fail-safe, black and white. If this step causes you to panic, stick with really simple. Your group will still look amazing.
Try to choose clothing without lettering, overly bold prints or images, like a team t-shirt for instance. It can be distracting and an eye-sore. Subtle prints/patterns, solid color and classic clothing pieces will keep the clothing out of the spotlight and make the photo more timeless.
Tip #2 – Use natural light
This means no flash. Natural light is the secret element in natural looking photos. The best time for natural light is in the morning and late afternoon, both times when the sun is not straight overhead which can cause sharp shadows. The outdoors offer great light access but is not the only option. As you can see with our photos, we are inside but right next to a window that allows nice bright light and it worked perfectly.
-If you have a good window light source but it’s too bright, cover it with a white sheet (or drapes if you have them) and the light will be softened and diffused.
-If you’re noticing harsh shadows on faces, adjust bodies and faces so they are turned towards the light source more. For instance, us with the window. We are ever so slightly angled towards the window so our beaks don’t sprawl shadows over the opposite cheek. :)
-If outdoors and the light is overly bright, find a spot in the shade. The cover will reduce shadows, clear up sun-soaked spaces and keep eyes from squinting.
Tip #3 – Location, position, location, position
This refers to choosing a background and standing just right. First, the background.
-Since people are the focal part of the shot, choose a understated, indistinct backdrop. A solid colored wall, a field, a brick wall, a blank slate if you will that won’t pull the eye from the people in front of it. Manual camera users, using a lower apeture setting will make backgrounds softer and blurry.
-After the background is settled, body position is up next. Encourage good posture, just like mom always says. Stand up straight, relax the shoulders and get the chin level with, if not slightly tipped towards, the ground. Try to refrain from placing bodies straight-on to the camera. Straight-on makes us look wide. Angle bodies from the camera, so one hip and one shoulder are closer than the other set. At this angle, we all appear thinner. (!!) This is a shot from this past weekend of my siblings, mom and me. We are color coordinated, in front of a nondescript brick wall and angled. Love it! Don’t love it too much. MJ snapped it and it will just inflate his ego.
-Finally, try out a few arrangements. One you think is going to work great ends up not working so try a few, especially with little ones. They are squirrelly anyway so it gives them a chance to move around.
-P.S. Do a few silly faces. Pictures are supposed to be fun!!
Tip #4 – Feed the gremlins
This is the number one tip especially if your photos include children. Everything else could be perfect – the clothing, the location, the light – but if the children are hungry, a good picture is hard to come by. Get their tummies full, clean them up, get them dressed and then take the pics. Maybe even have a few snacks on hand. Food is a good bargaining tool.
Tip #4a – Make sure they’re rested
Another important part. Exhausted children are not inclined to do much, so make sure they are fresh then snap away.
Tip #5 – Take lots of pics
With digital cameras, extra snaps aren’t going to waste anything but the time it takes you to scroll through them. Of the 200 we took, maybe two were card worthy. No joke. We have a whole lotta photos I love and giggle at but in terms of ‘the one’, very few fit the bill. As you see, Sweet J had some fun with his face.
-If you’re taking the photos yourself with a remote, keep reminding the group to train their eyes to the camera and to keep refreshing their smile. I like to say silly things to keep my children’s smiles genuine. It doesn’t always work but it’s so much better than the cheesy zombie look.
-If someone is snapping them for you, encourage them to check on eyes and smiles since they have such a good view.
You can do it. I know you can. Just think of the photos that are just waiting to be taken. So grab the camera, take a few deep breaths and get on with it. You’re going to do great.