Six tips for extended family photo sessions

Coaching, Family Photography, Premium

This is a photo I took of my own family last summer after church one Sunday while we were all at the lake. I used a tripod and a remote trigger and my sister helped me a lot with arranging everyone. Our outfits were not coordinated as you can see. All the spouses are standing next to each other but the kids are scattered around, not arranged in family groupings (read #3 to find out why). Usually I would probably put the youngest kids on the front row, but in our case, the teenagers are all super tall so it was easier to have them sit down and to have the younger kids stand. Everyone looks so happy and cooperative right? Haha! In reality they were all complaining! Ok, not ALL of them, but it kind of seemed like it in the moment! But totally worth it!

In the video accompanied with these posing tips, you can watch the entire coaching session with Tiffany where we also discussed cropping and much more. I’m currently accepting coaching clients: find out more

1. Make Mom your priority

“If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!” This is especially true when it comes to family photos! I like showing mom the back of my camera during the shoot to get her thoughts and feedback. I have learned that this can greatly contribute to having an end result that the client is thrilled with. For example, several years ago I was photographing a darling family and the mom was wearing a bold red lipstick. I showed her some photos on the back of my camera and she hated the way the lipstick looked so she took it off and opted for a softer lip. If I wouldn’t have showed her the back of my camera, she would have been wearing the red lipstick the entire time and she wouldn’t have liked the finished photos nearly as much.

2. Get everyone in focus

Large groups can be tricky with making sure everyone is in focus. Here’s a good rule of thumb, set your shutter speed to 200. Set your ISO to 400. Put your f-stop as high as possible without making the photo too dark. Focus on the eyes of the person in the middle, front. After taking a test shot, zoom up on the faces in the photo to make sure they are in focus.

3. Balance heights and colors.

You may want to consider arranging people by heights and what they are wearing rather than strictly by each individual family being together. This can result in a much more balanced looking and cohesive photo. It kind of depends how well the family has coordinated clothing and the height differences between family members. For example, if everyone is similar in height, you may need to have some family members sitting down in order to see everyone’s faces.

4. Creating Connection

If everyone’s hands are stiff and to their sides, the end photo will probably look stiff. My goal is to create a feeling of genuine connection in photos like this. Holding hands, linking arms and leaning into each other are a few ways you can create connection in large group photos.

5. Posing to maximize flattering angles

The people at the edges of the photos will look larger than those at the center so it’s a good practice to position smaller people at the edges of the photo, and larger people towards the center. And for goodness sakes, if you are the one taking the photo and you have to run and jump in the shot, unless you’re one of the smaller people in the group, carve out a flattering spot for yourself. (I have learned this the hard way!)

6. Have a second set of eyes and hands to help you

With a big group of people it’s hard to see everything, and it is super helpful to have someone helping you out. No need for your helper to be a photographer. One year when I was taking this group photo of my family, the twins, the youngest ones, were both pulling faces in almost every.single.photo! The next year I was READY! Or, so I thought. I was so laser focused on the twins that next year that I didn’t notice that their oldest brother was making faces in every.single.shot!

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I can’t wait to help you with your photos! 

Xxo, Rebecca Franson, Camera Mama Founder