10 TIPS FOR TAKING GREAT FAMILY PHOTOGRAPHS
THIS SCHOOL SUMMER HOLIDAY
School’s out for summer! Over the next two months, parents everywhere will be reaching for their cameras to snap family photographs of their amazing summer holiday adventures. Whether you’re braving the Covid traffic light system and jetting off to foreign shores, or making the most of the gorgeous British beaches and enjoying a staycation, I’m sure you’ll want to take some holiday snaps along the way?
I’ve been photographing families professionally for 7 years and documenting my own children for nearly 14… Here are some of things I’ve learned along the way to make capturing family photographs over the summer holidays fun, effective and much easier!
1 – Keep your camera with you
When you’re at home, keep your camera out on the kitchen surface or somewhere you can grab it quickly and easily. That way you won’t miss the perfect opportunity to photograph your children spontaneously just because you had to dig about in the spare room cupboard for the camera!
It seems obvious, but remember to put it in the car and take it with you when you’re out for the day. Then remember not to leave it in the car when you park up and head off! Get used to taking your camera with you like any other essential item – wallet, house keys, mobile phone, camera etc.
2 – Travel light
If you’re inclined to leave your big DSLR camera at home or at the hotel, or find yourself fiddling with too many lenses and a heavy camera bag, perhaps it’s time for a change?
The best camera is the one you have with you, so work out what that is, even if it’s your phone, and make sure you use it. If you’re too tempted to check your emails and surf social media when using a phone camera, you could try a light and easy to handle small digital camera. I like the Sony A600 or the slightly more expensive Fujifilm XT30. Both are great, small, lightweight alternatives to a big DSLR and are not much bigger than an iphone!
3 – Learn to see the light
The best light for photography is the few hours after sunrise and few hours before sunset. The shadows are really long and the light is softer and warmer making for beautiful family photographs.
If you’re outside, try to find shade to avoid the children squinting at the camera in the harsh light. If you’re snapping away indoors, facing the children towards the window will light their faces nicely. You can read more about how the light affects your photographs here on this blog piece about taking a better selfie!
4 – The right moment
Unfortunately, finding the right time for your children is not always the same as finding the right time for the best light. Trying to take sunset photos of a three year old way past bedtime is no fun for anyone! Nor is dragging your teenager up at 5.00am to get some beautiful morning light on a cold Norfolk beach!
It’s a bit of a balancing act. I’m a firm believer in carrying on whilst everybody is happy and having fun, as you’ll get some great shots. No matter how beautiful the light, negotiating with an exhausted toddler will not produce a beautiful photo!
5 – Remember to photograph the VIPs
It’s not JUST about photographing the kids…. its about photographing the Very Important People in their lives.
The school summer holidays are often spent catching up with friends and family, especially as we’ve seen so little of them over the last 18 months, so take advantage and photograph it all! Remember to capture them enjoying time with their grandparents. Grab shots of them playing with their friends. Most importantly, don’t forget to photograph yourself with them – especially if you’re always the one behind the camera.
These experiences are precious, and everybody will want to look back at photographic memories of them.
6 – No posing!
It’s tempting to line everybody up in front of the wonderful view or the landmark you’re visiting… “say cheese” you eagerly shout… “just look at the camera!”.
Whilst these posed photos are great, and you’ll enjoy remembering the places you visited, its even better to mix it up with some more candid shots. Try and use your camera to record the experiences your children are actually having. Photograph the games they play, the mess they make, the races they run against each other, the camps and dens they build etc. You don’t need everybody looking at the camera and smiling to make a beautiful family photograph.
7 – Make it a game
If your children are young, and they’re struggling to focus, give them something to do whilst you photograph them – a mini beast hunt, a bubble machine, a game of hide and seek, a sprinkler etc. If they’re older, you can try giving them the camera and getting them to photograph themselves and each other – especially with you!
8. Capture the details and the bigger picture
Sometimes, family photographs of your summer holiday are much better if they tell a story about what you were actually doing. To do this, try and get out of the habit of just taking ‘traditional portraits’.
Instead, focus more on the tiny details – the sandcastles they build, the bugs and butterflies they found, the paintings they’ve done, the dens they’ve built, the secret notes you found under the bed – and photograph them too.
Then stand back and see the bigger picture – capture the whole story of what your children are doing. Take in the scene and photograph it to tell the story of their summer holiday.
9 – Ideas and inspiration for family photographs
If you’re struggling to find ideas that inspire you to photograph your family, try creating your own shot list. Draw up your list, share it with your children as a list of fun things to do together, and tick off the shots you take as you go. Here are some suggestions to get you going:
- hugging each other
- reading their favourite book
- holding hands
- riding bikes or scooters
- making silly faces
- the playground – slides and swings
- tickling each other
- colouring and painting
- eating an ice cream
- the sprinkler or paddling pool
- dressing up
- running races
10 – Print your pictures
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, PRINT YOUR PICTURES!
Don’t leave them gathering virtual dust on your computer, never to be seen again. Technology moves on quickly – it was not so long ago we were storing everything on floppy disk, and then CR-Roms and then USBs and now the cloud… But how much better to have a photo book that you (and your children) can pick up anytime and leaf through all those magical summer holiday memories!
Louisa Williams is a family photographer based near Cambridge. If you’d like some beautiful new family photographs, you can find more details about her sessions here or drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Louisa also offers beginner’s photography tuition for parents. More information on individual teaching sessions can be found here.