The spring is the prime time for new family photos. However, this spring we’re all locked up in our homes, so family photos are really difficult to come by! I recently did my own family’s photos with just a few tools, and I want to show you exactly how I did it so you can do the same for your family! It really does not take much gear to take pro-quality photos on your own, and it’s a lot easier than it may seem! (A little note: The links below are affiliate links, meaning I make a small percentage if you purchase through the link. It does not cost anything to you!)
The first thing you’ll want to do is set up your trigger. For my camera, it was as simple as going into one of the menus on my camera and telling it that I had a remote trigger. Every camera is different, though, so look at your specific camera’s manual for how to do this. If you want to forgo the trigger, you’ll use a self-timer instead. In your camera’s menu, there will be a self-timer option. Select the time and number of photos you want it to take. I highly recommend setting the timer for 10 seconds and shooting a minimum of 3 photos each time. On your iPhone, there is a self-timer located within the camera app (it’s the icon that looks like a clock). You’ll select the 10s option.
Next, you’ll want to determine where to take your photos. To get the best images, I suggest choosing a location with a non-distracting background outside. The best time of day to take photos is the hour right after sunrise or right before sunset. The sun is pretty low in the sky and creates some beautiful light. If you want to do photos mid-afternoon (which is what we did), determine where the sun is in the sky and make sure your family has their backs to the sun. It also helps if it’s cloudy outside or if you have some shade. Squinty eyes blasted by the sun don’t look good on anyone.
Third, figure out your camera settings. You can totally do this in auto mode (which you will do if using your phone), but I recommend using aperture priority mode on any DSLR or mirrorless camera. There is a dial on the top of the camera for all the different modes available. Select A for Nikon or Sony, and AV for Canon. Next, set your aperture to 2.8 or 3.2 and your ISO to 200. This will allow for a beautiful blurry background and in-focus family members. I HIGHLY recommend getting your settings right before trying to bring the family out to take photos. Getting the right exposure could take a minute, and the last thing anyone wants is grumpy kids (or hubby) because it’s taking too long. Again, skip this step if you’re using your phone.
Next, attach the tripod and get it to the right height. I like to set mine at eye-level so it’s exactly the same height as if I were actually taking the photo. Make sure the camera/phone is not tilted as that can distort the image. You can orient the camera in landscape (horizontal) or portrait (vertical). I like to do portrait orientation for standing photos, and landscape for sitting.
Finally, bring out the family! Position them with their backs to the sun and keep a spot open for you! Set your focus point on the person most likely to stay still (for us, it was my husband). When you’re ready to take the photo, you’ll get yourself into position, point the trigger at the camera, and press the shutter release button. It may take a few presses for the camera to get the focus and take the photo. To make it less obvious that a trigger was used, I hide it between myself and my husband or right over someone’s shoulder. For self-timer photos, you’ll press the shutter manually on the camera/phone, and quickly get into position within those 10 seconds before the photo is taken.
I like to start with everyone standing, looking at the camera. Then I told my family to all look at one kid, then the other, then at daddy. It gave some variation to the images. If your kids are small enough, you could then hold them and do the same thing. You could take some people out so you have images of each child with each parent, or the kids together.
After the standing photos (if the attention span is still there), I move into sitting images. We just used a white throw blanket and I positioned everyone again before jumping in the photo. I like to have the males sit cross-legged and the females sit side-saddle. Our littlest isn’t able to sit on her own yet, so we just placed her in my husband’s lap. Same variations here – look at one kid, look at another, look at dad. I also think it’s fun to have the older kid(s) come around behind mom and dad and give hugs. Sometimes this doesn’t work (it didn’t look all that great in our images) because the kids tend to forget this is for a photo, so sometimes they’re not the most flattering.
If you’ve never used an editing software before, that’s ok! I used Adobe Lightroom for editing all of my images, and there’s actually a free Lightroom app for mobile devices to make your edits. If you decide to use an actual editing software on your computer, the presets I recommend using so you don’t have to make a lot of tweaks to get some great results would be: Kindred and Lauren Fair’s Presets. On mobile devices, I highly recommend the Filmborn or Tezza apps.
I hope this was helpful information on how to DIY your family photos. If you gave this a try, tag me on instagram (@catieannphoto)! I’d love to see them!