The Making of a Family Portrait with Natural Light

by SomeGirl on July 16, 2012 · 3 comments

Take advantage of any time you’re all going to be dressed up… a wedding, birthday party, or in this case, an adoption party for some dear friends.

Choose a well-lit spot

If outside, try to shoot in the early morning or late afternoon when the light isn’t so harsh. During the bright part of the day choose a shaded area. Shoot outside on concrete. The concrete will cause the light to reflect back onto your faces, grass will suck the light up. If it’s too hot (or cold) outside, find the best lit room in your house, make sure you’re shooting during a bright time of day.

Use a Tripod

If you’re not fortunate enough to have an extra person with you to take your family photo, set your camera up on a tripod. (Here’s an instagrammed shot of my husband setting up his tripod.)

Adjust Settings Beforehand

Have some of your models come in to sit while you adjust the position of your camera and your camera’s settings.

For our indoor space my husband started at ISO 1600, f-stop 2.8, shutter speed 100 and ended up with our final shot (below) at ISO 2000, f-stop 2.8, Shutter speed 80.

Arrange Family

Have the rest of your family come in to see where you’d like each member to sit or stand. I personally like portraits where our family is sitting… when we stand we never know what to do with our hands and bodies, but sitting seems to help with that.

Use Timer

Once you’ve adjusted your settings, tripod position, and you know where everyone is going to end up, you’re ready to set your timer and capture your family portrait. If you’ve done the work before hand well enough, you might even get lucky like we did and end up getting a good one on the first try! (That has NEVER happened before! It probably helped that we were late for our friends’ party and needed to go, so we didn’t have time to be nit-picky.) ;)


One last note here… It’s nice to have everyone color coordinated, but not too matchy. We may have gone a little overboard with the blue, but I like it. A big key is to choose clothes you all feel comfortable in, and to look like you normally do. These are some of our favorite clothes, so we all feel very good and I think it shows.

As far as positioning goes, a nice natural touch is good for a family photo. Nothing staged, just what you might normally do. It helps to just be yourself. If you don’t feel natural in your pose, you won’t look natural in your photo. If you feel comfortable, you’ll look comfortable (and usually much happier).

And, for the record, I wouldn’t recommend crossing your legs at the ankle and pressing them back against the sofa… It makes them a little wider looking than normal. (I’d really like to photoshop those down a notch, but I’m going to resist the urge.) ;)

Post Processing

FYI: Almost any professional photographer will take a little time to adjust their photos on the computer before sending it to a client, so feel free to do the same. Most photos can benefit from a slight exposure, contrast adjustment before being printed. (I probably over adjusted these photos, but I’ll go back and re-adjust the group one a little better before printing… just wanted to get them out and up here real fast for you guys.)

Hope you have fun and get some great family photos!

Btw, now is just the right time to start thinking about portraits for Christmas Cards… it’s not as busy as it will be once school and fall activities get underway. :)





I found your site through Pinterest. I’m a new(ish) photographer, have so much to learn and I’m so glad I found your fabulous website! I’ve already shared it on twitter, G+ and repinned a picture on Pinterest! Thank you for the great posts!


Some good advice , however as you have a tripod and can have a long exposure if indoor light is very bad (which it doesn’t look like it is) ISO of 1600-2000 is unnecessary and will only add noise and decrease the sharpness of your picture. 200-400 maximum is all that is needed and even 100 would have been fine.


Thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment! That room is actually much darker than it looks I brightened the photos up some in Lightroom. We have lousy light in our house, even though we have tons of windows (we have tons of trees blocking the light).

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: