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12 Great family photo ideas

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Written by Becky T

Published Nov 29, 2022

Family photos are among the most commonly requested products for commercial studio photographers. As well as helping to capture memories and track kids’ growth through the years, family photos bring a warmth of sentimentality to our homes. Ultimately, it’s your job as a photographer to capture the photos that your clients will feel proud to hang on their walls!

Given the popularity of family photography, any professional or budding photographer worth their salt should think carefully about how to capture families of all sizes in their best light. Therefore, to help you deliver images that your clients will treasure forever, we’ve put together a few examples of family photo ideas in studio settings and other photoshoot locations. This will cover:

1. Get artsy
2. Embrace the action shot
3. Have fun with playful costumes
4. Split large families into smaller units
5. Encourage affection
6. Play around with family members' heights
7. Go full fashion
8. Recreate old photos
9. Invite a furry friend (or two)
10. Enjoy a feast!
11. Photograph everyone from behind
12. Encourage older family members to embrace the limelight

How to pull off your family photo ideas

Before we dive into specific examples of photo ideas, we’ve collated a few hot tips for working with families on a photo shoot. Remember – your clients are unlikely to have professional modelling experience and may not feel comfortable in front of a camera. In fact, your shoot may be the first time that they’ve ever stepped foot in a studio, so it’s worth going the extra mile to help them pose as effectively as possible.

Image showing photographer in a studio, showing his clients a photo on his camera
Photo by Antony Trivet

Key tips include:

  • Focus on making the family feel comfortable: While some families may have experience posing for the camera, others may feel a little embarrassed or shy. Discomfort always shows up on camera and could ruin the quality of your photos. The best way to help a client loosen up and embrace their inner extrovert is to lighten the mood and encourage them to have fun. Don’t offer dry instructions about where to place their hands or how to stand. Instead, tell jokes, ask them to play a game with their children, or encourage them to imagine they’re somewhere totally different. Above all, use your intuition and be patient! 

  • Give the family control: Avoid asking your clients to do anything with which they’re uncomfortable. Building trust is one of the most crucial elements of family photography, so remember to listen closely to their needs and feel free to ask broad, discreet questions about their lives. Asking how a couple met, for example, will build intimacy and produce better photos. 

  • Offer posing demonstrations: If the family members are posing in awkward ways that don’t cohere, it may help to offer a quick posing masterclass. Drop your inhibitions and show them how to lean against a wall or smile for the camera, for example. Just remember not to be too prescriptive and keep things natural!

  • Prepare to be flexible: Young kids often have their own agenda when it comes to poses. Rather than force them into following your original plan, try adapting to the situation and working around the kids’ needs. Similarly, you should try to be flexible when setting a time and date for the shoot. Young families are particularly vulnerable to last-minute doctor’s appointments or child-related emergencies. While it may be a little frustrating to shift your priorities around, it will help you build a strong client relationship!

  • Be careful when setting your aperture: You may be tempted to use a low aperture value to ensure your models are crisp and your background is soft and blurry. However, this can create issues if you’re working with a large family, potentially blurring people at the outer edges. Try experimenting with aperture values before proceeding with the shoot. For more information about how the kind of equipment you’ll need for family shoots, check out our photo studio equipment guide

  • Use continuous shooting mode to your advantage: Continuous shooting mode is available on many cameras and allows you to take several photos in quick succession. It’s a great function for capturing candid images that show your clients having fun together.
Image showing a close-up shot of a camera
Photo by Terje Sollie

Original family photo ideas

So, now you know how to capture gorgeously candid photos of your clients, how can you make your family photography stand out from the crowd and offer something a little different from run-of-the-mill photographers? Here are 12 simple yet effective ideas your clients will love:

1. Get artsy

Why not help your clients unleash their creative potential and turn the shoot into an art session? You’ll need to spend about half an hour or so before the shoot working with the family to create self-portraits, sculptures, or (even better) masks to wear in their photographs. Once they’ve created something bold and beautiful, you can work together to incorporate the artwork into the shoot. Don’t worry if your clients aren’t master painters. As long as they’re willing to get stuck in and you give them access to a range of art materials, the shoot will deliver excellent results. If you don’t have the means or resources to purchase art materials, it’s worth considering photoshoot locations that you could explore instead.

image showing family handing hands in photo studio, with cardboard masks over their heads
Photo by Daisy Anderson

2. Embrace the action shot

Family photos can sometimes look a little wooden if the family members aren’t enjoying themselves or moving around freely. The easiest way to avoid the dreaded awkward photo is to encourage family members to get moving and have some relaxed fun. If you’re working with a young baby, for example, their parents will probably coax a cute smile out of them by lifting them in the air or gently bobbing them up and down. For best results, action shots should be captured outside or in rooms with plenty of natural light, so it's worth exploring daylight studio hire if you don’t have your own studio space.

image showing father holding up his baby daughter
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto

3. Have fun with playful costumes

If your clients have a silly side, encourage them to have fun with costumes! Obviously, you don’t have to include wacky costumes in every photo. Rather, you can take a few playful photos at the end of the shoot to give your clients something to add to their Halloween, Christmas, or Easter greeting cards.

image showing family dressed in Halloween makeup and costumes
Photo by Gustavo Fring

4. Split large families into smaller units

It can sometimes be trickier to generate large group family photo ideas, particularly if you’re working with a range of ages. One of the best ways to create visually arresting family photos is to split large families into smaller units. You could organise them by couples, immediate family units, or randomly selected groups. Once the family is split up to suit your purpose, ask these smaller groups to work together to create original poses. Make it into a competition if you’re feeling a little playful, rewarding the winning group with the opportunity to get behind the camera themselves! As well as creating truly original photographs, this strategy will ensure your clients enjoy a fun day out that they won’t forget.

Photo by Craig Adderley

5. Encourage affection

Sometimes, families are a little wary about being too affectionate on camera, particularly if they don’t know the photographer personally. Try to discourage this kind of nervousness and reassure your clients that showing affection will help produce photos they’ll look back on with fondness. Why not suggest a group hug or some gentle nuzzling? If the family you’re working with is a little reserved, it’s best to leave these photos to the end when everyone’s feeling more relaxed.

Photo by August de Richelieu

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6. Play around with family members’ heights

If you’re struggling to come up with family photo ideas for older kids, why not show off how much they’ve grown by playing around with height? You could, for example, encourage the kids of the family to create a human pyramid, with the tallest kids at the bottom. Alternatively, ask the family to line up in height order on a set of stairs, with the smallest at the foot of the stairs.

Photo by Zara Hamdane

7. Go full fashion

If the family you’re working with includes a lot of teenagers or young adults – particularly groups of sisters – they’ll probably love getting dressed up for a full-on fashion shoot. Encourage them to hire fancy gowns and help them find makeup artists to ensure their complexions are as sleek and dewy as possible. You’ll also need to create the most flattering and striking lighting conditions, best achieved with blackout studio hire and high-key photography lighting.

Photo by Fireberrytech

8. Recreate old photos

You may have come across an online trend that involves families recreating decades-old photos, often with hilarious results. If your clients want to create something original, funny, and a little sentimental, why not suggest you recreate some of their favourite memories during your family photo shoot? The best recreations are those in which at least a couple of decades have passed, with kids having grown into fully-fledged adults. Recreating special occasions such as weddings, high school graduations, and Christmas meals is another excellent way to create something your clients will treasure forever. Even better, you don’t have to worry about coming up with poses, as they’re already set in stone!

Photo by Alex Green

9. Invite a furry friend (or two)

Pets are often considered vital members of the family, so it makes sense to include them in family photos. After all, they may not be around as long as their human counterparts, so capturing their adorable essence through professional photography will ensure families look back on them with fondness. It’s also worth noting that furry friends can help kids feel more relaxed and create natural focal points for more traditional family photos.

Image showing a young girl hugging a black rabbit
Photo by Anastasiya Gepp

10. Enjoy a feast!

Nothing brings a family together quite like delicious food, so why not turn your photoshoot into an excuse for a special feast? If you’re feeling ambitious, you could hire a space with cooking facilities and snap the family baking a cake or whipping up a delicious stew. Then, you can capture everyone’s reactions to the tasty treats. As well as offering a unique experience, a food-inspired shoot gives you an excuse to enjoy a meal together when your work is done for the day!

Photo by Cottonbro Studio

11. Photograph everyone from behind

Photographing your clients from behind will generate photographs with a sentimental, nostalgic feel – great if they’re looking to send the pictures to old friends. Naturally, you’ll need to ensure they’re looking smart and primped from behind, so ask their permission to fix up any stray hairs or untucked shirts they may not have noticed.

Image showing family sat on bench, photographed from behind
Photo by Daniel Torobekov

12. Encourage older family members to embrace the limelight

Family photos are often dominated by cute offspring, relegating older adults to the sidelines. Try to avoid this and encourage beloved grannies and grandpas to steal the limelight – at least for a few photos! Older people are often more comfortable behind the camera (they’ve had many years of experience, after all), so make the most of their posing abilities!

Photo by Marisa Howenstine

Think outside the box and experiment with family photo ideas

As we’ve demonstrated, there are many, many ways to create unique family photos that your clients will adore. Whether you’re working with a huge extended family or a smaller family of five, photo ideas should incorporate clients’ needs and desires. Remember to discuss the family’s vision well before the shoot takes place, ensuring you have the location and equipment you need to create something truly special.

If you require a photo studio, Tutti is here to help. Browse our full range of options today!   

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