What poses or scenes work best for family photographs?
September 8, 2005 9:47 AM   Subscribe

My siblings and I are getting together early this fall for a photo shoot for our parents. I've looked around at photographers' portfolios for family poses that look good and not super 'posed', but I'm coming up with blanks.

The best I've found so far is this, but we don't live near a beach. What poses or situations do you reccomend for a modern-yet-timeless style photograph? What suggestions could you give that would help us get a shot that will make my dad cry?
posted by bryanzera to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think the best family photographs I have were taken at my wedding by a photographer who specializes in candids. The photographer (who was very professional and discrete) just had us interacting with each other at various locations and managed to capture some amazing moments. I imagine that if you picked a couple of meaningful locations, coordinated with your siblings and had a great candid photographer for a couple of hours, they could snag some amazing shots. He/she will instruct you to ignore him and concentrate on each other. If they are very good, they'll figure out shots that bring out the best in everyone.
posted by jeanmari at 10:01 AM on September 8, 2005

Second jeanmari. A lot of photographers call this "photojournalism-style." Think of those photos of the Kennedys playing football together, or walking along the beach. Definitely look through portfolios to find someone who does this well; good examples are outstanding, but bad efforts smack of gross amateurism.
posted by junkbox at 10:06 AM on September 8, 2005

My family did this a couple of years ago. We used a courtyard. There were around 25 of us in the picture. A few stood on a stone wall in the back, a few kneeled or sat on the ground, and a few stood on chairs the photographer brought. Photographer took a bunch of photos. We were told to wear anything we wanted, but no black or white shirts, and no small patterns.

The two best things that he did: he told every person to be touching at least one other person and made us laugh. The touching resulted in hand holding, arms around shoulders, etc. This made the picture seem much less posed than you'd imagine. The laughing meant we ended up with one picture where a bunch of people are laughing and that's the one that made MY dad cry.

The touching thing seemed totally silly while we did it (it may actually have been what made us laugh, now that I think about it) but I can't tell you what a difference it made.

One thing that ended up odd, and my not be a problem for you if you don't have many people: each of my two brothers is touching the other one's wife. This makes it awkward every time I use the picture to explain my famil y to people. "Well, that's my brother Alpha; he's married to that woman over there that my brother Zed has his arm around....."

(The candid thing is a great way to go, but it wouldn't have worked for us - at the time we had so many people from all over the world, that the day after thanksgiving that year was the only time in 10 years we'd all been in one place. Ask to see some posed pictures, they really can work out great.)
posted by dpx.mfx at 10:09 AM on September 8, 2005

Do you live near a park?

The thing that makes that portrait special is that it's not a portrait as much as it is a really well taken snapshot. The people in it are *doing* something, moving and relating to each other in a natural way, rather than sitting according to height and hierarchy. It could be pulled off in a field or on a sidewalk or anywhere that people do things naturally.

I've seen some fabulous 'dinner table' portraits in a window somewhere in Toronto, lately - a family of what appeared to be siblings, having dinner on one side of a table, a la television sets, with a the portrait chosen while they were laughing and happy (but not actually shovelling food in their mouths). It's natural and interesting, rather than posed, though the fact that there were two of them suggests that the photographer uses this as a common set piece.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:11 AM on September 8, 2005

I love Elsa Dorfman's portraits. Perhaps they can help you come up with some ideas.
posted by jdl at 10:15 AM on September 8, 2005

Ah, that Elsa Dorfman link has good examples of the whole touching thing.
posted by dpx.mfx at 11:04 AM on September 8, 2005

Outdoors is good if the weather cooperates. Esp. someplace you all like - school playground, park, front/back porch. Doesn't take much foliage to look woodsy. Bright sun is too bright and makes people squint. My sister's family got nice shots with everyone dressed in shades of blue, walking and in a park. Music can help set the mood.

Advice: When you're having your picture taken, straighten your back, and take and let go of a deep breath. Consciously relax your shoulders. Smile. You look better smiling, even if you don't think so, although you don't have to grin. Your photo will always look odd to you because you are used to seeing your mirror image and your actual image looks inexplicably wrong.

A good photographer should be able to help you select a location.
posted by theora55 at 12:45 PM on September 8, 2005

I dunno. If your gonna do a portrait then you're gonna have poses. Always have at least 2 rows for depth. And arrange people by their relationships. Even though its a family portrait, you need a focus. Mom in the middle with dad next to her. Surround them with your siblings.
posted by CrazyJoel at 3:17 PM on September 8, 2005

The photographer we used (in Sacramento; maybe a bit too far for you, though he did drive to Yosemite for us) for our engagement and wedding photos shoots in the photojournalist style. When we did our post-ceremony shots, he told us to walk this way or that, or to hold each other and kiss, and we'd just relax and talk and be ourselves. They came out great, and not very posed looking, either, considering that my wife and I don't like having our pictures taken and often look a bit stiff.

My email's in my profile if you want to see some his shots.
posted by DakotaPaul at 4:37 PM on September 8, 2005

Pick a location that seems reasonable, a cafe, a park, eating on the back porch, hanging out on the lawn, discussing Camus in the study, getting snorkled on goofballs, I don't know what you're family is like.

Think of the scene as a play, such that you have to be arranged with a viewing angle, so that everyone is visible, you will have to prioritize, in candid work there is always a subject. You can make the prioritizing work you for though.. if Mario is known for being clownish, he can be showboating while "timid" Bjorn is more subdued. Again like a play, something is going on, either something central that you're all involved in, in separate events in the same scene.

Either digital or film, compositing scenes for this type of stuff can be useful. So you can catch group A looking good in one frame, group B looking good in another frame, and stick 'em together. Getting a convential photo-print out of that won't be easy, but a digital print will be easy. A tripod obviously makes this much easier.

You didn't list some of the specifics, how many siblings, what quality the final picture should be.. I'm assuming <8 people, and if you're happy with a decent digital 8x10, it makes things alot easier.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 5:36 PM on September 8, 2005

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