Tips on taking a family portrait for the ages
January 2, 2007 6:08 PM   Subscribe

Family Portrait -- How do we do it ourselves?

The older kids are home from college and we meant to get professional family portrait done, but the time has slipped away and we did not make an appointment and tomorrow is our last day together. So we are going to see what we can do on our own.

We have two pretty good digital cameras: a Canon PowerShot S1 IS and a Canon PowerShot SD800. We have a big tripod and a small tripod and a gorilla pod.

Any quick tips? I have found a few sites with general advice like this one. We don't necessarily want to duplicate a studio portrait, it might be nice to go outside and goof around a bit. The plan right now is to put the camera on a tripod, set the self-timers, and see what happens.

posted by LarryC to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
some ideas:

shoot in the shade, on a partially cloudy day
shoot during sunrise/sunset against the sun with flash
posted by jedrek at 6:13 PM on January 2, 2007

Indoors - Avoid the damn flash! Use lots of ambient illumination, have everyone stay still, and let the camera do its work.

Outdoors - Jedrek's suggestions are great. Bright sunshine seems nice but photos will come out very contrasty unles you fill in shadows with the flash or use a bright surface like a sunlit house (moviemakers use large mirrors).
posted by rolypolyman at 6:29 PM on January 2, 2007

Response by poster: Great suggestions. We have a lovely brick patio area on the east side of our house, in the afternoon it will be out of the direct sun but still plenty light. I'll check out that white balance thing right now.
posted by LarryC at 6:57 PM on January 2, 2007

Honestly? Goto Best Buy and buy a DSLR (Canon/Nikon) for the event, and return it.

If you cant/are unwilling to :~).

TAKE LOTS OF PHOTOS - Its impossible on any of those cameras to tell if a photo is in focus, if everyone is looking, etc. You should end up with NO FEWER than 50 images.

Overhead sun = BAD - Avoid it. Lighting is definately key for a good photo. Overcast days are the BEST (but obviously you cant control that). The flash might help (try some on, some off) depending on the setup.

Fill the frame
Dont do this unless you have to. Depending on the size of your family, you should be able to get a nice close good looking shot.

Vary your shots - Take some with less than the whole family (this will go faster if yo/someone is running the camera. Have a little fun too.
posted by SirStan at 6:58 PM on January 2, 2007

The advice on here on taking your own in excellent.

Just so you know: Sears Portrait is slower than you can imagine (due to post holiday stuff) and an appointment is not needed. Just call in the morning they they will get you right in. They'll take at least 6 poses and you have 48 hours to order so you can go, take pictures, leave and hang out with your family and go back later. Tell them you want less than posed and more fun family shots. They should make you happy.
posted by nadawi at 3:48 AM on January 3, 2007

I had exactly this challenge at Christmas - and for the purpose I picked up a small infrared remote control for my camera. It cost around $30 (in the UK 17 pounds) - and allowed me to sit in the shot and click away, so none of that running back when the timer is going off.

Then I could do the trial and error bit every so often - we were happy with the results.

And I second the advice about taking LOTS of shots - I ended up with about 50 I think...
posted by mattr at 3:55 AM on January 3, 2007

The thing that ruins family shots for me is harsh shadowing behind the subject. This is especially bad indoors with an onboard flash - you'll get black halos around all the people in your shots. Of course, this only really applies if your background is close to your subject.

The solution is to have multiple lights pointing at your subject, along with a light pointing at the background. If you're indoors, grab a table lamp from another room, take the lampshade off, and stick it behind everyone where it won't be seen by the camera. Get a couple directional lamps (I'll use desk lamps or portable work lights) and put them in front of the subject on either side.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:50 AM on January 3, 2007

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