Posts Tagged: Family

Why Family Portraits Are So Important

The strength of a family, like the strength of an army, is in its loyalty to each other.
-Mario Puzo

I have lots of snapshots of my family. I have snapshots of me and my brothers and sisters at the beach, at parties, etc. And I have snapshots of mom and dad in various places and times. But there are no portraits of my family with my parents and siblings all together. Both my parents and one brother are deceased, so that portrait of my family can never be made.

The tragedy of not having a portrait of my family, (actually there aren’t even any snapshots of all of us together), is the fact that my children and their children, etc will never know what we all looked like as a family. It’s about lineage and family history. If there are any photographs of my grandparents in existence, I don’t know of them. It’s a shame.

I don’t know why my parents never thought to have a family portrait made, but I sure wish they had. All families are different, and my family completely unraveled shortly after my youngest sister left home. Shortly after that I left the roost, (being the youngest child), and then my parents divorced. No getting back together for a family portrait after that!

Just an hour ago a young family left my studio. The husband is a medic in the Army, and will be deployed to Iraq in two weeks for an undetermined length of time. The wife works for the Army doing outreach and helps those families and spouses who have lost a family member. She determined to have a special family portrait made before he deploys. Her main reason, she said is because she works with bereaved families and knows what their regrets are. One that stands out to her is when the spouse or family has no real nice family portrait to hold on to. She’s not about to make that mistake.

Beautiful, sensitive family portraits certainly portray the family members in the most complimentary way possible, but they also give a sense of the personality of the family, the individuals, and the relationships within the family. The love and connection.

As with many other families, my older siblings left for the military, university, and marriage, and went of to various parts of the world to start their own families. And as many of my clients do, having a fine family portrait created before the children go off to college or other pursuits can bring back the added warmth and comfort to the empty nest. When going about your daily business in the home, you can look at your family portrait on the wall and see the expressions, all the personalities, all the love of and for your family members is called to mind, and warms the heart.

Family portraits also preserve the record of your heredity. Looking at older family portraits you can likely see where you got your nose, or who you inherited your jaw line from, or your eye color, or curly hair. Portraits are a wonderful way to remember your ancestors, and a wonderful heirloom to pass on to your children and grandchildren.

Fine family portraits can give “life” to ancestors from past eras, and give proof to your inherited features. They can fill an empty home with warmth when family members are away. They can bring comfort and preserve precious memories when family members have been lost.

Stan P. Cox II runs a Portrait and Commercial photography studio in Honolulu, Hawaii, and has been a professional Hawaii photographer specializing in portraiture for over 30 years. His web address is: This article may be freely distributed if this resource box stays attached.

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Family Portrait Ideas and Tips

There was a time when good family photography was only done by professional photographers. But now, thanks to the technology of today, anyone with a descent digital camera can learn how to take wonderful family photos. We do not even have to worry about if we brought enough film anymore. Now we can capture those laughs, smiles, and happy get-togethers with a push of a button.

Family portraits are a bit different though. These works of art are meant to offer something special about your family to the viewer. With that in mind, traditional family portraits do not cut it anymore. You know the ones I am talking about; you see them all the time: the immediate family in a staircase or diamond pattern, a nice pull down backdrop that looks all too familiar, all looking forward at the camera and saying ‘cheese’.

This in no way reflects anything personal or interesting about the family and eventually all of these portraits start looking the same. A family portrait should show how beautiful a family’s life is and how close they are. It is also a good to reflect a common interest that they share. So the next time you are setting up a family portrait, get creative.

Here are a few tips and ideas to keep in mind:

Theme – Some people think that themes are overrated. More than likely, they have a very boring family portrait. Find a theme that reflects the character of your family. My family likes to get dressed up as pirates for a local festival ever year, so last year we arranged our family portrait around that theme. They turned out great.

Activities – Are there any activities that you family enjoys doing together: camping, hiking, playing sports, or anything else? Arranging a shooting around a family activity not only reflects a close family with similar interests but everyone is more likely to have a good time and those smiles will be authentic.

Natural Background – Backdrops are convenient but they have been done to death. You will also start to see common backdrops between different families’ portraits. To go along with the previous two ideas, use natural backgrounds. Yes, this means that the portraits should be taken outside (be sure to set your white balance). Natural lighting can also be a bit harsh on sunny days so it is best to take these portraits just after sunrise or just before sunset.

Always Use a Tripod – If you are taking the portraits yourself, use a tripod. It is possible to hold the camera still enough to take a good shot, but it takes a lot of practice. It is much easier to just use a tripod, or at least a unipod.

Remote Shutter – If you have an SLR it may have a remote shutter function. This will allow you to stand off from the camera a bit and do a more natural distant interaction with the family. When the moment is right, release the shutter and capture a more natural looking scene. To do this, the area of the portrait has to be set up in advance, along with all camera settings for taking the shot: focus, aperture setting, and white balance. All of the subjects need to be made aware of the portrait boundaries. This tip is very optional but I have had good results with it; it takes a bit of practice though.

If you keep these tips and family portrait ideas in mind the next time you are setting one up, you are more likely to get the kind of results that look more original

I hope these family portrait ideas and tips have been helpful.

Visit my site to find more of my family portrait ideas and other photography tips.

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6 Family Portrait Tips

These family portrait tips should be very helpful to use and will aid you in avoiding making what I call Common Photo Mistakes.

  1. Who? Find out who is going to be in the family portrait first. This is sometimes already known, but it is extremely important to know who is getting photographed before your portrait session. Knowing the number of people as well as their ages will determine posing, the location and the time of day for your shoot. Photographing babies or young children may have to be done before or after nap time. Photographing late night owls or party goers may not be wise early in the morning.
  2. How? How are you going to pose them? I find it very valuable to make a few rough drawings of possible poses I might use, based in the number and size of my subjects. This is something I learned to do when I was in photography school doing still lifes. Will you have people sitting on chairs or stools? With the subject that you have, it might make sense to have some folks sitting or kneeling on the ground. Search a few photographers’ sites and look for portraits of groups with the same size and numbers. Review some of the rules of composition for group portraits.
  3. Where? Where are the portraits going to be taken? That will determine the kind of lighting to use. Determine if the existing lighting is good or will you have to use fill flash or reflectors. If it is an inside portrait, you may have to use studio strobe lighting. The size of the interior room may effect how you pose your family portrait. If it’s an outdoor portrait, you need to have plan B in place ahead of time in the case of bad weather.
  4. When? The time of day is important for several reason. The available time, the sleeping or eating schedule of your subject and the outdoor lighting are all effected by what time of day you shoot.
  5. What? What will everybody be wearing? See one of my other articles on choosing portrait clothing. The clothing for portraits makes a huge impact on how we look in our portraits. The clothing should work well with the background and with the posing. Formal clothing should not be used for casual posing.
  6. Why? Last, but not least, is to consider the reason the portrait is being taken in the first place. Is it commemorating a special occasion? Find out what’s most important to your client. What do they want the portrait to portray?

There is one more tip I’d like to leave with you, so perhaps this article should be entitled 7 family portrait tips. It is a suggestion to apply to all kinds of photography, not just portraiture. Have fun with your photography. Not only will you tend to get better results: but also, If you are photographing people, they will have fun too. And that is the best way to get natural, pleasant expressions.

Best Wishes,

For some specific tips on family portrait poses, you may be interested in reading this:

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