Family Selfies: Tips for Capturing DIY Family Portraits

 In Latest Thinking


noah-hinton-178198There truly is an art to portrait photography. In addition to being skilled in the technical art of photography, and the visual art of lighting, angles, composition, there is also an art to connecting emotionally with subjects. The most beautiful portraits are captured when people’s emotions, personality and nature shine through. A gifted portrait photographer helps their subjects open up and be natural in front of the camera. Naturally this is much easier when there is a relationship between photographer and subject. Say parent and child for example…

In the age of selfies, high quality cameras on your smart phone and an abundance of affordable technology, parents are better equipped than ever to capture the moments and memories in real time. But it seems someone always end up being missing in action in family photos because they’re behind the lens while the rest of the fam is in front of it. In honour of Family Day Weekend we’ve compiled a list of tips and tricks for capturing natural and candid family pics and portraits without a ton of fuss.



alexandru-stavrica-166342Tripod: Whether you’re working with the camera on your phone, a point-and-shoot camera or a DSLR, the, a tripod allows you to easily position your camera properly and adjust as necessary. And it’s more secure than balancing your phone on a stack of books!


Remotes + Timers: Avoid being the blur of clothes and hair entering the photo stage left by using a remote and short timer setting instead of doing the timer set and sprint. It’s especially helpful in that it allows you to stay in the frame vs. jogging back and forth.


josh-rose-158801Interval Timers: For candid and lifestyle portraits (our favourite kind), use an interval timer. They’re generally used for time lapse photography but you can set them up to shoot say 20-30 images every 10 seconds so you can relax in front of the camera and forget it’s even snapping away. Most entry level DSLRs don’t have a built in intervalometer but you can buy an external intervalometer for as little as $50.

When you’re using the Timer function on your iPhone it automatically takes a ‘burst’ of 11 images, while you can’t adjust the number of frames it takes, you can set the timer for either 3 or 10 seconds and every time you press the button, you’ll get 11 chances at a fabulous frame.


nick-turner-2570Find natural light and simple backgrounds: Pay attention to lighting. Natural is always best. So as you select the optimal vantage point for your camera, try to choose a room with lots of natural light. It’s also usually best to avoid a lot of unnecessary background distractions in the frame, but then again, there’s something to be said for that lived in, ‘this is us’ aesthetic as well. Just scope it out and go with your gut.


One Person Rule: When taking group photos, have one person doing something different than everyone else in the photo to add depth, interest and a natural feel. Maybe one person is looking at the camera, and the rest are captured in candid moments. Perhaps one parent faces the camera and the rest face away. Maybe one person is smiling and the rest are making faces. Have fun with it!


david-straight-123965Capture fresh perspectives: Set the tripod up low (kid height) so that full body shots don’t completely include the adults. Or set things up so that you’re shooting from behind.   Get creative. You don’t all have to be smiling and facing the camera. Capture life unscripted.


c96957c9fc2fdb4b0f487e0ec68defecDocument the whole day: Mount your camera on your tripod with a fully charged battery and fresh, empty memory card and tote it around all day long. From black and white breakfast shots to candid play time pics, you’d be surprised at the amazing snaps you can capture on even the most banal of days. The hardest part will be going through all the many many images at the end of the day to select the best ones.


Let the kids take the directors chair: Letting the kids come up with the instructions for how everyone should pose or what face to make is a great way to keep the kids engaged and snag some fun, playful shots.


Let the littles press the button:  markus-spiske-117324You’d be surprised just how seriously kids will take the job of “photographer” and it’s always interesting to get their view of the world. Bravely hand over the phone (on airplane mode), point-and-shoot, or DSLR and let the littles capture what compels them for 15-20 minutes.

Most importantly, don’t worry about everything looking perfect or social media show-off worthy. Life is messy. Art is messy. Embrace the every moment. Those are the ones that will mean the most when you look back later. Matching flannel shirt family portraits make good Christmas cards but the real memories are in the messy hair, laughing faces and candid captures.

Good luck. And happy family day!


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