7 Tips for Photographing Your Family Like a Pro

7 Tips for Photographing Your Family Like a Pro

Learn the best picture-taking hints from a professional photographer.

By Heather Chaet

I admit it: I’m a clickaholic. I love to whip out my phone and take random pictures of what I see, snap what Kiddo is doing, or capture a little shot of her as she just moseys down the street. I think I’m not the only one who has this addiction. With the invention of the phone that also has a camera, it’s easy to document almost every moment, big and small, in our lives.

However, moms I know often complain that their photos are rather boring, that they can’t get their kids to stand still for a click or two, or that they just can’t get the cool shot they were hoping to snag. Professional photographer and dad Sascha Reinking says that’s OK. “A picture does not need to be perfect,” says Reinking. “Remember, a ‘mediocre' photo of your children is better than no photo of your children. So don't be afraid and try something new. Have fun with it.”

To help us do that, Reinking shared some of his best photography tips that will elevate your family images in a very effective, but simple way. The great part about these tips? Everyone can do them!

1. Change up the angle. Here’s how it usually goes: The kids line up for the holiday photo by the fireplace, while you stand in front of them and snap away. The result? A rather ho-hum photo. (Yawn.) “Often, moms and dads photograph their kids from a standing position,” says Reinking. “This means that all of the photos end up looking alike because the photo is shot from the same, slightly elevated position. That can become boring after a while.”

Reinking suggests changing your angle: “Get down on your knees to photograph your kids, or even better, lay flat on the ground. Another option is to elevate yourself even more, if you can. Go up a few steps on the staircase, or position yourself right over your children. I promise you, your images will look way more interesting.”

2. Move a little to the left (or right). Capture the moments in a more interesting way with one simple trick: changing where your kids stand so they are anywhere but in the middle of the shot. “I know it’s tempting,” notes Reinking. “You want the photo to be all about your child, so you put them where you think it matters most: in the dead center of the shot. Centering the face of your child is safe, but can be a bit boring. You create a much more dynamic image when you get the main focus out of the center of the shot. Try to put your kids more to the left or right side of the frame, and you will see that the photo is much more interesting to look at.”

3. Whatever you do, don’t say “cheese.” Want to capture your crew at your niece’s wedding without those fake smiles? Want to get the most natural shot of your parents with your kids at the zoo? Then, don’t have them say “cheese!”

“The most common thing I see when observing parents taking photos of their families is that they ask them to ‘say cheese!’” says Reinking. “I don't think I have ever seen a photograph where that method led to a memorable photo. Saying ‘cheese!’ is awkward and doesn't really produce a natural smile.”

Instead, talk to them, tell them a joke, and snap the photo when they have a little giggle. “Wouldn't you rather capture a genuine laugh from your child?” asks Reinking. “Those will be the images you will cherish and remember.”

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4. Use everyday items to frame photos. We all want to get that shot that is beautiful, interesting, and, let’s face it, good enough to frame and give to the grandparents. For that ideal result, Reinking encourages folks to think beyond the usual “stand and snap” mode of picture taking.


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“Often, parents put their families right in front of them and take the photo,” suggests Reinking. “Try to use the elements of your house or outside to create a more interesting image. Photograph your child through the branches of a tree or take a picture of your little one through the mobile that's hanging above her crib. Keep your eyes open for any item you can use to frame your subject. It's fun and definitely different from the regular approach.”

5. Become a stealth snapper of the candid moments. “Think about the photos of your children that you love the most, the ones that make your heart melt.” says Reinking. “I'm pretty sure those are images where the kids are not looking directly into the camera, but are distracted by other things. Those are the photos I love and want to capture.”

How do you do this? Reinking reminds us to avoid making your kids look toward the camera. “You lose the moment, and they will lose interest,” he says. “Kids want to be kids. Photograph them while they are playing, take the shot when they are reading a book or building a sandcastle. Go chase after them instead of stopping them for a photo. Be there when they least expect it, and just document these moments ‘in between.’ Those are the moments you want to remember.”

6. Try to tell a story when documenting big events. Birthday parties, holidays, dance recitals, graduations. These are all heavy picture-taking times. How can you record these important occasions like a pro? “Tell a story in photos of your child's event by capturing not only your kids, but also little details and their surroundings,” says Reinking. “Try to also take photos of friends who your child spent time with, as well as the teachers or coaches. If you are so lucky to have multiple generations in your family gathered together, make sure to get everyone into the same photo.”

Reinking says not to forget to take pictures of just the details of the day without people in the shot. “It could be a birthday cake, the trophy they won, the bouquet, hair clips, suspenders, bow ties, or any other detail that will help to document the special day.”

7. Get in the picture with a selfie. When Mom also wants to be in the photo, sometimes a selfie is the only way to go. Reinking encourages everyone to just have fun with them. “Selfies should capture your mood and silliness,” says Reinking. “There are no real guidelines for a good selfie, but try to get a bit of your surroundings in the photo, so there is actually context and people can relate to where you are.”

Reinking also suggests positioning yourself to have the most light hitting your face. “If you take the selfie with your phone, as 99 percent of us do, try to have the light come toward your face,” he suggests. “Don't photograph in front of a bright background, which usually results in your selfie being underexposed. You might have noticed that happens when you tried to take a selfie in front of a window. Turn around, and have the window in front of you, so the light can get on your face.”

And for those group selfies? “For a group selfie, you need either a pretty long arm or you can use a ‘selfie stick’ that are so popular right now,” says Reinking. “But please, be responsible with those or you might poke someone’s eye out!” His last selfie hint? “Please no ‘duck faces!’”

What tips do you try to keep in mind when snapping pics of your kids?

Heather Chaet documents her mini parenting successes, epic mommy fails, and everything in between for a plethora (love that word!) of publications and websites such as CafeMom, New York Family, and AdWeek. While her online persona is found at heatherchaet.com, Heather lives in New York City with her film director husband and one insanely curious, cat-obsessed daughter.

Image ©iStock.com/mediaphotos

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