Top tips for mastering a family portrait

The family portrait is often the most sentimental photograph in any family and most photographers, at some point, will have shot one whether it’s a professional shoot or a self-portrait. However, a family portrait is an art that must be mastered. It is not as simple as it seems. Clifton Cameras has come up with the following tips to master getting a great family portrait:

Experiment with different apertures

In most cases, when shooting a family portrait, it is wise to opt for a wider aperture so that you can separate your subject(s) from your background. Most cameras have this option, including the Nikon D7100. This helps sharpen the focus on the subject(s). However, when shooting larger groups, normally of four of more, things can get slightly more complicated. You can’t rely on the same wider aperture for this, as you run the risk of some people being more in focus than others. In this situation, it is worth experimenting with different apertures so that you can get the perfect shot.

Au Natural

This might not be the most technical of advice, but capturing a natural shot can often be the difference between an average and an outstanding photograph. All families are different, so they are likely to react in different ways when the camera is pointed toward them. A fast shutter is required to make sure you don’t miss some of the best moments that could create the most unique and sentimental shots. By making the most of the natural reactions, it gives you an opportunity to portray their personalities in the photograph.


The traditional shot can be great but also restricting. If you want to catch the natural reactions, the personality and the intimate relationships between the family, your best bet is to get up close and fill the frame with your subjects. This will make the photograph feel more personal. Again, a fast shutter will help freeze the moment.


Lighting is important no matter what photograph you are shooting. But with a family shot, it is virtually everything.

Indoors: When it comes to shooting indoors, the best way to get light is through large windows and a reflector, so that the natural light can be utilised and maximised. When the natural light is limited, it is best to experiment and take test shots to see how dark the image is. You will most likely need to set your flash up and set a wider aperture like discussed previously. This will prevent getting a flattened image as your outcome.

Outdoors: When outdoors, the lighting all depends on the style of shot you are aiming for. Most often, you will want to shoot in the shade or with the sun behind the camera, but you can flip this idea completely if you want to create a rimlight around a subject’s hair and features. To achieve this, you will want the sunlight to be behind the subject(s).

A flash can be used outdoors but be careful that you don’t flatten your image.

Dress to impress?

If you are a professional photographer, then you have most likely been asked more than once what they should wear. The key is for your subjects to feel confident and comfortable. You want them to feel as natural as possible in front of the camera. A great tip to help your subjects relax is to request they wear two sets of clothing. One outfit should be more casual, so that they can become comfortable with the camera and your shooting methods, while the other should be more suited for a formal shot. But the key is to keep your subjects relaxed and natural.

For more articles like this one, take a look at Clifton Cameras online blog.