There are few things more motivating than an upcoming family portrait.

Trying to lose those last 10 pounds? Need to cover those dark roots? They say that pictures don’t lie, but sometimes I wish they could at least stretch the truth a little.

It’s holiday photo season. Families will gather for photos among the changing leaves and then share those photos as holiday cards or framed and wrapped gifts.

This is not the time to hope for the best. Family portraits can be one of the greatest ways to capture a moment in your family’s history by following some simple guidelines. Planning on saving money by taking the photos yourself? These tips will make the most of your photo session.

Cameras and Settings

If you don’t have a camera with 8 mega pixels or higher it would definitely be worth it to invest. Because there are so many different types of cameras it’s hard to be specific about the best setting to use. But for point and shoot cameras, the best choice is the landscape setting. More advice about settings can be found on this blog. If you are comfortable using the camera on manual, the shutter speed should always be above 1/30 of a second, and I recommend using an aperture under f8. This will make the background softer. Always keep the ISO as low as possible. I try to keep mine on 200 because if you raise it high, the photo could come out grainy.

Choose a location

Whether the location will have a natural or unnatural setting, keep one thing in mind: If the background is very busy, try to keep a bit of distance between the person (or group) and the background. Also remember that in public locations such as parks, beaches and urban areas it can be a challenge to keep people out of the background, and you could end up with random strangers in your photos!

Avoid photos at noon

Never, ever, ever, ever take photos at high noon! That is the worst time to take photos because the lighting can be harsh and unflattering. About an hour before sunset or an hour after sunrise (called “the golden hour” by photographers) usually provides the most flattering, softest light. There’s no need to use a flash when taking photos during those ideal times. In fact, the flash that is built into your camera will not light your subject properly most of the time.

What to wear

Solid color, long sleeve or 3/4 sleeve shirts are best when doing portraits. Get everyone to wear the same color to keep the focus on the people in the photos rather than on their clothes. Longer sleeves are ideal because they are more flattering to all body types, but they are only absolutely necessary if the shot will be a close-up, because those photos are often cropped across the chest and arms and can be unflattering or distracting when the subject is wearing short sleeves.

Count it down

Make sure there is a count (“one, two, three, cheese!”) leading up to the photo. It sounds corny, but the communication allows people about to be photographed to prepare their facial expressions. Before the countdown starts, make sure the angle of the camera is at eye level or slightly above. A photo taken from a lower angle can emphasize a double chin and is just generally less flattering.

Strike a pose

Look at magazines or online galleries of family portraits for examples of attractive poses that would feel natural to you and your family. When posing for a photo, always remember these tips:

  • It is unflattering to be photographed with arms hanging straight down at the sides of the body. It makes people look “boxy” and can look stiff and unnatural. Keep hands near hips and elbows slightly out from the body.
  • Have good posture, but not stiff, keeping shoulders pulled back and chin slightly out (don’t point chin down toward neck), and the head should be slightly tilted to the side.
  • Women can turn their bodies (hips and shoulders) slightly away from the camera for a more figure-flattering pose. Be careful when posing with hands in pockets because if only the thumb is visible it can make the hand disappear.

When in doubt…Photoshop

When following these tips, there shouldn’t be a need for much editing. But if some extra help is needed, there is a free trial for photoshop that can be useful for any final touches needed.

 This is a guest post by Cheryl from St. Cloud, FL
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How to Look Great in Family Photos