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How to Shoot Family Portraits Outdoors

Learn how to shoot family portraits outdoors from professional photographer Joe Sinnott in this Howcast photography tutorial.


I'm Joe. I teach photography at the School of Visual Arts. We're going to talk about photographing groups and families.

Have everybody dress nice. Lose the tee-shirts with the writing and the logos on them. Tee-shirts that have a lot of writing on them, people are going to read the writing instead of looking at the family.

Anybody that needs a shave, have them shave right before they get to the shoot.

Anybody that needs hair or make-up done, have them do that right before they get to the shoot.

And especially when you're photographing kids, it's much better to catch them in the morning than in the afternoon.

When you're photographing a whole family, especially a family that's got small kids like this, don't have them standing. The gap between the little ones down on the ground and the grown-ups up at the top is too much and you don't even know where to look.

When you have them standing, everybody has to stand very far apart and they don't even look like a family. Well, they look a little like a family.

Try not to dress like an auto mechanic.

Photographing families with small children is an excellent lesson in surrendering the illusion of control.

Get them down on the ground so the parents and the kids, they're all close together. Let everybody bunch up.

Get in there with the camera, maybe a little reflector to bounce a light back in, and shoot your little heart out.

Make a lot of noise. Try and distract everybody in your direction. Hello. Hello, hello, hello, hello, hello, hello, hello, hello. Hello. Wow, what a fabulous family. Yay. Yay. What a great grumpy look. Everybody looking at me. Look at me. Me. Me. Not bad. Just a little bit. Hello. Hello. Arrrrrr. What a terrific looking group. And the young lady looks totally confused. Happy, happy. Smile. Is it tickle time yet? Make sure I'm doing this right. I'm doing this right. Keep your eyes on me. Absolutely fabulous. Everybody's nice and close together. You know what? Let's go with it. Everybody put your finger in your mouth. Everybody put your finger in your mouth. Come on. Put your finger in your mouth. If somebody, if one person's going to do it, let's all do it. And she's going to make a break for it. I see it. She's totally going to make a break for it. Bah-boom.

Now somebody stand behind me and make faces and jump up and down. The trick is to be the loudest person in the room. That's terrific. Eyes on me. Eyes on me. Look at me, look at me, look at me. What a terrific family with the finger in the mouth again. There we go. Buster, you look fabulous. Your life as a model is assured. Look, everybody looks great. Happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy. Don't be too terrified. I'm more bark.

Everybody look at me. Look here. Make a smiley face. Look up. That's great, that's great, that's great. Everybody looks great. Or at least not angry. And some people look confused. Look at me, look at me, look at me, look at me, look at me.

If you shoot enough pictures, eventually they're all going to be looking at you.

And that's how you shoot a family portrait.

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