10 Tips for Beginner Family Photographers

So you’ve got the itch to take family photos. Congratulations! Family photography is a wonderful way to express your creativity while giving cherished memories to family and friends who appreciate it most. Keep in mind that this article is for those who are brand new to family photography and just starting to dip their toes in the realm of learning their camera, directing and posing clients, and learning to edit their work. So if you’re curious to learn more about family photography and discover whether starting a photography business is for you, then read on to learn my top 10 tips for beginner family photographers!

Mother and two daughters standing on the side of the St. Croix River.
  1. Learn your camera.

Before you even begin photographing a family, take time to understand your camera. Familiarize yourself with the settings, buttons, and different functions. Learn about exposure, ISO, aperture, and shutter speed and how to adjust their settings on your camera body. Knowing how to adjust these settings will give you full control over your photographs to ensure you capture the best possible images! When you practice, shoot in full manual mode and make sure your images are set to RAW.

  1. Natural light is your best friend.

When it comes to family photography, natural light can be your best friend in the beginning. Sure there is studio lighting, but don’t worry yourself about that right away! When working with people, photograph them outdoors during the first few hours after sunrise and the last few hours before sunset to ensure that soft, beautiful light that photographs best. Avoid shooting during the middle of the day in direct sunlight as that can cause a lot of unflattering shadows and squinting from your models. If you must work in the middle of the day, find large, open shaded areas to work in – usually next to a large building or underneath a canopy of tall trees.

  1. Focus on your composition.

Pay attention to the composition of your photographs! Are you cutting people’s feet or hands off in your images? Are you leaving too much headroom?  The rule of thirds is a fundamental principle that will help you create well-balanced and visually appealing photographs. Experiment with different angles and perspectives to find unique and engaging compositions. Remember, you’ll never know if you like it unless you try it! Not every image will be a home-run, but by experimenting at every session, you’ll start to learn what works and what doesn’t work and start to build up that muscle memory!

  1. Look for candid moments.

Family photography has changed quite a lot in the past decade and many families are looking for more organic, unposed imagery. Some of the most cherished family photos are ones that document genuine emotions and interactions between family members. Instead of staging every single image, try letting your family be themselves. Document the spontaneous smiles, laughter, and even the occasional tears. These moments often result in the most authentic and heartwarming images.

Mother and son, father and son, in San Francisco Woodline.
  1. Communication is key!

Communicating with your family before and during your session can make a massive difference in the outcome of your images. Prep them ahead of time to let them know your style of shooting and what your general expectations are during the session. Ex: “I’ll start with everyone-smiling-at-me images. Once those are finished, try your best not to look at me unless I ask you to!” Communicate your vision, and ask for their input as well. During the session, don’t be afraid to reposition them if their pose looks awkward or unflattering. You’re the professional. They trust you and will appreciate your attention to detail.

  1. Be patient. Be flexible.

Photographing families, especially with children, can be unpredictable. Be extremely patient and flexible. Allow time for snack breaks and play during your photo sessions. But keep your camera handy! Sometimes, the most beautiful moments happen when you least expect them. 

  1. Practice editing and hone in on your editing style.

Don’t underestimate the power of post-processing. Basic editing can make a big difference in the final outcome of your images! Before jumping in and buying presets, take some time to familiarize yourself with Lightroom or another editing software of your choice. Watch Youtube videos and read online tutorials to learn the basics. Pay attention to what style of imagery you’re drawn to by observing other photographer’s work. Many people split editing style into two categories: light and airy vs. dark and moody. However, I personally think there are many styles in between! Once you have an idea of how you want to edit your images, start practicing. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t nail it right away. For many photographers, it takes years to determine their editing style, and many will often change it again in the future.

  1. Join a community and learn from other photographers.

There are many free photography communities you can be a part of to learn from other photographers, share your work, and collaborate on fun projects! Join photography groups on social media to connect with other family photographers in your area and beyond.  You can even reach out directly through Instagram or email. It never hurts to ask. You can learn valuable tips and techniques from the photography community, and build some great friendships along the way!

  1. Practice, practice, practice.

The more often you practice, the better you’ll become. Think of photographing families like playing a sport. The more often you do it, you’ll start to build up that muscle memory and it will begin to feel more natural. So take every opportunity to photograph your family and friends. Post to FB groups and Nextdoor offering to take free family photos. (Just be sure to rep them and meet in a public place – safety first!) Over time, you’ll refine your skills and develop your unique style as a family photographer.

  1. It’s not just about the perfect image.

Remember that family photography is not about creating the picture-perfect image; it’s about preserving the memories and emotions of the moments you shared with your loved ones. Some of my favorite images from my childhood are the silliest, most unflattering, honest, and organic. So don’t be afraid to experiment, make mistakes, and have fun along the way. 

I hope you find these tips for beginner family photographers useful. Let me know where you are on your family photography journey in the comments below, and leave any questions you may have. Thank you so much for reading!

If you enjoyed this post, you may also love:

How to Prepare Your Children for Your Family Photo Session

Tips for Feeling Comfortable in Front of the Camera

What to Expect at your Outdoor Family Photo Session

Mother and father tickling daughter together outside their home.

October 27, 2023

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