As mothers, we are so often the one with camera in hand, recording all our family’s special events and everyday moments. But before we know it, months (or even years!) can go by without us ever appearing in our own family photos!
But the photos our children will cherish the most when they’re grown, are the ones that contain their mama. So it’s really important that we exist in the memories we’re recording for them!
To me, family photos aren’t a luxury item, they’re a necessity. For that reason, every year I book a local photographer to document my family. But even if you don’t book a professional to take your family photos, you can get in the frame regularly by taking your own.
And I’m not talking about phone selfies!
That’s not to suggest phone selfies are redundant!
Taking your own family photos with the big camera does take a little forethought and effort, and whilst the results justify the exercise, we’re a bit busy to be doing it for all our photos!
For that reason, phone selfies are valid, especially occasions when we leave our camera at home. Just be sure when you whip your phone out to capture random moments, turn it around and get in the shot too!
But when it comes to the kind of family photos we want to print large and frame, phone selfies are limiting.
Related: What Lenses Do to Faces
So for frameworthy photos that include more than everyone’s head, the big camera is the only way to go.
Read on for my tips to make your DIY family photo session successful!
You can’t hold the camera and take the shot, that’s a selfie!
Like most things, tripods vary in quality and price, but you don’t need to spend a lot. The most important feature in a tripod is that it’s sturdy enough to hold the weight of your heaviest lens and camera combination without falling over.
Alternatively, if you’re not in a position to buy or borrow a tripod, try resting your camera on a flat surface instead. However, you’ll need to bear in mind your position and posing will be entirely dictated by the height of the surface you’re using.
There are multiple ways to take the shot from your position on the other side of the camera.
This is the cheapest option because it comes with the camera. It’s also the easiest, if you’re technologically challenged!
But that’s where the advantages end.
The disadvantage of the internal timer is once you hit that button, you’ve got 10 seconds to run back, get in place, toss your hair and smile!
Secondly, you’ll need to do this for every.single.photo.
A simple hand held remote enables you to fire the shutter from your position with the family. They’re inexpensive and easy to source online.
You’ll need to point the remote at the camera, but you don’t want that in your family photos. So set it to fire after a 2 second delay to give yourself time to quickly hide it.
Some newer DSLR models have built in Wi-Fi, enabling your camera to speak to your phone. This gives you the power to control your camera settings from an app, including your focus, which is really handy!
For cameras that aren’t Wi-Fi enabled, you can still enjoy the same control as the method above. You can wirelessly tether your phone and camera using an ad-hoc Wi-Fi gadget like the CamRanger.
Don’t risk losing the kids enthusiasm before you’ve even begun… kids will get fidgety and whiny if they have to wait (yes I’m speaking from experience!).
Set up your tripod and camera, get your settings sorted, then bring the family in.
I shot this session at f/3.2. This affords me quite a shallow depth of field, but I could get away with it as there were only 3 of us sitting on roughly the same focal plane. Also, controlling focus using my phone gave me more accuracy and therefore allowed me that luxury.
If you’re not using this method, I would recommend adjusting your aperture to around f/4 to give you more chance of ensuring you get everyone in sharp focus.
If you have a bigger family than mine, you’ll need to adjust it even further. It helps to ensure everyone is sitting on no more than 3 focal planes so that you don’t have to narrow your aperture too much, thereby losing your creamy background.
To control your aperture, you do need to be in manual mode, or at least the partial auto mode of Aperture Priority.
Related: Shoot in Manual Mode
Once you’ve got your settings sorted, bring everyone in and arrange them. Don’t forget to leave a gap for yourself!
Aim focus at someone on the middle focal plane, preferably close to the centre of the frame as most lenses are sharpest at the centre focus point.
Once you grab focus, secure it by switching the lens to manual focus, then go jump in the frame!
If you’re controlling your camera from your phone, using one of the methods mentioned above, you can select where focus falls after you’ve taken your own position in the frame.
Once you’re in the frame, do whatever you like to get the style of family photos you want.
Mix it up with everyone looking at the camera, and draw out more candid moments with tickles, giggles and cuddles. Most of all, have fun!
Also try different mixes of family members.
Get a variety of compositions by adjusting the tripod and the camera.
Once you’ve taken a bunch of shots, try some different angles. Maneuver the tripod up or down, and alter the camera angle for high and low perspectives.
Also move the tripod forward or backward, or adjust the focal length if you’re using a zoom lens, to take some close up and wider shots.
It goes without saying you’ll have less control when you’re taking your family photos in this way.
So be prepared for more outtakes than you would normally get, and don’t beat yourself up about it! Instead, it pays to take extra shots of every set up to give yourself more chance of nailing it!
Once you’re done, if the kids are still into it, take the opportunity to grab a quick few snaps of them on their own. You may as well make the most of it!