Quick family portrait tip

This was the only shot that everyone looked decent, but now I have to do some Photoshop magic because I framed the shot according to my wife's feet, not thinking about my big ole shoes when I sat down.

This was the only shot that everyone looked decent, but now I have to do some Photoshop magic because I framed the shot according to my wife’s feet, not thinking about my big ole shoes when I sat down. That is on top of normal editing to take care of the blown out sky and dark faces. Save yourself! It is too late for me.

Let’s face it, if you are reading this chances are you are the photographer in the family. So that means that every holiday, gathering and vacation you are called on to take the family photo. Now I hope that you do this with joy and happiness and your family is loving and obedient and excited to help you take your shots. My family is more like Calvin and Hobbes than the Cleaver household, and so the family portraits tend to take several years off of my life and add to the years of counseling my children will need. So here is a tip that may save your bacon in the future and you will thank me for it. It is simply this… shoot a little wider than you think you will need. You will have a tendency to want to get the best composition possible in camera and so you will frame up the shot on the tripod so that it is perfect. Only one problem… you are not in the picture and your family is not reacting to you being in the picture. If you are tall, then you will probably cut of your own head or feet in the picture…. or those neat little angels (your children) will shift and move as you make your way to your spot and suddenly and elbow is sticking out of the frame. You have learned to take a bunch of shots, in hopes that everyone is smiling and looking at the camera and not blinking… so now add to your check list to make sure you don’t have to do extra work and add back in feet elbows and heads in Photoshop… life is too short. Use my failings as a husband/father and photographer to inspire you to greater family portraits and just shoot a little wider than you think.



  1. Jacob S 13 November, 2015 at 11:41 Reply

    Thanks for the tip on shooting wide! I’ll definitely be trying this out next time. Also, for the folks mentioning using a wireless trigger, something I’m going to try next time I do a family shoot (because I totally botched the last one) is using the time-lapse feature. I’m thinking this could be a really good way to get a bunch of shots hoping for a good one, without having to do a time-delay remote trigger thing.

  2. sam 15 August, 2015 at 18:49 Reply

    I’ve made this mistake too–cropping too close. It also puts you at risk for, when your print it and frame the photo, the matt/frame cuts someones head off.

  3. Mark Garrett 12 August, 2015 at 13:22 Reply

    Hi, When I saw this i was thinking WOW! This is exactly the information that I need but, what I am looking for is how to fix the blown out sky and dark faces.
    Can you help …. PLEASE ??????
    thanks MArk.

    • Stephen Cupp 13 August, 2015 at 15:08 Reply

      There are only two ways to fix that. Light up the people until they are closer to the brightness of the sky or shoot two shots (one exposed for the sky and the other the people) and merge them together either by HDR or layer masks in Photoshop.

      • Pete Collins 18 August, 2015 at 12:40 Reply

        Stephen is right on you can only regain so much in Lightroom so you will either want to get the lighting right, or crop out the sky or do a lot of post processing. For this shoot, I only had one flash and I should have pumped up the power and moved it closer, but when dealing with family, sometimes you are just looking to survive. Shooting RAW will give you more latitude, but if there is no information in that area, it is gone. Your only option is to replace the sky in Photoshop.

  4. Mosley Hardy 12 August, 2015 at 12:41 Reply

    Good advice. I would add this – use a wireless trigger, then shoot and shoot and shoot. I’ve had to make a composite more than once to get the best expression on everyone’s face.

  5. Paul C 12 August, 2015 at 05:46 Reply

    So true… been there myself, but instead of shooting wider I ran back and forth until the composition was perfect but the faces were pure anger! Thanks, Pete

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *