Taking Family Portraits

Example of bokeh

How To Take Beautiful Family Portraits

Most professional photographers start off with photography as a hobby and decide months or years later that it’s something they want to pursue as a profession.  Maybe you just got your first DSLR camera this past Christmas and your itching to get out and take photos of your family and friends.  This article is going to give you very basic instructions on how to take your first family portraits and make them look awesome!

The first thing we are going to discuss is the type of lenses you will want to use for your family portrait session.  Typically a 50mm, 85mm, or a 100mm lens will work best but it will all depend on how many people will be in the portrait.  If you have 4 or more people that will be in the photo then you will want to use the 50mm lens or the 85mm.  Now comes the focal length or f-stop.  This can be a somewhat confusing topic so I will break it down in simple terms.

Have you ever seen portraits where the background is blurred?  The proper term for the blurred out background is called bokeh.  To achieve bokeh you need a good fast lens with an f-stop of 1.4, 1.8, or 2.8.  If you don’t have that lens you might want to consider borrowing a friends or rent one from borrowlenses.com.  So you may be wondering what the heck f-stop is but I’m going to tell you not to worry about all the technical terminology relating to f-stop.  Instead think of f-stop like this.  The smaller the number, the more bokeh (blurred background you will have in your pictures.  So from the list above, 1.4 will give you the most blur, 1.8 comes in 2nd, and 2.8 comes in 3rd.

Example of bokeh

Now that you have borrowed a lens lets get down to how to position your subjects.  Let’s assume you will be taking the photos outside after the sun has disappeared behind the trees.  And you want to use the trees as your background.  Move your subjects as far away from the trees as possible and towards you, the photographer.  The further you bring your subjects towards you the more blurred out the background will be.  Now that you have everyone 25-50 yards away lets pose them correctly.

If you are photographing a family with 4 people you have several choices but for the sake of keeping this simple were going only going to cover 2.  There is the obvious option of having all four in one single row.  Place the two tallest in the middle and the shorter people on the ends.  This can be altered depending on the relationships within the group.  So if the mom is the shortest you may want to consider leaving her next to the husband and keep the kids on the ends.  Just try to make everyone as uniform as possible.  If you need some ideas on posing check out other professionals or this Virginia Beach Photographer.

Your other option is to have two rows which will allow you to use the 85mm or 100mm lens.  You will want to try and follow the same concepts as above.  The simplest option would be to place the two children in the front and position the parents directly behind them.  Try to get everyone on the same plane.  This will ensure that you will have everyone in focus while using the lowest f-stop as possible.  If your photos appear to be a little blurry put your f-stop to 4.0, or 5.0.  Take a few photos and check your lcd screen to make sure everything looks ok.  If the photos are too dark lower your shutter speed and if they are two bright raise your shutter speed.  Do this until your photos look the way you want them.  Congratulations you have just taken your first portrait.  Stay tuned for the next article.



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