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One of the primary challenges when it comes to taking a family portrait is getting the entire family together at the same time. Frequently, family portraits are taken spontaneously at holiday or other family gatherings, as that is the only time all members end up together. These portraits usually are lacking – few smiles, poor composition, and even missing family members. The best way to guarantee a good family portrait is to plan, set a specific time, and follow these guidelines.

1)         Consider the composition of your family.

You need to take into consideration the ages and sizes of family members, as well as how many people are in the family group. This is important because you want to place taller family members in the back, infants in someone’s arms or on a lap, and older family members in a chair. Additionally, the composition of the portrait will be more attractive if you arrange family members in a visually pleasing group. Consider placing members by age, relationship, or height – whichever meets your needs. If your family is large, you may need to take a full-figure shot to make sure you get the entire group. For smaller families, move up close and take the picture of the group from the waist up.

2)         Place family member close together.

Although one would think a family would naturally stand close together, this is not always the case. Physical closeness indicates warmth and love. Place people in a small family group with shoulders touching. If you family is large, have everyone stand at an angle with shoulders overlapping.  Couples can be encouraged to put arms around waists, and smaller children can hold hands.

3)         Make sure clothing matches.

Not every member has to wear exactly the same thing, but it helps if clothing coordinates. Solid colors are usually preferable to prints. Of course, if an unplanned picture is taken at a family gathering, this may be difficult, but you can still place individuals so that clashing outfits are not adjacent. All white or all black looks sophisticated, but these colors are not flattering for all skin tones and hair colors; white tends to wash out complexions, and black can accent facial lines and wrinkles. Another idea is to go with seasonal colors – pastels in spring, red and/or green at Christmas.

4)         Make sure everyone has their eyes open and are smiling.

This can be extremely challenging, especially if you are dealing with a span of ages. Crying babies, active toddlers, and sulky teenagers, can all prove to be a challenge. You may need to spend some time getting everyone relaxed and ready. Take your time, and take as many pictures as necessary, checking after each for smiles and open eyes.

5)         Be aware of the setting and background.

If you have more than one family member that must be seated, consider a couch in the middle, with small children seated in front, and standing adults behind the couch. Make sure the background does not detract from the portrait. A curtained window or blank wall works for inside. Your family may also enjoy meeting at a park for an outdoor photo session if the weather is good.

You can take an excellent family portrait with some preparation and planning, one that will provide memories and delight your family for years to come.

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