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Tips for Taking Great Family Photos!


We love sending out family Christmas cards every year – we make cards with photos on the outside AND inside! The hard part, other than being organized enough to then send them out, is getting a family photo for the front! This has gotten tougher with each new addition to our family, but I’m happy to have some fun options for this year’s card!

Here are my best tips for a great family photo:

Use a photographer you feel comfortable with

We have actually done a lot of self-timer photos, but with four kids it hasn’t worked out very well. This year, I set up my DSLR camera on a tripod, got the settings where I wanted them, and my sister in law took the pictures. She isn’t a photographer, but she has a great eye and we all adore her. She took the first two pictures in this post!

Get the kids to smile, instead of telling them to

For the photo below, my brother and nephew goofed off behind M’s head, which got us some fantastic genuine smiles from the kids! If you don’t have a spare person who can goof off for you, I find that kids find small toys posed in funky ways on the camera pretty funny! Kids also think that making silly noises is funny, and, if all else fails, a little slapstick humor (fall down “on accident”) works wonders.


Don’t get caught up in the details

The photo below is not  my idea of a great family picture! We were well-coordinated outfit-wise (better, in my opinion, than for the photos above), and the background was lovely, but I was trying to take a timer photo (push the button and then run and get in the shot). And, most importantly, the girls were cold and Johnny was grumpy. If people aren’t feeling comfortable, you won’t get a happy photo!


Salvage a shoot where you can

As miserable as the above photo shoot was, I took this spur-of-the-moment picture of Emma. We both love it!


Capture unguarded moments

Use this tips to take amazing family photos! #photography #familyphotography #familyphoto

I adore this picture of Mike and Anna, captured as we were headed home from our successful shoot. You pretty much have to pose at least a little to get six faces turned towards a camera, but candid photos are always my favorite.

Time it right

Make sure kids are rested and have eaten a decent meal, and make sure they are dressed appropriately – not too hot or too cold! Our successful shoot happened at that magical time of day when the sun has just dropped below the horizon – there is still enough light for photos, not too bright for sensitive eyes, and with sunset’s warm glow!

What are your top tips for taking great family photos?

MaryAnne lives is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

31 thoughts on “Tips for Taking Great Family Photos!”

  1. What a great collection of photos. I totally agree about the importance of using a photographer with whom you’re comfortable. That was really important to my wife and I when we were getting married a few years ago. We were really lucky to find someone who got what we wanted to do and how we wanted the event to be photographed.

    1. Thanks, Jonathan! I think comfort level is key, because no matter how beautiful the photo composition and lighting are, stressed out photo subjects don’t work!

  2. Great tips! I guess all kids are different but mine need lots of time to prepare mentally. If I spring it on them, they don’t usually do well. We pick out clothes and make sure everyone is happy with what they’re wearing way before the photo shoot. I also make sure they aren’t tired or hungry.

  3. I can’t believe how great you all look in that top photo – I’m from a family of six and I don’t think we have one photo of all of us during our childhood where at least one person doesn’t have their eyes closed or is grumpy. I can really appreciate how tricky it is to coordinate and I love your tips! You’re going to have beautiful Christmas cards!!

  4. When you say the girls were cold it reminded me of when I took my kids out into the snow to photograph them. My boys had such grumpy looks on their faces cuz they were so cold and didnt want to be there. :)

  5. Elisa | blissfulE

    Awwwww! Terrific photos!! :) :) :) I’ve been nervous to try another homemade family photo with four kids, but you’ve inspired me!

  6. I have to admit that everyone in my house dreads photo sessions. I agree that candid pics are the best! Your pictures (even the cold and grumpy one) are all great for different reasons!

  7. Great photos. I agree with your tip of having everyone in the right mood. It’s hard enough with one, and I am amazed that you manage this feat with four :)

  8. Great tips! We just *tried* to take some family shots by putting on a timer while I ran into the photo – definitely not ideal with little ones! But, we got some great shots of my husband with my son, so even though it wasn’t the photo that I had envisioned, we got some shots that we will really treasure.

  9. I agree that the candid photo of Mike and Lily looks awesome! As do the rest of the photos. We actually don’t do too many family photos (shame, I know). But I do like your tip about making them genuinely smile. Even when I take regular shots of my four year old, he almost always has a fake smile plastered on his face when he knows it’s time to say “cheese,” but catch him a second later and he’s baring a genuine smile.

  10. Love the photos! I love taking pictures. We have a remote for our DSLR, but this year our family photo came from us setting up the camera and handing it to my parents on their last visit (in Oct! We were super prepared, but I also wanted to look good and not super pregnant). The trick with the remote is hiding it in someone’s hands. We’ve done it plenty of times with John’s large family, and I’m even getting good at photoshopping since it takes special talent to get a handful of kids under 5 looking somewhere where nobody is at the same time.

    1. We have a remote, but it was a really cheap one and the range just isn’t very good. Do you have one you recommend? I think having a person behind the camera is easiest, but it’s great to have the remote option!

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