Ten Family Photo Tips

Get on the same level as your subject

When taking a family photo, hold the camera at the person's eye level to capture those captivating eyes and beaming smiles. For children, that means crouching to their level. Family members don't need to stare at the lens. The angle of the camera will create a feeling that pulls you into the picture.

Use flash outdoors

Are your family members looking like zombies? Bright sun can create unattractive deep facial shadows in family portraits. Use your flash to lighten the face. When taking people pictures on sunny days, turn your flash on. Your camera may have a choice of fill-flash mode or full-flash mode. If the family member is less than six feet way, use the fill-flash mode; beyond six feet, the full-power mode should be used. With a digital camera, use the picture display screen to review the results.

Move away from the middle

The middle of your photo is not the best place for your subject. Bring your picture to life by simply moving your subject away from the middle. Imagine a grid in your viewfinder. Place your important subject at one of the intersections of lines on the grid. If you have an auto-focus camera unlock it because most digital cameras focus on whatever is in the center of
the viewfinder.

Know your flash

The number one flash mistake is taking pictures beyond the flash's range. The maximum flash range is less than fifteen feet - about five steps away. What is your camera's flash range? Check your camera manual. Can't find it? Check online. Position your subjects no farther than ten feet away. Film users can extend the flash range by using film with faster ASA speeds.

Turn the camera

If you never turned you camera on end it is okay. Turn it sideways and take a vertical picture. Almost everything looks better in a vertical picture. From a tree in a meadow to the Eiffel Tower to your family gathered in the kitchen.

Find a simple background

A plain background shows off the family portraits and group pictures you are taking. Look at the camera screen, study the area surrounding your subject. Make sure no telephone poles are growing from the side of the head of your favorite niece and that no cars seem to dangle from
her ears.

Move closer

Take a step or two closer before taking the picture and zoom in on your subject if you can. Try to fill the frame with the subject you are photographing. Up close you can reveal telling details, like a sprinkle of freckles or an arched eyebrow. Don't rely on the camera zoom- zoom in too much and your pictures will be blurry. The closest focusing distance for most cameras is about four feet, or about two steps back with your camera. If you get closer than the closest focusing distance of your camera (check your manual), your pictures will be blurry.

Focus, focus, focus

If your subject is not the center of the picture, you need to reset the focus to create a sharp picture. Most auto-focus cameras focus on whatever is in the center of the picture. First lock the focus with the subject in the middle and then recompose the picture so the subject is away from the middle. Lock the focus of a digital camera in three steps. First, center the subject and press and hold the shutter button halfway down. Second, reposition your camera (while still holding the shutter button) so the subject is away from the center. And third, finish by pressing the shutter button all the way down to take the picture.

Watch the light

Next to that family member, the most important part of every family photo is the light. It affects the appearance of everything you photograph. Grandma's crow feet are interesting in bright sunlight from the side, but the soft light of a cloudy day can smooth away those same wrinkles. Don't like the lighting? Move or move your subject. You'll be surprised by the results. For landscapes take pictures early or late in the day when the light is orangish and angled across the land.

Play director

Be the director of your family photo-taking and watch your pictures dramatically improve. A director takes charge. A director picks the location: "Everybody go outside to the backyard." A director will stage a shot and add props: "Girls, put on your sunglasses." A director arranges people: "Tommy, move in closer, and lean toward the camera." By taking control of the subject matter, the lighting and focus, family photos become a family artifact.