7 Steps to taking the Perfect Family Photo
1. Prepare your Camera
You could be using professional photography equipment, an iPhone, or an old fashioned disposable point-and-shoot; it doesn't matter. Preparing your equipment is the same across the board. Is your camera charged? What shoot mode is it in? Will you need to use flash, if so is it working? These are the quick, simple questions to ask yourself before every shoot. While you wait for the group to assemble, take few shots to check these things and adjust if necessary.
2. Location, location, location
Everyone is looking great and facing the right way but before you snap, think about your setting. If you are at a 21st birthday party you might want some banners or balloons in shot; if you're at a football match the pitch might be the best backdrop. Context is so important for a successful final image. That extra bit of information really helps to place the atmosphere in a photograph. However, be careful not to have a greedy eye – a shot containing too much can ruin the aesthetic. Make your subject and setting work together.
Similarly, timing is something to think about. Take your groupies as the start of the party when everyone is at their best, or the start of the match...if the team wins you can take another, if they lose at least you caught them while they were hopeful!
3. Pose the group
Working quickly the best thing to do is work with a triangle formation. This either means tallest in the middle if everyone is a similar height, or an arrangement of shorter people standing and taller people seated or crouching. This apex format works really well if your location gives you some space to balance heights by arranging people between the fore, middle and background. Spacing people out can also help to accentuate their individuality. Alternatively, if you want to illustrate the group's unity, try overlapping their positions in a staggered formation or tier.
4. Think about rhythm
Now you have them roughly where you want them you need to think about the flow of information in the image. This particularly relates to the colour of clothing and there posture of each person in the group. Primary colours are a group photo nightmare as they tend to detract attention from elsewhere. If dealing with a red dress or bright blue shirt, try to background it slightly by positioning a seated person in front, or similar. In terms of body posture, not everyone needs to facing the same way, doing the same thing, or following a central group symmetry. Try to mix things up for a more natural image. The person at the end of the group may be more at ease before the camera if facing away from the centre, an arm over their shoulder can prevent them from looking outcast. The key is to have a mixture of postures and give them something to do with their hands!
5. Take multiple shots
It doesn't matter how good a photographer is, there is often too many variables for the first shot to be best and only. A good trick is to set your shutter speed to the continuous mode and shoot a bunch of exposures of a short space of time. You could also keep shooting while talking the group through their pose, this can help people shake off their formal faces.
6. Steady as she goes
If you have splashed out on a digital camera then perhaps it's worth thinking about spending an extra few pounds on a tripod. The technology that allows a good camera to capture the fine detail and intense colour that makes for a perfect photo can make them prone to camera shake too. Failing a tripod, rest the camera on a flat and steady surface, use the camera's timer programme to reduce impact, and if you really do need to hold while you shoot then consider resting against a wall or crouching with a knee on the floor to stabilise your body. Another handy tip for steady pics is to tuck your elbows into your sides and steadily breath out while pressing the shutter button - it may sound simple, but it's very effective!
7. Post production...
Even after they've all said cheese there are still one or two things you can do to improve the final image. The advantage of shooting in a continuous mode as mentioned earlier is that you can select the best of the bunch. If you are a dab hand with programmes such as Photoshop, you could try swapping faces out to merge the best bits of one image with another. If that's beyond your remit you can always pass your digital image through some editing software, there is plenty of freeware online such as Picasa, that allows you to crop, straighten and adjust the levels of contrast or colour saturation, helping you to polish your photo into the perfect group pic.