Many of us are accustomed to taking posed photographs, and while these can be visually stunning and meaningful, staging and forcing pictures can remove the authenticity from the finished products.
Whether you’re a professional photographer or a family member wanting to capture special moments within your own family, there are some techniques that can help to make your photographs more candid and authentic.
Here are our top 10 tips for capturing authentic family moments and taking photographs that will stir up memories for many years to come!
1. Start With No Expectations
This is the simplest tip on our list, but in a way, it’s the most difficult to get used to. A lot of the time, taking family photographs is a process that begins with an expectation of how the final picture should look.
While this can be useful sometimes, it also means that you might be more likely to micromanage the family members in the frame into forced poses or expressions, and this can lead to inauthentic results.
Additionally, if you’re so focused on how the photograph is supposed to look, you might miss golden opportunities to capture truly candid moments.
When trying to capture authentic family moments, it’s best to go into the process with absolutely no expectations. This way, you’ll be more likely to get creative in the ways we’re about to discuss.
2. Think About The Setting
Setting is as important as the subjects of a photograph, and this is especially true when it comes to family pictures.
Places hold a lot of memories for families, so whether you’re capturing a picture of someone else’s family or your own, it’s important to think about where those pictures will be taken.
If you’re capturing photographs of your own family, it helps to start by making a list of some of your family’s favorite places and use these places as the settings for your pictures.
If you’re a professional photographer taking a family picture, you’ll probably discuss the setting with one of the family members beforehand, so be sure to ask if there are any special places they’d like to use as their setting.
Not only will this help to make the photographs more meaningful, but people are more likely to present themselves authentically in photographs when they’re in a physical place that they associate with fond memories.
3. Avoid Forced Poses And Expression
We’re all familiar with the classic photograph pose, where everyone looks at the camera and says ‘cheese’. This is a great strategy for getting a picture of the whole family smiling, but it’s not very authentic.
If you want your family photographs to look truly natural and candid, it’s best to avoid telling the subjects exactly how to pose or what facial expressions to make.
Of course, it’s okay to give some direction, and it will probably be necessary at times. However, for the most part, we recommend allowing the subjects in your photograph to pose and smile (or not) as naturally as possible.
In fact, if you can allow a normal family interaction to play out and take pictures while this is happening, you’ll notice how authentic and heartwarming your photographs look compared to staged or posed family pictures.
If you do want to make sure that everyone in the picture is smiling, try to tell a joke, or say or do something that will make the subjects genuinely smile. These smiles will look much more authentic than your average ‘say cheese’ smiles.
4. Consider Angle And Perspective
If you’re a professional photographer, you have probably already mastered the art of changing up the angle or perspective of your photographs based on the subjects in the frame. However, this is something that inexperienced photographers may struggle with.
One great example of how to use angles and perspectives to create authenticity in family photographs is when children are in the picture.
Getting down to a child’s level to capture an authentic family moment, as opposed to standing up and capturing a picture from above, will completely change the feel of the photograph.
It will allow people looking at the picture to see the moment through the child’s eyes – not to mention, the image as a whole is likely to look better.
With that being said, it’s important to aim for variety when capturing authentic family moments.
You never know when a particular angle might add something to a photograph and make it better, so experiment with different perspectives and angles, and see what happens!
5. Feature Different Personalities
Most of the time, every family member’s personality will be a little different. One of the best ways to make your family photographs look more authentic is to capture these different personalities.
You have a few options when it comes to featuring family members’ personalities in your pictures.
There’s always the option of staging the pictures a little to try and represent the personalities involved, but we recommend against doing this if possible because again, our focus here is on authenticity.
Once again, we recommend allowing for a natural family interaction to play out in front of the camera, as this is the best and most authentic way to bring out different personalities.
Ideally, the personalities of the different family members should come out naturally in the expressions they intuitively make and their regular movements and mannerisms.
If you’re unsure of the best ways to capture real family interactions on camera, keep reading for some more tips!
6. Make It Fun
In our experience, the best way to get authentic family moments on camera is to have the family members in the frame do something fun and engaging while you take pictures.
This way, the subjects won’t be obviously focused on the camera, and there will be no awkward, staged poses.
For example, you can have the family members play a game together. This could be any kind of game, from a puzzle to soccer (depending on how much movement you want in your shots).
It doesn’t have to be a game, however. Any fun activity can work well, including cooking together in the kitchen or playing with a beloved family pet.
These scenarios will provide excellent opportunities for candid shots, and the activity you choose can also help to represent family memories or individual personalities within the family.
Having a fun activity in place is also a great way to ensure that the family members in your pictures are smiling and look like they’re enjoying themselves without trying to force anything.
7. Include Some Movement
We touched on the idea of including movement in your family photographs in our previous point, but this deserves a section of its own.
If you want your photographs to genuinely seem natural and authentic, it’s best not to have all of the subjects standing or sitting still.
This might sound counterintuitive because, of course, you don’t want your pictures to be blurry. However, choosing the right frame rate on your camera should eliminate this concern to an extent.
A lot of people’s personalities and family relationships are conveyed through their movements and mannerisms, and how they interact with one another physically.
Therefore, including some movement in your shots will help to make your photographs more authentic and meaningful.
If you have the family members in your photographs playing a game or taking part in an activity, as we suggested above, there should be some movement involved naturally.
However, something as simple as having your subjects move in to hug one another, or even walk around as a family, can help to get some candid and real-looking pictures.
With all of that being said, make sure not to exhaust the subjects of your photographs by asking for too much movement. If any family members start looking tired, take a break and focus on some more stationary activities.
This is especially important if there are young children in the photographs, who might start to look unhappy in the pictures if they feel tired or overwhelmed.
8. Don’t Be Too Serious
If photography is your day job, it makes sense that you would take it very seriously. Even if you’re taking a photograph of your own family, it can be tempting to take it really seriously because you’re focused on getting the best possible image.
However, it’s important not to be so serious about it that you end up with staged and rigid photographs.
Remember, some of the keys to capturing authentic family moments on camera are reflecting the individual personalities. This means that you shouldn’t be afraid to let the subjects of your photographs have a little fun!
While it’s absolutely fine to take some more demure and professional family photos, your images will seem more authentic and be more fun to look at if you allow silly faces, and spontaneous movement sometimes.
This point also comes back to not having too many expectations going into the process. If you take a picture, and it doesn’t turn out how you expected, try not to dwell on it. Instead, try embracing it!
It might not look how you thought it would, but is that necessarily a bad thing? And if the image really doesn’t look right, don’t worry – you can always take another.
See your less-than-perfect shots as an opportunity to try something different, or to embrace the ways that these images capture interpersonal relationships and personalities.
9. Focus on Connection
It’s important to convey family bonds when taking family pictures. The emotional connection between family members should be apparent in the pictures you take, and one of the best ways to show this is for there to be some kind of physical connection as well.
This could be anything from hugging, holding hands, or a kiss on the cheek to dancing together (a great way to incorporate movement into your photographs).
One thing to be aware of when ensuring connection in a photograph is varying the heights of the family members.
It can be easy to fall into the trap of creating a family pose where the entire family are at the same level when you’re focused on making sure everyone is touching.
This isn’t always a bad thing, but your photographs will be more visually interesting if there’s some variety in the height levels.
Luckily, family members tend to be different heights anyway, so you can use this to your advantage.
If there are a lot of family members in the frame, it might be helpful to divide them up into inner groups. It doesn’t matter so much how you group the family members in the picture, but doing it according to height or family relationships makes sense.
This can make it easier to ensure that everyone in the frame is touching by arranging individual groups first before positioning everyone together.
10. Incorporate Small Details
What truly makes a great, authentic family photograph isn’t the bigger picture (no pun intended) but the small details. In fact, focusing on little details will help you with the other tips in this guide, such as conveying personality.
One example of a small detail you could incorporate into family photographs are objects that are meaningful to the family members involved, or that are associated with individual family members.
Children could be holding or playing with their favorite toys, for example. Favorite outfits and hairstyles should also be considered.
Capturing authentic family moments on camera is easier said than done, but with the tips in this guide, you should be able to get some stunning family photographs that look and feel genuine.
Remember, if you want your family pictures to look authentic, avoid forcing poses or facial expressions.
You can create an environment where family members are genuinely enjoying themselves and look happy on camera by setting up a game or activity, or allowing family interactions to play out naturally in a setting that brings positive memories.
Don’t forget to incorporate small, meaningful details, portray different personalities, don’t be afraid of capturing some movement, and most importantly, don’t take it too seriously!