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How to Take your Own Family Pictures

This time of year is the busiest for Taking Family pictures, and I know I personally get excited at the idea of picking outfits, deciding on a location, and dreaming about how I’m going to display the pictures in my home. So today I’m going to talk ALL about those topics. I asked a few blogger friends if they’d allow me to post on their site for a little blog hop all about tips for Taking Family Pictures. Scroll to the bottom to HOP (and a fun giveaway)!

I live in this dichotomous world in my head.  I’ve always been an uber thrifty DIY gal, who loves to shop garage sales. However, I’m also a professional photographer who charges according to my expertise, which aren’t necessarily garage sale prices.  I think that every 2-3 years, investing in a professional photographer is ideal. There are many price ranges out there, and with a little research, with a little research, you can find someone in your area that meets your needs. I also know that taking Family Pictures just isn’t in the budget each year for most people, so I’m going to share some tips on How to Take your Own Family Pictures.

How to Take your own Family Pictures

{Image of my taken by my friend Jennifer Polson, more of me from my Birthday Shoot HERE}

For many years, I took our family pictures. Now, I’m blessed to have a handful of photographer friends that we trade services. {FYI–Lots of photographers are up for trades, so if you have a skill, offer it up. I personally love to have meals brought to me as a trade from friends–it doesn’t have to be an expertise!}

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I think it’s more important to have the time in your life captured…than making sure it’s captured professionally. I want to cry when I hear that some families have never had an official family photo, and so many moms just don’t get in pictures at all with their families. I’m here to offer some advice on how you can get it done this year–promise me if it hasn’t happened for a while, that it will happen for you this year!

Use a Tripod

Ok, this isn’t a novel idea, but I use this a lot (even still) and think it’s worth the small investment for the random times it’s used.  I have this one with a bag carrier, found on Amazon for $14.99. It’s a handy tool for years to come.  Many times I’ve set my tripod up, and RUN into the picture. The toughest part about this method is making sure all the kids look in the right direction, and not at you running back. If you have a remote, you can snap a few shots in a row, instead of running, but the distance is limited. You can also tape a stuffed animal or something else on top of the camera to encourage the kids to look at that object. In the family photo below in 2008, I set up the tripod and camera on a trail near our home….and ran in ( fun little fact: I was expecting #4).

Tripod Family Picture

{More pictures of this session HERE, a friend came later and took a few more}

Last summer at my extended family reunion on the beach, I went into it knowing I was going to have to figure something out. I decided to find a kind soul on the beach, and ask for a big favor. I set up the entire family, got the tripod/camera in place, then nervously looked around. I thought to myself, “who is the lucky person that I will pluck from their family fun to do me a favor?” There was a nice lady not too far from us, who was in her chair reading a book. I went up to her and asked if she’d mind snapping a few for us. The reason I didn’t do the running thing this time is because there were so many of us, I needed her to just snap 30 in a row to make sure we were all looking. I said that, too. Just take a bunch in one minute, then you’re done!

Below is a collage of 3 images taken that day, and I’m in all three. The first, the kind lady on the beach took. The second with the trucks, I ran back and forth for a few (didn’t have my remote). The third action shot, I took a bunch of the fam throwing the ball, then my  husband took one of me, and I pasted them together later.

How to take your own family pictures

{More pictures of the beach session HERE}

So it can be done, you just have to work at it a little bit! It’s worth it to me, because I want my life to be documented, too. I want to be in the pictures with my family, not just take them of my kids! See more about that in my push to Capture the Joy in front of the lens.

Set up the Camera, and Have a friend Take Them

I mentioned that I swap with photographers now, but before I knew friends with such skills, I’d ask my non photographer friends to come snap away after I’d set up the camera. After a 60 second deomonstration of where to click, and what to keep in the frame, we were good to go! My 4 year old can even do it, I just tell her to not move her feet, and just keep snapping keeping my entire head in the frame.

One year, I got a Santa costume, and my husband dressed up with my kids in their jammies. I took a series of  pictures with them together, but I wanted to be in some, too. I LOVE these pictures, but they were before I had honed my shooting and editing skills. It doesn’t make me love them less though, you don’t have to be a fabulous photographer to enjoy fun pictures of your family, right? So, I asked my friend to come over and just snap away. My white backdrop was set up in the backyard, it was windy and it kept blowing over, but we still got some fun pictures of Mommy kissing Santa Clause;) (This is a similar backdrop stand to what I have)

I saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause

{More Santa pictures HERE}

Just 2 years ago, my sweet photographer friends Heather and Tricia took our family pictures, and I love them, but my son was sick, and we didn’t get a smiley shot. I didn’t want to bug them again, so I asked my friend Caroline to just come snap ONE pose for me, and she took this after I set it up, I love it!  It was the main image on our card that year.

family pictures on a bike

{More of these family pictures (both times) HERE}

 I traveled to Utah, and really wanted some pictures in the snow. I had the most fun and colorful outfits for my family, and my sweet friend Kelsey just snapped away after I set up the camera. Though it’s hard to tell we are in the snow!

pictures snow

{More Snow family pictures HERE}


Say NO to Auto

I’m not sure who out there is shooting with an SLR or a phone camera, on Auto or Manual, so this needs to be said. You can get decent pictures from phones. Some of you may even be satisfied with pictures taken on Auto from your fancy cameras and that’s great too. Just capture the moments. If you’d like to take better pictures, and you do have an SLR, I’ve got a treat for you today. A little cheat recipe, if you will.

I wrote a book called Say NO to Auto that teaches you to shoot in manual in 3 simple steps. If you haven’t heard of it, check out all the details HERE. I’m going to be giving some away some books and my workshop video today, too! 25 winners!! But first, a little secret recipe to help you get on your way.

Say NO to Auto Beginner Photography Book

{Secret Recipe} Once your family is dressed and ready to go, get your gear. If it’s a sunny day, and you’re in the outside shade with 4-6 people clustered in a shot (similar to the green/navy blue picture above), then set your camera to these settings:

ISO 200 * f stop 4.0 * shutter speed 1/250

Set your focus on the center of the group, making sure you have a good border of background (you aren’t zoomed in too close to the group).  Take a test shot. If it’s an over exposed image (too bright) crank your shutter speed up to 1/300 or so. Still too bright, keep cranking it up until you get an even exposure. If it’s a cloudy day, start at ISO 400. This is a very basic place to start on your journey towards shooting in full manual mod. I’ve got that recipe plus lots more tips in my book, enter to win below!

 Do you have Family Picture Sessions on the brain this fall?

 Join me today at these other sites on the web for more inspiration with Taking Family Pictures:

Infarrantly Creative–Decorate with Pictures

Capturing Joy–What to Wear for Family Portraits

The Idea Room–How to Enjoy and Not Just Endure Family Pictures

The House of Smiths–The Best Backdrops and Settings for Family Photos

Capturing Joy–How to Take your Own Family Pictures

{If the direct links above don’t work, click on the home page}



I’ll be giving away 17 e-books and 3 printed copies, and 5 winners of my soon-to-be released Say NO to Auto Workshop on VIDEO!  If you win a book, you can choose between my beginner and my intermediate books. Info on those here. If you buy one of my books and then you win the giveaway, I will re-emburse you!!!

(enter giveaway below, wait for the page to load all the way)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Kristen Duke

Kristen Duke

Thank you for stopping by my little spot on the web! If you enjoyed this post, you can subscribe to my future posts via RSS, Facebook, and if you are looking to improve your photography, see my beginner books HERE.
Kristen Duke
Kristen Duke
Kristen Duke
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  1. Great Tips for family photos. I like how you talk about the ISO speed based on weather factors.
    Thank You

  2. My favorite was How to Take your Own Family Pictures

  3. I liked the reminder to get out from behind the camera and get in a few shots!

  4. My fav is how to take your own family pics!

  5. Rebecca G says:

    Saying No to Auto. I have been trying to use my manual settings more and more but I will have a great photo but blurry subject. Not to sure about how to change my settings on my camera. Need to practice more.

  6. Thanks for sharing the great tips! I appreciate that even though you’re a professional photographer that sometimes moms just want to snap a few photos on their own too. :)

  7. Julie Pike says:

    Great post…thanks for the tips!!

  8. I want to learn!!!!

  9. Great tips!

  10. These were all great ideas! I liked that you gave which settings to use based on location and what colors everyone is wearing. We’re DIYing family pics this year, so I hope I win! :)

  11. So many great tips Kristen! I really need to try to do some family pictures and SOON! Thanks for the motivation :)
    Trish – Mom On Timeout recently posted..Petunia Pickle Bottom Carryall Giveaway!My Profile

  12. Love these tips! Thanks!

  13. How to take your own family photos

  14. What a great article. Thanks so much. Plus I love your use of colors in your pictures

  15. My favorite was learning how to take family photos!

  16. bear/toy on tripod

  17. I’ll bet running into the picture is a good way to get the kids to smile ;) That’s probably my biggest challenge.

  18. Love this article. I have the expensive camera and only use auto. Any tips on shooting active three year olds? I had to buy a camera because every photo shoot I took my twin boys to was a nightmare. Someone always doesn’t smile so I do a lot of photoshopping. Help….need ideas.

  19. This couldnt have come at a better time. We are having extended family pictures done in the spring but I need something for my Christmas cards, so we are headed to the park this weekend to do our own pictures. Thanks for all of the tips.

  20. This couldnt have come at a better time. We are having extended family pictures done in the spring but I need something for my Christmas cards, so we are headed to the park this weekend to do our own pictures. Thanks for all of the tips.

  21. SO cute; I love your family pictures and am always needing tips on how to get in the pics myself! haha

  22. This is good :D Great tips. I just wish I could get my family to cooperate :P They hate it when I point a camera in their direction and they run (which is why there’s nothing but dolls on my site).
    Jenny recently posted..Chibi Miku Fun TimesMy Profile

  23. Hi Kristen, love your posts, I have a question, I just purchased a remote how far from the camera can you be I noticed you said that you can’t be that far, any suggestions on using one? thanks Sue

  24. What time of day is the best for taking pictures outside

  25. I’ve learned so much from this post. I use a tripod to take my pictures. I have a great camera but my pictures don’t always come out great. This makes me so sad. Because I want to provide great quality pictures for my readers/views. Thank you so much for sharing

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