Top 3 Tips for Taking Stunning Family Portraits

You’ve been looking forward to taking your own photos. You’ve spent time and resources scouring every photography site, book, or magazines for tips and tricks. You may even have invested in photography courses or have trained under photography masters.


Now, it’s your turn behind the camera.

Preparation is Key

This may be your first family photo shoot, but just like any other pictorial session, preparing for it is key. Even professional family photographers make sure that everything is in place before any portrait session, and for good reason.

Being prepared lets you avoid pictorial problems down the road. It will also pave the way for a smoother shoot and a more enjoyable time for both you and the family you’re taking a picture of. By being prepared, you at least get to make sure that you have the key areas covered.

Shooting family photos is a crucial part in a photographer’s growth. Family portraits will be cherished for years so you have that responsibility to take the best photos you can. As a photographer, this may not be an easy feat. Not all families can act like professional models that have a natural chemistry with the camera. It is, therefore, important that you also know the necessary preparations to ready your clients for their screen time.


Here are some top tips that will help you take fantastic family photos:

1. Get in touch before the pictorial.

It’s important for a photographer to establish rapport with his or her clients. By establishing a connection with your subjects, you also pave the way for them to be more at ease with you.

Before your photo shoot, try to set up a meeting with them. A casual chat over coffee can already bring about a certain level of openness between both parties. Your quick tête-à-tête can already give you important information that can help in setting up a pleasant mood during the pictorial. If meeting in person is not possible, then a quick chat over the phone, online or through text messaging will do. The important part is that you try to get to know them better.

Inquire about their preferences for the shoot, ask about their ideas or concepts, and discuss the possible ways you can work on them together. Allow them to talk about their family. This way, you can glean family facts to make the shoot feel more personal.


2. Create a carefree environment.

On the day of the shoot, whether you are shooting in the best studio in Dubai or on location elsewhere, make sure that you create a stress-free environment.

As soon as they arrive, put your best foot forward. Greet them enthusiastically and show them how excited you are for the shoot. Comment on how nicely their hair and makeup were done by their favorite salon or remark on how stylish dad is. Be genuine and professional.

It is also best if you memorize all the names of your clients. This will be especially helpful if you need to get the attention of the kids. It will also help make the shoot more fluid, as you will not need to pause and ask the parents every time you need to direct one of their kids for a pose.


When talking to children, go down to eye level so they will not feel that you are talking down to them. This will help you in making a connection with them, which will be crucial when taking more meaningful photographs.

Having a stress-free photo shoot atmosphere is already one step in making sure your subjects will feel carefree, happy and comfortable — something you would want translated into the pictures.


3. Ready your gear.

It goes without saying that you must have already prepared you camera gear the night before or hours before your clients came in. Nevertheless, make sure you double check everything that you will need for the smooth flow of the shoot.

Check your camera, your tripod, your lens, and maybe even your reflector if you’ve brought it with you. For family shoots, a variety of lens is always helpful. A 35mm will aid you in setting up a scene, an 85mm would be your prime lens for family portraits, or a 24-70mm zoom lens will allow you greater flexibility. For beginners, buying all these lenses is not necessary, however. It may be more economical if you can rent or borrow from photographer friends.


Check your aperture settings. For starters, shooting wide open with an f/2.2 will work well with individual portraits while around f/5.6 will ensure everyone is in focus for group shots. 

Check your shutter speed. Children can move very fast during these family pictorials and 1/250th is a good setting to start with. For running or jumping shots, a faster shutter speed of 1/800th will do the trick.


Don’t forget to have fun

While it is only natural that you get butterflies in your stomach during your first shoot, don’t let this hinder you from shooting great photos.

When you know that you have prepared well, gone through great lengths to know your subjects, and made sure that all your gear is in place, you should now be ready to have fun.

Having fun on a shoot is one of the most important things that should happen. When you and your clients are having a ball, the joy in their smiles will shine through. The carefree environment you’ve created, the rapport you have established, and the connection that you made with the family you are shooting will come out in how relaxed they are in the shots.

Your creative juices will flow freely when you are having fun and are at ease. When you have prepared well for this momentous event, all you need to do is focus those lens and snap away.



Stefanie Descheemaecker is the Studio Manager at Stu Williamson Photography at The Palm Jumeirah – Fairmont Hotel in Dubai. She has been with the company for almost 3 years and is the driving force behind the success of the business. A keen amateur photographer, Stef combines her natural creative eye with a strong business acumen to help Stu Williamson Photography become the most trusted and successful photography business in the UAE.



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