Beyond say cheese . . . tips for capturing great family photos

Family photos are a visual family history. The tips in this article will help you create a great family record that captures your family's personalities for generations to come.

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  • I have always loved to take photographs — from my first instamatic camera as a child to my current DSLR camera. I love to look through old photos. They are like a window into the past and full of emotions and memories. Eudora Welty said, “A good snapshot keeps a moment from running away.” And yet, a bad snapshot can give just a hint of that moment and a wish that you had captured it better.

  • With my first camera I was given only a little advice on taking pictures. One, only take pictures of people and animals. This was to keep us from wasting film and developing costs, and truthfully those small cameras could not really do justice to inanimate objects or scenery. Two, be sure to keep the entire subject in the viewfinder frame. In other words, don’t cut off people’s heads. Because those early cameras used film, you didn’t always know if you succeeded until the film was developed. Let’s just say it is a skill I had to develop.

  • Today’s digital cameras make those tips obsolete because you can always delete a picture that does not turn out. They also make it possible to be more creative and try different shots because it is easy to delete the bad shots or even edit them with some good software.

  • To ensure you get some good shots to work with and “keep the moment forever,” follow these technical and artistic tips. They will help take your photographs to the next level.

  • Technical

  • 1.

  • Lighting

  • Before you start snapping pictures, locate where the primary source of light is. Is it the sun? Indoor lights? Most cameras have an automatic flash setting, so if you are unsure of when to use it, keep the auto flash on. You also want to be sure that you are not casting a shadow on your subject or that something else is not casting a shadow that could be distracting from the shot.

  • 2.

  • Distance

  • Dave Marks, of dmfoto of Virginia says one of the biggest mistakes people make is not getting close enough to the subject. You don’t want to have the people in the picture look so small and far away. The picture should be of them, not the background.

  • 3.

  • Placement

  • Take the time to make sure your subjects are sitting or standing close together. They should look like they are all one group. Especially be on the lookout for gaps between them.

  • 4.

  • Background

  • Do a quick check through the view finder to see if there is anything unusual in the background. It might be a beautiful flower arrangement, but when you put someone in front it may look like flowers are sprouting from her ears.

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  • Artistic

  • 1.

  • Creativity

  • When it comes to getting unique shots, think outside the box. Try close ups of an infant’s feet, or your grandparent’s hands. Try taking a shot from a different angle, such as lying down and taking a photo upward.

  • 2.

  • Capture Personality

  • Professional photographer Amber Adamson of Holly Springs, NC, likes to take candid shots of her children doing things they love. “When they are in their element” she says, “it really helps capture who they are.”

  • 3.

  • Capture Change

  • One of the best things photographs can do is help you see the growth in your children. Recently a friend posted a picture of our boys at my oldest daughter’s wedding. It was amazing to see how much they had changed in 3 years. A great way to do this is to take pictures every year of your children, whether it is during a holiday or at their birthday.

  • 4.

  • Always be ready

  • Joe NcNally said, “Don’t pack up your camera until you’ve left the location.” (The Moment It Clicks: Photography Secrets from One of the World’s Top Shooters) When you are on vacation always be ready to capture the moment. One of my favorite pictures I have taken is of my youngest son. He was around 4 and they were having a snowball fight. I captured the moment just as a snowball exploded in front of his face. His expression is pure joy and the shower of snow just adds a great element.

  • Karl Lagerfeld said, “What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce.” By following these tips, you can capture those moments that tell the story of your family and help you relive those moments long after they are gone.

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Robyn Carr graduated in English and is the mother of five and grandmother to two adorable granddaughters. She currently lives in Windermere, FL.  

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