It doesn’t matter who you are or where you grew up, the odds are that at some point in your life you’ll have been part of painfully awkward family photos. All too common on holiday cards, Facebook posts and framed on bookshelves and walls, awkward family photos haunt us all – so much so that there’s even a website that has these cringeworthy photos carefully curated – the awkwardfamilyphotos website, which also has its own hit card game.
So how do you avoid being an internet sensation in one of the most embarrassing ways possible? Well with these simple tips anyone, from a professional photographer to a parent with an iPhone camera, can make sure that their family photos are unforgettable images for all the right reasons.
How To Avoid Awkward Family Photos
Posing Is Useful But Poses Are Not
To start with, the most important tip to avoid shooting awkward family photos, is to avoid silly poses – no wacky faces, no recreations of the last supper, no back to back super hero poses. Poses like these are guaranteed to make any photo awkward, so if you ensure that you don’t include any in your photo then you’re already on your way to non-awkward family photos.
However, while poses aren’t a good idea, posing your photo is a good idea if you want to stage the image to be more aesthetically pleasing. Posing the photo allows you to play a bit with the composition and the arrangement of people, for example you could put grandparents or elders sitting in the front, (as they are the core of the family), with parents and their children around or behind and maybe all at the same distance apart.
This will give the photo a visual balance and will take it even farther away from the awkward side of the spectrum. It is important to remember that, for family shots, the position of the subject in frame portrays the importance of the person, therefore it’s important to position the middle well as it is the strong spot of the image.
Avoid Unnecessary Touching
While seeing a physical bond between family member is a heart warming idea, more often than not a big group hug tends to look more like a football team huddle than a happy family when put on camera. So, to avoid awkward family photos, you want to limit any unnecessary group contact, except for a few simple exceptions, like a hand on the shoulder or even holding hands.
In fact, holding hands is a popular choice as it creates a bond between the people in psychological terms but also in photo composition. The hands have to be visible. Holding them too tight will make two people look like a single object in the frame, while having some distance between the people, while holding hands, gives one the impression of a connection.
However, shots like these have to feel genuine, so if you’ve taken a few and they are looking more like candidates for the awkward family photos hall of fame, then feel free to do away with the hand holding.
Think About Expressions
If you like natural expressions and non-staged poses, then the key word for your photo should be expression-expressiveness. Of course, rules for composition and lighting are still very important but without a genuine expression the image will be less powerful.
What this means is, don’t worry if your children don’t smile or aren’t necessarily looking at the camera. Some of the best photographs are often the ones you didn’t realise were being taken. Leave the directing to the professional and trust them to capture and create in the best ways they know how.
Just Because You Have a Nice Camera Doesn’t Mean You Should Use It
A good oven doesn’t make a great chef, and as such, owning a good camera and camera equipment doesn’t mean that you can take a great photo. The problem with many family photos is that they’re taken by people who aren’t professionals and can barely operate a self-timer.
So, if you want to ensure your family photo isn’t part of the next award-winning game night sensation, then it might be best to go with a professional photographer.
If you do end up going down the professional photographer route, then you should be completely open to trusting your photographer. A photographer will always want you to look good, so be assured that they are always thinking about the best light and the best background whilst also trying to engage with your family. Photographers do this all the time and by helping them make it all flow as smoothly as possible, it will help you to get the most creative potential from your session.
It is also important to remember to respect that this is your photographer’s job, so please don’t bring out your mobile phone or HDR camera to take your own photos. This is a major distraction for everyone and not why you’ve booked a professional. Besides, you’ll get a lot more value out of the session if you relax into the moment and just let the experts do their job.
However, if a professional photographer is out of your price range and you’re set on taking your own family photos, then make sure to consider all these tips on how to avoid those awkward family photos, and take a great family photo instead.
How to Take a Great Family Photo
As with most things, preparation never goes amiss when you’re taking a family photo. Make sure that before you invite your whole family over for the photo, you charge your camera battery, buy film, know how to use the camera. Making everyone wait while you figure out how to release the shutter or turn on/off the flash, is a way to guarantee that any photo you end up shooting is sure to be amateurish and may even end up being nominated for the awkward family photos award.
A common problem with amateur photography is incorrect framing. While art is subjective, there is an objectively correct way to take photos, especially when it comes to things like family photos. Luckily framing is simple enough to do with any photography or movie knowledge. The basics of framing to remember is to avoid cutting off any limbs, get everyone in shot, and try to make the photo fit the rule of thirds if possible.
It is also important to consider your backdrop when shooting, in relation to framing. It’s practically impossible to avoid awkward family photos when you shoot in front of a busy scene with phone poles or trees poking out of their heads. Instead, try to put your subjects in front of a calm, but interesting backdrop, like a brick wall, or a nice patch of natural foliage.
Now, while you want to add themed inside jokes like ‘grandmother demonstrating safety standards’ or ‘children quoting the most memorable movie lines’, you do want to make sure your photos are fun. Whether it’s a bored panda suit thrown in to spice up the photo or even a simple ‘cheese’ before the photo, make sure to have some fun with your family, after all, that’s what you’re hoping to capture in a family photo; fun!
After the Photo Shoot
Crop It Out
Now that you’ve gone and taken your photos, it’s time to start fixing them in editing. Go ahead and throw them on a big screen so you can see everything that needs to be changed. First off, use your photo editor’s clone tool to edit out that phone pole sticking out of Dad’s head, and feel free to crop out distracting background clutter.
Lose the Color
If the family rebel insists on wearing a clashing color or pattern, eliminate the problem by converting the entire image to black-and-white. Sharpen the contrast, and you may have a better picture than the original color version, as long as you keep in mind that the main goal is to keep all content visible.
Be Happy With Out Takes
It’s always best to double tap when you take a photo, just so you can miss an accidental blink or a quick nose itch that you might’ve run into if you only took one photo. This is great because, when all else fails, you can forget about the perfect photo and instead use one or two photos that show the spirit of your group, with mom, kids, great grandma, and friends included in all their genuine wonderful ways.
Secure Your Photos (And Make Them Your Own)
As all professional photographers know, once a photo is online, it will be there forever. If you’re not eager to have your family photos, awkward or not, used for a commercial website or put into a comedic compilation, then it’s best to protect your work with a watermark. Luckily, watermarking your photos online has never been easier, with new sites offering the ability to watermark every single one of your images, without even needing you to upload them a photo-sharing website.
At WaterMarquee you can create and upload your own custom watermark that will keep your work safe, and double as an easily recognisable digital signature to really make your family photos even more special.
If you want unlimited watermarking on all your photos, as well as access to all features including a helpful advice on the batch watermarking process, WaterMarquee Pro offers all this and more for the one off low fee of $19.99. That’s right, pay once and watermark forever! So, why aren’t you already a customer? What are you waiting for? Protect your online photography portfolio today with the great watermarking service from WaterMarquee!