Taking the “Cheese” Out of Family Photos

We’ve all gotten that cheesy Christmas card photo that makes us roll our eyes. Our mission is to make sure that is NOT your family.

Photographer Veronica Reeve lays down the rules for a refreshing family photo.

The holidays are around the corner and, for a lot of families, that means getting a family portrait to grace the front of your annual holiday card. Most of us have received holiday cards in the mail that make us roll our eyes or even laugh out loud. Family portraits with cheesy props, stiff poses, or dated outfits can make your card look like something that belongs on the Awkward Family Photos website. Here is a list of tips to make sure your holiday family portrait is a success and not something that will be laughed about in the years to come.

Avoid Cheesy Props

Be careful with the props you choose. I usually avoid props in family portraits all together. Everyone has a different definition of what “cheesy” is, so if you are having a photographer take your picture consider bringing your own props to the session.

Having your own props will allow you to avoid an awkward conversation with your photographer and will keep you from using a prop that you are uncomfortable with or feel is “cheesy”. Make sure the props make sense, and fit into your family style. Ask yourself: “Is this something that I’m still going to like 5 years from now?” Try having the focus of the portrait be on your family, rather than on what you are holding.

Only Natural Poses

Unnatural and uncomfortable posed shots make your family look stiff and awkward. Set up the shot— then relax. Put an arm around your child or place a hand on their shoulder, lean in and get cozy. Don’t let a photographer bend you like a pretzel into a position you are not comfortable with.

A good photographer will suggest poses that are flattering, while still being classic and timeless. Experiment with poses that are fun and reflect your family’s personality. If the pose matches your family’s personality and feels natural, then it will not come across as cheesy. Have the photographer take some “posed” portraits and also take some photos of your family interacting with one another. Children will follow their parents’ lead, so crack a joke, tease your teenager, hug your kids, play games, take a walk, lay on the grass, and just be together. Do not obsess over your hair, your child’s smile; relax and the photo experience will be more natural. Remember: a family portrait doesn’t have to be everyone sitting stiffly and looking at the camera.

Don’t “Say Cheese”

Your kids have heard those words a hundred times before and it often results in fake plastered on smiles.

Crack a joke, tease them, make a loud funny noise, tickle them, or tell them “don’t you dare smile…” in a joking tone. The goal is get them to relax and have fun. The result: natural and relaxed smiles.

Update the Outfit

An outfit can make or break the portrait. The 80’s and 90’s were good decades, but styles have moved on and so should your style choices. Matching denim shirts with khakis is outdated.

Choose a palette of 3 or 4 colors and mix it up, wearing both pants and dresses. Dress in layers and mix in pops of color. You want a cohesive feel, without being overly “matchy-matchy.”

Simple Editing

Avoid over-editing. Do not go over the top with your post-processing. Your edits to the portrait should be an enhancement and not the focus. Many of the editing techniques that have been popular over the years; like heavy vignettes and selective coloring, can make a picture look dated and “cheesy.”

Don’t make the whites of your eyes or your teeth look unnaturally white. The sure-fire formula for a good family portrait: keep it simple. If you follow this advice your portrait will have a classic feel and will look good for years to come.

Veronica Reeve specializes in colorful, whimsical and documentary style photographs of babies, children and families. To see more of her work, visit: www.veronicareeve.com
Veronica is offering a $50 print credit for Studio 5 viewers who book a session in 2012.

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