How to Take Successful Family Portraits

There is no better way to capture family memories than through a high-quality family portrait. I recall, when I was a child, the day my family dressed up and took a professional photograph. I still cherish that photograph. Every time I look at it, the memories flood in. I vividly recall the day, the setting and the photographer’s bright lights. Even better, I remember my neighborhood, friends and elementary school classmates. 

With lots of demand for family portraits, it’s an exciting time for us photographers. And I’m pleased to have the opportunity to share some insights to make your family portrait the best it can be.   

The most essential element is the emotion it shares with the viewer. Portraits are an invitation into the subject’s feelings at a moment in time. They tell a story, even the posed ones! A well-executed portrait illustrates the family’s true dynamic and life spirit.

First, think about how you are going to display your portraits. If on a specific wall, you’ll want it to complement the style of the room. Is it formal or casual? What type of setting best represents your family’s lifestyle and home?  

Orange County offers many beautiful settings: beaches, parks, and the SJC Mission. I always seek to place my subjects so that the sun doesn’t light them too harshly and then use professional lights to illuminate their faces. Preparing for a portrait session can be stressful. The best way to minimize this is to make sure everyone is well-rested and fed beforehand!

Styling Tips

1. If you’re planning on getting a haircut, do it the week before. New haircuts often need a few days to grow into shape.

2. It can be fun to bring in a makeup professional. Just be sure to ask the makeup artist to use a foundation that doesn’t have sunscreen, which will change the color of your face in the sun.

3. Finally, don’t forget your nails! Neutral colors are best for portraits.

Wardrobe Tips

1. Don’t wear identical outfits. Instead, the colors on each subject should complement those of the group and the setting.

2. Keep it simple. Stick to a couple of colors and avoid loud patterns and logos. Not everyone should wear patterns, as this will look too busy.

3. Mix patterns with solid fabrics. Sweaters, scarves, leathers and cotton knits all add textural interest to an image.

Contact Karen Reuter at 949.488.3144 or

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