Family Portraits Outdoors

Michele Wanke
family portrait

Breathe new life into your boring group photos by learning how to take fabulous family portraits outdoors. After all, there's nothing more stunning than a shot of your entire clan framed by Mother Nature.

Make the Most of Mother Nature

Most family portraits are shot indoors in a controlled environment. While the end result may be acceptable, often it can also look dull and stuffy. If you want to make your next family portrait pop, consider heading outside. Nature offers a myriad of gorgeous backdrops for family photos. Creative poses captured in a breathtakingly beautiful natural setting can yield an unlimited number of frame worthy shots. Fortunately, you don't have to trek to exotic locales to snap winning family portraits outdoors.

Tips for Shooting Family Portraits Outdoors

To improve your outdoor family portraits, there are some basic tips you should keep in mind.

Lighting

When taking family photos outdoors, avoid direct sunlight. In addition, you don't want to place different members of your group in mixed light. Having Uncle Jim sit in the shade while Aunt Sue stands in the bright sunshine squinting will result in an unflattering photo. If you insist on shooting in the shade, consider reflecting light into the darker areas to eliminate shadows or use fill flash when necessary. Ideally, you want to shoot outdoor family portraits on a slightly overcast day or at dusk, when the natural light casts an attractive hue on your subjects.

Background

Choose a uniform background for your outdoor family portrait. A row of trees, a weathered fence, a field of flowers, a well-groomed hedge or a distant body of water all serve as excellent backgrounds for a group shot. Avoid posing your family in front of a distracting backdrop, such as a driveway with numerous vehicles or a wall decorated with busy prints or patterns.

Composition

Composition is key when shooting family portraits in the great outdoors. If you are working with a large group of individuals of varying ages and heights, then try to find something for people to sit on, be it a picnic table, patio furniture, or a tree stump. The object is to have your subjects' heads at different levels; however, you still want to have a sense of cohesiveness.

Exercise your creativity when forming the perfect composition. For example, you can have some family members sit on chairs while others stand or lean against objects, such as a tree or fence. In addition, if you are working with a large number of family members, consider creating smaller groups of three or four people. Have members of each group turn their bodies slightly to the left or right so their shoulders overlap a bit and their heads are positioned closer together. By creating two or three different small arrangements within the bigger group, you can avoid snapping an unnatural looking square shot.

Props

Don't be afraid to incorporate a few props into your outdoor family portrait. A porch swing, a vintage car or an old oak tree can add dimension to your shot. In addition, props can inspire a variety of different poses. For example, you could have some family members sit on exposed roots of a tree while others lean against the tree trunk. Also, encourage your family members to vary their arm positions. Have a couple of individuals in the group place their hands around the shoulders of other family members. This works especially well if you are using an old rocking chair as a prop. Place the family matriarch on the heirloom and have various family members place their hands on great-grandma's shoulders.

Additional Tips

Other tips to consider when shooting family portraits outdoors include:

  • Do or say something unique to capture the attention of the entire group at the exact moment you hit the shutter button.
  • Take multiple shots. The more you shoot, the better your chances for capturing the perfect portrait.
  • Discuss wardrobe options. Find out the most flattering colors to wear for a family portrait.
  • Keep the group inside the camera's maximum flash distance range.
  • Position the group so that there are no more than two rows of people in each shot.
Family Portraits Outdoors