Whether it’s a snapshot to commemorate the large family reunion or a family portrait for the Christmas albums, posing large groups of people for a picture can be tricky. Even expert photographers can have issues attempting to make sure they get the right shot when they’ve got to photograph a lot of people at once. 

Regardless of your experience, here’s what you should know about taking large group and family photos with your family members: 

Helpful Tips To Make Your Family Portraits Look Great

man holding camera outside car window

Photo by MatanVizel Licensed Under CC0

When it comes time to grab everyone and all your family members for a group picture, here are a few quick tips to make sure you get the best shot possible.

Try to use a tripod. Many large group or family photographs require a higher vantage point to make sure all the family members are in the image. Even if you don’t need to use a ladder, it’s easy for a family photo to fall out of focus. A tripod will keep everything steady. 

Make sure everyone is visible. With large groups or a family, it’s easy for a child or someone shorter to get lost in the mix. You can avoid this by being careful about how you pose everyone, and even using a higher vantage point when you take the photo. 

Smaller Children Should Go in Front. Since you’ll need to arrange the family photo by height, it’s better to place smaller children in the front. You’re less likely to lose them in the image. 

Tall People Go in the Back. The best way to make sure you can see everyone in the family, regardless of height, is by placing the tallest people in the back of the group, so they don’t block shorter people. 

 Check the Lighting. Good lighting is essential to your group or family photo. If you can, try to take the image outside so that you only have natural light. The only potential downside to outdoor images is making sure a sun glare doesn’t become an issue. If you have to take the photo inside, try opening a window or staying away from bright, fluorescent lights. 

Give Your Clients a Head’s Up. Most people might be smiling, but if you don’t let the group or family know that you’re about to take the photo, someone could end up looking distracted or blinking. 

Have Everyone on the Same Plane of Focus. Unless you’re trying to take a candid photo, having everyone line up is a better way to take a group photo. Not only does it make the image look orderly, but you’re more likely to make sure you include everyone if you ask them to line up. 

Find Your Focus. If you spread everyone out, it can make your image look messy and confuse viewers. By putting people in a line or placing them together, you can create a center of attention in the large family shot. If you don’t feel as if your focus is clear enough, you can also blur the background as well. 

Always Remember to Get Some Candid Shots. Staged or posed large family photographs can sometimes feel disingenuous, especially if you’re having trouble making sure everyone looks perfect. Another option is to snap a few candid photos of the family while they’re together and enjoying each other’s company. Even if it doesn’t look as orderly as a staged photo would, a candid shot in family photo shooting can be a lot more sincere. 

Ask Them To Bend. Ever notice that people are always bending some part of their body in photography family portraits? There’s a reason for this. If everyone stands up straight, the photo can look stiff. By asking everyone to bend a knee, arm, or an elbow, you’ll have a much more relaxed look in your large family. 

Let’s Have Some FUN. Stunning large group or family photos look as if everyone is having a little fun. Unless you’re attempting to create a certain type of vibe, there’s no reason why your large family can’t have a little fun. The genuine smiles they make from goofing off and cracking jokes can end up looking better than a staged smile. 

6 Common Group Photography Problems and How You Can Dodge Them 

picture of four men golfing

Photo by 27707 Licensed Under CC0

Although there’s a lot you can do to make your family photo or photos for a group look better, there’s also a lot you can do to make it look… less great.

Here are some of the most common mistakes you can make during a large family photo shoot and a large family portrait, and how you can avoid them. 

When Expressions Don’t Match 

Before you take a large family portrait, you’ll want to make sure everyone is clear on what type of photo you’re taking. Half of your group might think they can pull funny faces while everyone else is smiling seriously.

Mismatched expressions can be distracting, so be sure that everyone knows what expression they should be making. 

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Ask if Anyone is Missing

A group photo at a family reunion or birthday party can commemorate the occasion, but it can be awkward if someone is missing from the group. This is especially tricky with large families. While you can’t do anything if that person doesn’t show up to the party, you can ensure that you gather everyone that’s there. Even if it’s a little time-consuming, doing a head-count before the photo can let you know who is or isn’t missing. 

The Camera is Making Everyone Look Small

If even large families in the photo look too small, it’s likely that the photographer took the photo too wide. If the photo is too wide because you’re attempting to gather everyone in the picture, you can always experiment with posing people vertically and “stacking” them. Tall people can stand in the back of the group, and benches or chairs can work to your advantage. 

Bad Lighting

Natural light can be your friend, but it can also be your enemy. In some cases, natural light can be uneven, and add unflattering shadows or contrast. Do what you can to avoid taking the photo where there are patches of sunlight or sun glare. 

Say Cheese!

There’s a reason why you don’t want too many people to stand behind the camera in a large family portrait. Too many people attempting to give orders or directions can be distracting, and it can mean that not everyone is looking at the camera. 

Before snapping the photo, take a few seconds to gather everyone’s attention and ensure they’re looking at the camera lens, not something else. 

Beware of Blocking

Vertical stacking can be a great tool, but you have to be careful you don’t end up with partial blocking. This happens when one person’s head partially blocks another’s. For instance, if you don’t position someone in the front correctly, they could end up obstructing those behind them. Be careful with your posing, and double-check that you can see everyone’s face before you take the photo. 

Some General Tips For Your Large Group Photo

woman taking photos while sitting in the street

Photo by trinhkien91 Licensed Under CC0

For your family portrait or family pictures, keep these simple tips and “do’s” in mind. They can help ensure the process is quick and doesn’t take any longer than it needs to. 

Try to Use a Wide-Angle Lens

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Photo by markusspiske Licensed Under CC0

With a wide-angle lens, you can fit everyone in the large shot, but you won’t need to place your tripod too far away from the group. This can help avoid the mistake of everyone looking too small or miniature. 

Definitely Scope Out the Location Ahead of Time

Locations that have natural formations for people to sit or stand next to is always a good idea. Rather than attempting to find a location on the spot, it can save you a lot of time to find a place ahead of time and think about where you plan to pose everyone in the large photo. 

Set Your Aperture at F8 or Higher

To ensure you get everyone’s face in focus in the large photograph, go for using a smaller f-stop such as an f8 aperture

Solid Colors are Best

three women in white

Photo by trevoykellyphotography Licensed Under CC0

With a large group photo, you want to draw attention to everyone’s faces. As fun as patterns and wild clothing might be, it can also be distracting. If you already know there’s going to be a group photo, don’t forget to let everyone know that they should wear solid colors for the event. 

Always Take A Series of Shots

You might think you’ve taken the perfect large shot—that is until you look at it later and realize three people in the photo are mid-blink. To avoid this, your better bet is to take as many shots as possible. In fifty shots, you might end up with three or four where everyone looks great. 

Shade is Your Friend


Photo by Pexels Licensed Under CC0

If you want to avoid a sun glare, an optimal time to shoot the large group photo is in the evening or in a shady spot. Not to mention, shooting in the evening can also prevent your group from attempting to squint or hide their eyes from the sun. The last thing you want is to end up with a group photo where everyone looks angry or annoyed. 

What NOT to Do When Photographing a Large Group Photo

There might be plenty of great things you can do to enhance your large group or family shot, but there’s also plenty of things that you shouldn’t do either. 

Don’t Shoot Heads in the Horizon Line

The horizon line might be pretty, but it can also draw attention away from large families and a group. If you’ve got mountains in the background, do what you can to shoot everyone’s heads above or below the horizon line. Otherwise, the background could potentially become more distracting and steal the focus of the photo. 

Keep Away From Large Trees and Buildings

A pretty backdrop is important, but big objects like trees or buildings can obscure faces and cast unflattering shadows in your family pictures. To get the best light possible, avoid standing under large background objects. The trick is being able to find a shady spot that won’t cast uneven or unflattering shadows, but still shield your large group from the sun. 

Large family pictures and group photos can be tricky to capture, but with plenty of practice and the help of large families, you should get the hang of it in no time. 

Don’t Overcomplicate Posing

One way to annoy your group and large families and get the shot off to a bad start is by taking too long with posing. As long as you avoid some of the common posing mistakes, like standing too straight, you should let people take their natural poses. The photo you end up with will often feel more authentic this way. 


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