Those Special Family Gatherings

ImageWe’ve chatted quite a bit – not about taking pictures but making better memories with better pictures.  Today I want to explore a little different subject, but still within the overall topic.  Today, we chat about those family gatherings, and the photos that come from them.

Taking pictures of groups can be a very frustrating experience for some, mostly because many people just don’t understand why so many pictures are needed.  Start taking pictures, and someone is bound to make some crack about “why do you need so many pictures, you got one, isn’t that enough?”   The answer to that is never obvious, so it has to be explained, and most of the time you are trying to explain it to someone that doesn’t want to listen.  You will just have to insist if you want to succeed.

Large family groups are very difficult just by the nature of things.  Uncle Bob had his eyes closed or Aunt Minerva was talking to her neighbor, maybe the little boy in front was acting up, or – well – I could go on, but you get the idea.

Let’s go back and consider the 6 sided cube (or some other multiple picture display) again, so try to work with family members in much smaller groups.  You see it at weddings all the time, so why not the 4th of July picnic, or Grandma and Grandpa’s wedding anniversary?  Insist, with the idea that you can take multiple pictures in smaller groups, and use the cube to cover the entire family with those 6 pictures.  With that in mind, if the big family pose doesn’t turn out, even after 8 or 10 shots, you still have an excellent back-up.  Also, you have the solution pretty well answered for that special inexpensive gift later on – the cube with those 6 special pictures.  Those, in addition to the portrait should round out the memory.

When putting the group together for that family photo, consider this setting arrangement.  Have the oldest first, setting in straight-backed chairs.  Then cluster the families around them, maybe with grandma holding one of the youngsters.  Be sure to keep the family members together, don’t mix the kids with other parents.  If you need additional room, it’s fine to set the kids on the floor as well, but it’ll be much better if you can avoid it.

Also, when dealing with a group, try this setting.  Sit the medium size folks in chairs side by side.  Then put the shorter folks standing behind them.  If you still need more room, try the setting with the tallest standing behind them, but you will have to experiment to get the best photo.  Always get the approval from the families before the final setting.  .  Kids can go on the floor in front if necessary, but work to avoid it if possible.

Smaller groups, (maybe 5), put 2 setting in the straight back chairs with 3 standing behind.  Again, taller ones sitting with smaller ones standing — works almost every time.  Just remember to experiment, test and explore to get the best results.  You’re getting pictures of the best memories possible.

If the event is festive, try to include a hint of the occasion in the background of the picture.  Christmas is a great example by having a little of the Christmas tree showing in the corner with the background of the tree.  You won’t need much, just a hint is fine.  No need to explain but you might want the date.  The picture will explain a lot.

In taking the shots, align yourself exactly in the middle of the group and take 5 or 6 pictures, then you take about 2 steps left and get 5 or 6 more.  Go the same distance to the right and get another 5 or 6 pictures.  Move around a little, but don’t let the group change, except to follow you with their head and eyes.  Most photographers will tell you that straight head on shots are never the best but just a slight angle is highly preferred.  Remember to remind them that you will be taking multiple shots, maybe 15 to 20.  You’re looking to get the best possible photos.  That small difference in angle can make a tremendous difference, but you won’t know unless you try.

If you intend to be in the photos, plan on a good tri-pod and a reliable timer.  I wouldn’t trust an outsider to take the pictures if you can avoid it.


·         Be natural, never be stiff or stilted – let the kids be kids.

·         Remember, all those shots cost you nothing with the digital camera, so shoot away.  Get all the pictures you can — Candid photos make excellent memories, especially those where the kids are playing.

·         Allow just a little extra room around all 4 sides of the picture and also make sure you use the telephoto and consider the flash.  You can clip out much of the extra, but you’ll never be able to add if you accidently cut something out.


About royandsherry

Roy is retired military as a radar controller, both Airborne and Ground. Spent 9 years as a Radio Announcer and retired from the corporate world after 14 years as an information analysist, working with classified information for a computer chip manufacturer. Roy is a commercial pilot (ASEL) and has a degree in Interstate Commerce Commission law. Sherry worked as an aircraft parts inventory specialist as a government employee, later as a scheduler and coordinator for a large flight school and retired from the corporate world as a legal administrative assistant for a very large computer chip manufacturer.
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