How to Take a Perfect Family Photo
Perfect family photos are elusive. How can you win when your brother is perpetually blinking and your uncle still insists on putting bunny ears over your head. But even though you can’t make your family behave, taking an Instagram-worthy family photo is possible and surprisingly easy with smartphone photography. If you have a smartphone then you already have (most of) the tools you need to complete the challenge. Using a few tricks with your phone’s camera settings and a few apps, it’ll look like you hired a professional to follow you around this holiday season.
Let’s start with some basics:
The best piece of advice to getting the best photography with your smartphone is to know what it can do. Play around with the settings, lighting modes, and capabilities so you know what will look best in whatever situation you find yourself in. Every smartphone has a different camera setup and getting to know its strengths and weaknesses will prepare you for anything.
You may have the grids hidden on your phone screen, and although they aren’t always important to have on, professional photographers use them to ensure that their subjects are in the correct place in the frame. If you want your subjects to be perfectly center, make sure the middle person is placed in the center grid.
All smartphone phones have a timer. On iPhones, it is the symbol that looks like a circle with an arrow pointing upwards. You can choose to set it for 3 seconds or 10 seconds. If a phone is set up on a tripod, the timer can be activated and nobody has to be left out of the shot.
Flash may seem like a no-brainer, but knowing when to have it on can be tricky. In most lighted situations, you don’t need flash at all. The flash from smartphone cameras is concentrated and will often cause red-eye or subjects that are disproportionally lit. If you must use flash, here’s a tip. Tape a square of tissue paper over the flash to soften it and create a more even distribution of light.
Most models of smartphones have a burst mode, where the photographer can hold down the shutter release (the big grey button) and take multiple, rapid-fire pictures. This can alleviate the possibility of someone blinking and give you choices of the same moment.
The AE/AF Lock feature helps ensure a perfectly focused photo by locking onto the object. If you want the camera to keep a specific element of your photo at the center of focus, press and hold on your screen to enable this feature.
The HDR setting on your smartphone takes the same photo in several different exposures and combines them to create the best-looking result. It is helpful when you’re not sure what exposure to shoot at or if you’re just generally unfamiliar with exposures. Leaving HDR is generally a good idea when shooting in standard, natural light but if you find yourself wanting to take a picture in a darker setting or with less-than-ideal lighting, turning HDR off and setting the exposure yourself will yield a better result.
Unlike a traditional camera, using exposure settings on a smartphone camera is more about figuring out where the balance of light and dark is without worrying about aperture numbers and what they mean. To change the exposure of a photo you are about to take, you can tap different areas of the screen to see how a change in exposure would affect the photo. The best part of smartphone photography is how easy it is to take as many pictures as you’d like with no consequences or wasted film. Trying out different exposures will help you understand light placement better and will prove that smartphone photography is pretty dang smart.
So you think you’ve taken the perfect family photo but you want to edit it before throwing it up on social media. There are many things that you can do to a photo after taking it to change things like light, color, and position and photo editing apps make this only as complicated as you’d like it to be.
Throw a filter on it and call it a day or play with brightness, shadows, and saturation. Instagram has the bare bones of photo editing choices, but for the amateur photographer, simple is almost always better.
VSCO is a wildly popular app for smartphone photography utilized by social influencers everywhere. The available settings to mess with can be overwhelming, but within no time, you’ll be able to master them. You can even search Pinterest for VSCO Hacks where you can copy the theme of a photo by using the same VSCO settings.
Portrait mode is so cool that we wanted to give it its own section in the guide. More recent models of a smartphone can blur the background and bring the subjects forward as the only clear part of a photo. This makes for a beautiful and professional looking photo. Most recent smartphones allow you to save one blurred and one normal version of the same image as long as you take it in portrait mode so you can decide which you prefer.
With these tips, a frame-worthy family photo without any extraneous equipment is nearly fool-proof. So gather Grandpa, Aunt Nancy, and your cousins around the tree this year and start snapping.