How to Take Great Family Photos

Tips and tricks for making sure you get the best pictures of your kids.

  • Photograph by Ryan Marshall

    Oh, Snap!

    Your kids are awesome. Make sure your pics do them justice.

    Find yourself taking more photographs these days? You and everyone else. It's never been easier to capture a moment and show it off to the world. Photographer and dad Ryan Marshall, master of the family snapshot, has advice for getting share-worthy shots--no special skill or fancy gear required. Read on for five genius tips that will instantly raise your photo game.

    Originally published in the December/January 2013 issue of FamilyFun

  • Photograph by Ryan Marshall

    Try a New Angle

    You've heard this one: get down on your kids' level. "Everyone says it," agrees Ryan. "It's nice to see things from their perspective." But rules are made to be broken. "I'll jump on the couch or put the camera on the ceiling and shoot straight down. My wife calls it the dad's-eye view," Ryan says. "It shows how your kids played; you can see what they were drawing. It's a nice twist."

    Originally published in the December/January 2013 issue of FamilyFun

  • Photograph by Ryan Marshall

    See the Light

    Bright sunshine might be great for picnicking, but it's not so hot for picture-taking. Shoot outdoor portraits on cloudy days, advises Ryan, or snap them as the sun is setting, when sunlight is gentle and golden. To capture memorable moments in dim or indoor light, try adjusting your camera's ISO settings--the dimmer the light, the higher your ISO number should be. (If you're using a phone, explore its camera menus to see if you can control the light settings.) If all else fails, "a white piece of poster board can do a lot," Ryan says. "I've been on shoots where the light was fading and I had people hold a dry-erase board at an angle to kick light up to their faces!"

    Originally published in the December/January 2013 issue of FamilyFun

  • Photograph by Ryan Marshall

    Do a Background Check

    Never underestimate the power of a blank wall. "I did a maternity series of my wife against our dining room wall," says Ryan. "Any simple surface makes a nice backdrop. Have the kids lie down on a textured rug and shoot from above!" For a party or event, a makeshift photo booth (a sheet, a tripod, and a camera with a timer) can yield festive mementos. Hand partygoers a little chalkboard so that they can add personalized messages for posterity.

    Originally published in the December/January 2013 issue of FamilyFun

  • Photograph by Ryan Marshall

    Focus on the Details

    For a change from those "Say cheese!" shots, try to catch the tiny details of childhood. Ryan likes to zero in on bits and pieces that tell his kids' stories: sandy hands, a bandage on a knee, a toy-strewn floor.

    Originally published in the December/January 2013 issue of FamilyFun

  • Photograph by Ryan Marshall

    Add Special Effects

    With free camera-phone apps such as Instagram and Snapseed (Ryan's current favorite), you can instantly make an on-the- go picture look like a faded snapshot from the analog era. These simple and fun apps even make the pro's fanciest equipment seem a little dull. "If you're just walking around capturing life--well, I use my phone camera more than anything else," he says.

    Where to Share:
    Your snazzy digital shots deserve to be admired. "When picking the best photo sharing site, there's no 'one size fits all,'" says Jennifer Jolly, a consumer technology expert with Tecca.com and mom of three. It all depends on how you'll use it. For social media sharing, Jennifer lists the big names: Instagram (excellent photo enhancing tools) and Tumblr (which works like a customizable blog). And, of course, Facebook, which Jennifer calls "the easiest, fastest, and simplest." For sharing sites with serious storage, consider Picasa, Dropbox, SugarSync, and Google Drive, cloud-based services that are free up to a certain point. (Not comfortable uploading your pics to a faraway server? Jennifer recommends the "virtually indestructible" external hard drive ioSafe Solo G3.) For sharing a snap, try a free phone app that creates a card and sends it via snail mail. "I love Postagram and Postcards on the Run," says Jennifer.

    Originally published in the December/January 2013 issue of FamilyFun