Fall is for Family Portraits – 10 tips on how to get great shots yourself using your smartphone!

Of course I want to shoot your family portrait for you, but if you can't get to us, here's 10 tips for getting a great portrait yourself using nothing but your smartphone.

  • Use a smartphone tripod adapter when possible
  • It's better to adjust framing the picture by adjusting the camera to subject distance rather than zooming
  • Move the camera closer to the subject and keep the background as far away as you can.
  • Arrange people with heads staggered
  • Allow kids to be kids and get goofy with them
  • If it bends, bend it – how to help people pose
  • Pose people to flatter them
  • Lighting is key – get some in their eyes
  • Expression is everything!
  • Have a little fun with it and let go

Use a tripod adapter whenever possible

sudbury-family-portraitGetting the image sharp and motion free is the hardest art of cell phone photography. It's a problem that's not hard to fix with a variety of adapters and or tripods.

Shown here is a gorilla pod by Joby. It's both a cell phone holder and a flexible tripod you can wrap around things. A variety of adapters are available here in Sudbury at Henry's camera on La'Salle. Tell 'em Kerry sent you so I get a feather in my cap 🙂

You can also adapt it to a standard tripod so either way, you get a rock solid image.


It's better to adjust framing the picture by adjusting the camera to subject distance rather than zooming

Most cameras today have two types of zooming. Optical and digital. One is good and the other is bad. With cell phones, it's hard to know when optical has left off and digital has begun. For that reason, I find it's better to crop the picture more by moving the camera closer to the subject rather than zooming in by pinching the screen.

Move the camera closer to the subject and keep the background as far away as you can.

Sudbury-family-portraitsNot only do you fill the frame with the subject, but you throw the background out of focus in a very pleasant way.

Notice how the highlights in the background make a circular pattern. Professionals call this "bokeh", and it's very desirable.

So the closer you get, and the further away the  background the more pleasing the photo gets. Also, be aware of what the background is. A bright white background usually destroys your photo, as will a black background. try and find a pleasing middle range background without too many bright spots.

Arrange people with heads staggered

family-portraiture-ontarioWhen all the heads are lined up at the same height, the photo looks strange. A better practice is to stagger the heads all at different heights.

This also ties in to triangles. Often, with larger groups, you can position heads to they form triangles. It's a rule that pays off with great looking portraits.



Allow kids to be kids and get goofy with them

family-portraits-sudburyTrying to control kids for the perfect shot often is a losing strategy. So why not just go with the flow. Let them have fun with it. Let them make faces and play. If you make it a fun game, you'll get the best shots ever.

The days of the static family pose where everybody is just perfect is long gone. A more casual approach is not only easier, it's looks GREAT!

If it bends, bend it – how to help people pose.

Family-portraits-ontarioSome people are natural posers, but most are not. They tend to get nervous and rigid. An easy way to correct for this is to follow the simple rule. If it bends - bend it. Elbows, arms, necks, knees etc.

Also, if they're standing, have them shift their weight from one foot to the other. This helps them look relaxed.


Pose people to flatter them

photograph-couplesMom wants to look loving, dad wants to look in charge, teens want to look independent, kids want to look goofy, and babies, well, they're babies. Everybody wants to look good.

That's part pose, and part expression. But also keep in mind body types. Mom or dad might be shy about their weight. They will want to hide or fall back. And actually that's exactly what you should do. If you can place children or accessories to hide the bulk of the body, they'll love it.


Lighting is key – get some in their eyes.

sudbury-photographyLighting outdoors can be trickier than you think. That's why pros can often get it right, but here's the problem.

There are very few positions you can get the light right, while still getting a great background. If the sun is front lighting them, then the subjects are probably squinting into the camera. If the light is to the side, then one side of the subject is bright and the other side is too dark. The best option is to have the sun to their backs, and then fill in the shadows with a fill flash or reflector. Most modern smartphones have built in flash so it should work out fine.

One of the worst lighting situations is direct sun filtering thru tree leaves. It leaves blotches of light that look terrible, and can't be easily fixed. Check out the picture of the wedding party. Not so good.

Expression is everything!

sudbury-portraitureSo you're ready to snap the picture. All you need now is the great facial expressions that make the shot sing.

"Say cheese", well if it works great, but not so much.

Now, if you don't have a person to snap the picture for you, you'll need to use your phone's built in self timer. This varies from model to model, but almost all phones have one. If not, you can probably download and app from your company's app store.

So have some fun and let 'er rip

But of course, we'd like to do all this for you, and well, we won't use a cell phone 🙂

Check out our great fall prices, and get your new family portrait in time for holiday gift giving.



Comments are closed.