How to Create Memorable Photos of Your Family at Home | San Francisco
Taking pictures of your own family is no small task – that’s why most folks hire professional photographers, right?! Here in the Bay Area, we all know that things like our rainy winters, wildfire season and even our current Shelter in Place laws can force us into long stretches of time spent indoors, making it challenging to rely on those iconic San Francisco landmarks for photo shoots. But the silver lining to all of that quality time spent at home is that it offers up the perfect opportunity to test out your own photography skills – and there are no better test subjects than your family!
If your kids are anything like mine, they will not perform on demand (unless there are bribes involved, of course). But the first, and perhaps most important, rule of learning how to document your family is to avoid forcing the shoot. Start by taking a few days to actively observe your family, and take note of the moments that are frequently filled with ease, joy and laughter. The goal of photographing your family isn’t to hang up a backdrop and announce that today is picture day – in my home, this would be met with groans, screams and hiding under the bed – but to simply witness the moments that are naturally full of happiness and emotion. Here are a few of my top tips for creating memorable photos of your family from the comfort of your own home.
At-Home Family Photography is About Capturing Moments and Creating Memories
- Lighting. Not all lighting is created equal (fluorescent lighting, anyone!?), but that doesn’t mean you need to invest in fancy lights or equipment. I always suggest finding a large window in any room of your home and treating this room as your “main stage.” You don’t necessarily have to agonize over what time of day provides the best lighting, since simply taking photos in your home’s best-lit room will start all of your photo shoots off on the right foot.
- Embrace the mess. Using your home as a backdrop provides an opportunity to capture the small details that will become meaningful when you look back on these photos years from now – so don’t hide it all away! Sure, I tidy some clutter, but I don’t feel the need to clean every inch of my house when I’m taking photos. I’m not living in a magazine! Things like a baby blanket thrown over a chair, favorite toddler books strewn about or scribbly artwork taped onto the walls are all important parts of telling your family’s story.
- Use different angles. Add interest to your photos by utilizing space! Consider getting on a chair for a bird’s eye view or lying low on the ground for a dramatic feel. This can be particularly useful if space is an issue or if you only have one room with good lighting. You can also incorporate motion while you experiment with angles: try planting yourself in a doorway or corner, and then take shots from different angles as your kids zoom by.
- Capture every mood. I like to let each individual’s personality shine instead of trying to prompt a certain, often forced, reaction. Children have unpredictable moods and I’ve learned to be OK with that. While I’m photographing my own three busy kids, it’s likely that somebody will always be a bit unhappy. But the unique dynamic that exists among my kiddos while they are growing up is what helps to tell our story. Be open to capturing both the joyous, and the not-so-joyous, moments – sometimes the best memories include a mischievous look, a post-tantrum hug or even a frown.
- Look to the future. I love to encourage people to experiment with taking photos that go beyond perfect smiles or portrait-style shots. Try to think about what you would like to remember in 5, 10 or 20 years, and use that to fuel your photos. I love to capture tiny features – baby toes always get me! Using objects for scale is a great way to remember just how small they really were, like a pair of toddler feet wearing adult shoes or tiny baby hands examining something new for the first time. Other details that I love to capture include hair and pigtails, tiny backs and shoulders, pouty lips and the wiggly nature of kids.
Unique Moments Often Yield the Best Photos
The thing that helps me the most when it comes to photographing my family is to plan out in advance which “moments” I want to capture. For example, bath time is pretty chaotic in our SF home, but I became aware of my youngest daughter having a quiet moment staring at herself in the mirror whenever she got out of the bath. It made me smile every single time, and I knew that this was one of those moments that I wanted to capture forever – so I grabbed my camera the next day. Finally, don’t forget that many of your kids’ most special moments are only happening because you are there – so mommas and poppas, get into those pictures as well! In the same way you’ll want to look back and remember their young years, they’ll also want to look back and see you in their happiest moments.