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Tips for taking family photos

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Parents Lindsay and Jeremy with their children, Even, 5 months, and Elaine, 3, photographed at their family home. This image was made in their backyard. I made sure to place the sun behind them and asked them to sit in the grass together. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Parents Lindsay and Jeremy with their children, Even, 5 months, and Elaine, 3, photographed at their family home. This image was made in their backyard. I made sure to place the sun behind them and asked them to sit in the grass together.
Indian Summer has arrived and the next two weeks will be a great time to take family photos and that fabulous image for your holiday card. Here are some tips for taking great family pictures during a one of the most beautiful times of year.

In the fall, the light is especially nice for family pictures. But while you may see the brilliant fall colors and sunshine, avoid the temptation to shoot people that way. The tree you’re putting in the background might be a brilliant yellow or red, but your subjects will squint and the light isn’t flattering at all.
Evan having fun with his parents during their family sitting. I placed the sun behind them in this image and it turned out wonderfully. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Evan having fun with his parents during their family sitting. I placed the sun behind them in this image and it turned out wonderfully.
Because the sun is lower in the sky it creates wonderful light to shoot into. Keep the sun behind your subject and overexpose your image by a stop or two. The lighting on your subjects will be quite beautiful and flattering.
Elaine's parents suggested that she pick some flowers and it made for a perfect portrait. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Elaine's parents suggested that she pick some flowers and it made for a perfect portrait.
I also like to photograph people in open shade this time of year. Reflected light from the sun bounces into these areas and creates another type of soft, flattering light. If you can, find an area in the open shade with a bit of fall color in the background.
Lindsay and Jeremy with their children photographed on the step of the family home. Before this picture was made, Elaine didn't want to be in it. So we didn't force it. Only after I focused my attention on her little brother, Evan, and her parents did she decide she change her mind. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Lindsay and Jeremy with their children photographed on the step of the family home. Before this picture was made, Elaine didn't want to be in it. So we didn't force it. Only after I focused my attention on her little brother, Evan, and her parents did she decide she change her mind.
Next, if you're working with children, don’t force it. Children aren’t keen to taking instructions from a photographer — especially so if they’re a stranger! Take extra time before taking pictures to introduce yourself, ask them about things that might be top of the mind and make a suggestion that at the end of the shoot they will be rewarded with ice cream or another treat.
Teresa with her daughters Mary, 6, and Anna, 9, photographed in the open shade at Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Teresa with her daughters Mary, 6, and Anna, 9, photographed in the open shade at Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site.
Then, come to the shoot with a game plan that involves family interaction. At a park, I like to go for a walk to see what there is to see and get everyone relaxed before I ask them to “pose” for a picture. At a family home, I usually suggest playing together outside. Kids know what to do with the right cues and I don’t have to pose them!
Teresa and Sean with their children Anna, 9, Mary, 6, and Michael, 4, at the Rock Ledge Historic Site. I made this image by the Orchard House in the open shade and asked the kids to sit on their parents laps. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Teresa and Sean with their children Anna, 9, Mary, 6, and Michael, 4, at the Rock Ledge Historic Site. I made this image by the Orchard House in the open shade and asked the kids to sit on their parents laps.
It’s important to remember that photographing a family is a collaboration. Without the kids on board, the pictures won’t feel natural or authentic. Make sure to keep it light and relaxed throughout the shoot — there’s nothing more painful than having getting pictures where everyone looks stiff and awkward.
Teresa and Sean with their children at the Rock Ledge Historic Site. We started the sitting by walking the grounds together and this image happened after I suggested that everyone hold hands while they walk. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Teresa and Sean with their children at the Rock Ledge Historic Site. We started the sitting by walking the grounds together and this image happened after I suggested that everyone hold hands while they walk.
Finally, it doesn’t take a professional to do this! You might have a family friend who’s good with a camera. Using the above tips they can often do just as well as a professional.
Teresa and Sean with their children at the Rock Ledge Historic Site. This image was made in the open shade by an old rock wall. The shade provided a rustic backdrop and great light for a family portrait. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Teresa and Sean with their children at the Rock Ledge Historic Site. This image was made in the open shade by an old rock wall. The shade provided a rustic backdrop and great light for a family portrait.
Happy shooting!

Sean Cayton is a wedding photojournalist of 19 years and operates a successful, award-winning wedding photography studio in Colorado Springs. He's also an award-winning photojournalist. Sean is happily married to the love of his life (also his business partner) and is father to three beautiful children. When he’s not working, Sean can be found outside flying kites with his kids, hitting golf balls or casting a fly rod to hungry trout.

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