Friday, August 26, 2011

5 Tips for Creating Meaningful Family Photos

Out in front of the old family homestead in NY
This is a followup to yesterday's post "Be Respectful But Don't Miss a Good Photo Op."

Let's be clear right from the start, I am not a professional photographer.  I can't help you take good photographs. I can however give you some food for thought for taking meaningful family photos.  Here are some things to consider:

1. Go To Extremes

The most meaningful photos show the intersection of generations.  Find the youngest person in your extended family and the oldest person and make sure you have an opportunity to photograph them together.  It is likely that their lives will intersect for a very short time.  Capturing that physical connection in a photograph is critical for encouraging the younger generation to learn about their relatives and ancestors.  Perhaps the baby in the photo won't remember their older relative but they will always know that they knew them and will strive to learn more.

2. Family Units

Gets lots of photos of immediate family units.  I know that seems pretty obvious but as kids get older those photos become less and less frequent.  Future descendants will be grateful for any clues about who was in your family.  Small family unit photos are also easier for folks to identify than the family reunion photos with 50 people in them.  In the larger photos it can be nearly impossible to establish the relationships between the family members.  Start early and continue to take family unit photos of your whole extended through the years.

3. Get Out that Uniform

Uniforms, whether athletic, military or fraternal, provide interesting content and reveal important clues about our family members.  Take photos your kids in their team uniforms during the school year.  Capture your spouses and siblings in their work uniforms and provide a way for your descendents to know what they did for a living.  And don't forget boy scouts, girl scouts, fraternal orders and your relatives in the military.

4. These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Take individual or group photos of kids and adults alike with the things they love.  Take portraits of Dad with his tennis racket, Mom with her iPad, little Susie with her Bratz dolls and little Joey with his favorite books.  Capturing people with their favorites props creates a fun photo where the subject is happier and more relaxed.  And future generations will have a much better sense of what they were like as people.

5. Capture the Homestead

Get out in front of your house and capture the family in front of your homestead.  During your own lifetime  you'll be amazed at how much your house changes.  Perhaps you didn't like that yellow color when you first bought it and you soon painted it blue.  What about the addition you built ten years later?  Capture the history of your family and your home in a single shot.


  1. Great tips Marian! I especially like #1. I have a photograph of my maternal grandmother holding my youngest as a toddler that I cherish now as she's gone & he's a teenager.

  2. I wish I had thought about the homestead photos years ago. So many houses I've lived in that I have no photographs of and now they're a parking lot.

  3. The composition of your photo brings to mind those taken by A.W. and G.E. Howe in the late 1800s, early 1900s, up and down the river valleys of New England. I have a photo of my grandmother in a baby carriage, her siblings, her mother, a grandmother and an old gentleman we're not sure of his identity taken in front of their house (burned down in the 1920s) across the street from the Merrimack River. The great thing is that all the marble hardscape is still there but doesn't make sense unless you've seen the photo of the house that's no longer there.

  4. All very goods points! Thanks!

  5. All good ideas Marian. Good article.

  6. Thanks for this excellent article.

  7. Excellent article!

    Another idea would be taking a photo of them at work. So many trades and occupations are o longer with us.

    It would be great to see a picture of my cabinet-maker grandfather (who died in WW2) with his tools.

  8. These are all great ideas. Thank you.