Local Photographer Shares Her Tips For Getting The Perfect Family Photo

With the holidays right around the corner, you might be wondering if the kids or your spouse will cooperate for family photos this year! We know how it can be, whether you get professional portraits taken with a photographer or you’re working with what you’ve got at home, there’s really no telling if they’ll turn out cute enough for your Christmas card!

If you’re typically a “do-it-yourself” kind of person (or want to be) you are in luck! Because guess what? I’m here to help you this year! I’m going to walk you through 5 easy tips to help you capture a great holiday picture! 

The dark evergreen trees make the perfect backdrop for this photo of Ellie and her mom Kylie (photo courtesy of Riley Lynn Photography).

With my guidance, you’ll be able to accomplish the aesthetic of professional photographs. Just follow along with me in this guide! Let’s assume that you probably have an iPhone or another kind of smart device. That will be perfect to use! Even if you think that you may not have a photographer’s eye, ANY photos you take will become memories for you to treasure. 

Let’s get started! 

Tip #1: Find the Light

First things first, you’re going to want to try and find some natural light. A window or even an open front door area would be ideal. You could even go out on the porch or in the yard! Pro tip: if you are indoors and have found your natural light source, go ahead and turn off all other lights in the room (lamps, overhead, etc.)

Tip #2: Go Outside

Olivia and Savannah Becca pose for an outdoor fall photo (photo courtesy of Riley Lynn Photography).

If taking the picture outdoors, try to find a time of day when the light isn’t too harsh! It’s best for a cloudy day or go to a shaded spot for even lighting. Also, facing toward the light is best to prevent heavy shadowing on faces. If you’re indoors, same goes for you. Facing toward the light is always best! Now, let’s talk about how much light is coming in through that window or doorway. If it seems too bright, it probably is! You might want to take a few steps back or to the side. That way it’s not right on you! Also, if you see spotty light (that’s when there are lines or patches of dark and light) you’ll want to scoot back as well. We want all the light to look even across everyone in your photo!

Tip #3: Prepare Your Background

Now that you have a well-lit spot, you’ll want things to be clear in the background. This doesn’t mean you need to hang up a wrinkled sheet or blanket and it certainly doesn’t mean you have to have a beautifully decorated area. If you’re inside, just make sure things like snacks, toys, cords and wires are removed from the space. ‘Tidy’ it up a bit, if you will! If you’re outside, there shouldn’t be too much work for you! 

Little Conway smiles for a photo in front of this Christmas Tree with his mom Ali. (photo courtesy of Riley Lynn Photography).

Tip #4: Set Your Camera

When going to take the photo, you can either set your device up on a ledge or balance it on a table with something to help stabilize it! Or you could be like me and have a cell phone tripod. Self-timer can be your new BFF if you’re not using it already. Set that baby for 10 seconds, get into place and ‘cheese’! I recommend using the front-facing camera option so you can see if you’re centered and if you like the way you’re posed! Up to you if you want to shoot in portrait mode or regular to capture those beautiful smiles. Pro tip: if there’s more than one of you, take turns taking pictures for each other! You with the kids, them with the kids, just the kids, just the dog, grandma and the dog, all the combos! 

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Tip #5: Check Your Work

One of the most important parts to all of this is making sure you have clear images! There’s nothing worse than going to post a picture on Facebook then only to realize someone’s hand is moving and it looks blurry. Make sure to check the images after you’ve taken a handful! That way you can make adjustments or retake. 

BONUS TIP: Edit Away!

I really could talk all day about different prompts to try and get the kids to genuinely smile, ways to angle your camera, body, face, multiple ways to get the best shot! But I’ll just leave you with one last thing, don’t be afraid to edit your pictures. This is one thing that can really elevate your portrait. Whether you’re using the editing tools on your smartphone (brightness, shadows, contrast, etc) or trying your hand with Adobe’s free mobile app, Lightroom. Play around with the different toggles to see what YOU think looks good! It’ll depend a lot on how your natural light source plays out and it’s hardly ever a “one edit fits all” kind of thing! 

I love photographing families and children so much and have been doing it now for almost five years, so I know that sometimes wrangling everyone up, coordinating outfits, and bribing with treats can be a lot of work! But let’s be real, you can’t get professional portraits taken every month! (Well, I mean you can if you want to!) But there will be plenty of memorable moments along the way and in between your next session with your beloved photographer, so you might as well give it a shot! 

Dogs can get in on the fun too! Andrew, Jacen, and Charlee Richardson pose for an outdoor photo with their pup (photo courtest of Riley Lynn Photography).

By the way, if you don’t have a family photographer in the area yet, please reach out to me! I always love meeting new families and sharing in your joy. Come follow along with me on my Facebook, Instagram and website to see what I’m up to, along with giveaways, session updates, and possibly some workshops in the new year!

I hope you’ve gained a little knowledge and feel confident enough to at least attempt to take a picture at home this holiday season! Any picture is better than no picture at all.

Happiest Holidays to you and yours!

• Riley Carpenter is a Wheeling local, born and raised. She grew up in Warwood, attended West Liberty University, lived in Oglebay for a short while and now lives in Clearview with her husband, newborn daughter and fur babies. Riley loves everything Wheeling related and never has thought of moving away. She has been teaching in Ohio County Schools for eight years, and currently teaches Kindergarten at Woodsdale Elementary. After nearly two years of picking up photography as a hobby, Riley officially opened her own photography business, Riley Lynn Photography LLC, in 2020. She loves capturing the emotion of joy most of all, no matter what the occasion!