Animated Family Portrait (with 10 tips!) / by Leslie Fandrich


Happy Holidays everyone! We are all very excited about tomorrow being the last day of school, some time in NYC to see the holiday fun this weekend and Christmas next week. I can't wait for downtime with family by a warm fire, reading books and good food. We are so lucky and grateful for all that we have.

Do you like our animated jumping picture? It was so fun to make. I have a few tips for you if you want to take great family pictures of your own that include everyone. 

  1. Use a tripod. You might be tempted to telescope out all the legs so the tripod is as tall as you. Don't do it. For a full body shot with a 70 mm lens, keep your camera low, maybe two feet off the ground.
  2. If you are using a tripod, you will also need to use a wireless shutter release. It cuts down on having to run back and forth between the camera and the spot you need to stand in. Have the release set to give you a few seconds to compose yourself and hide the hand the release is in. There is a maximum distance that the release will work in, if it's not working, try standing a bit closer to the camera and make sure you have a direct line to the infrared sensor.
  3. Go outside if the weather permits, the light is better and you will have more room to set up.
  4. Find a spot that has a simple background and stand way far in front of it so the background is at least slightly blurry. We chose trees here, but you could also find a wall, the side of a house or barn, a view, or even a cool old truck or huge set of stairs.
  5. Find the sun and face it. I have also found the sun and shot into it, but that is trickier and you have to watch your exposure (expose for the face) and sun flares (use a lens hood and make sure the sun is not hitting your lens directly.) You want diffused light, so hope for a slightly overcast day, or find a shadier spot under a tree or near a house. You don't want deep shade, but you also don't want extremely direct light.
  6. Watch for shadows on faces and avoid them, especially if your slightly shady spot is from trees, like ours. There is a shadow on my face in the shot below of me standing with my hands on my hips because the sunlight was filtering through the trees, but it was diffused enough that you (hopefully) don't notice it very much.
  7. Check your focus. Take a test shot, zoom in on someone's face and make sure it is sharp. Ask your family to stay in position. Once you set the camera to receive the remote shutter signal, the focus might be locked.
  8. Take a decent number of shots. For this shoot I took about 20-25. I did about 4 or 5 warm-up test shots. Quinn was not coorperating at first and he had his back turned to the camera (he is cheeky, that one). I let him do what he wants for the first few shots and after he warms up, we get serious about getting a "straight" shot. After I feel like I have at least three good straight shots, we do "fun" shots. We get to jump and make goofy faces and it's like a reward for the kids. They love that part. This year, the "fun" shots turned out so great that one made it to the back of our holiday cards and are featured here!
  9. For use in a holiday card, take the picture well before December. We shot these on Thanksgiving day because we were already dressed up, but you could also pick any day in October or November to have a fun shoot somewhere.
  10. Dress in clothes that coordinate, but don't perfectly match. Matchy-matchy can be cute/ironic if that is what you are going for, but I prefer to see outfits that are from two or three related color families. This year we did blue, orange and dark neutrals. Milo and Quinn are wearing tops from Gymboree.

I will be taking a blogging break over the holidays, but you can still check in and see what I am up to on Twitter and Flickr! Hope you have a fantastic break with your family and that you rest and enjoy the season. I'll be back here on January 2nd with lots more creative goodness. Until then my friends.


This post is sponsored by Gymboree. Bring a friend to a Gymboree store and sign up for GymboreeRewards together and you'll both SAVE 25% off an in-store purchase.