The Ultimate Guide to iPhone Family Photography: Capture Every Smile, Giggle, and Snuggle

The Ultimate Guide to iPhone Family Photography: Capture Every Smile, Giggle, and Snuggle
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How to shoot family photography at home with just your iPhone

The best camera is the one that you always have with you, and capturing special family moments with your iPhone has become standard practice these days. Snapping photos and videos of your kids, pets, and family gatherings is a great place to start, but with a little practice and a few family photography tips, you can take those decent snapshots and make them into frame-worthy photographs. Here are some of our favorite family photo ideas that you’ll want to steal.

What makes a good family photo?

For family photos to become treasured memories, you need to take time to create a decent composition that captures a moment you never want to forget. Photos can be candid or staged, but the best family photos have a few things in common:

  • The family photo is crisp and in focus.
  • They are will-lit.
  • The image captures an emotion or feeling that moves you.

Posing ideas for family photos

Not all of your photos have to be posed. In fact, we encourage you to keep snapping those candid shots. You’re sure to end up with photos that you love simply by having your iPhone at the ready during special moments. However, there is definitely something to be said for posed photoshoots — times when you can capture images of your family with combed hair and smiling faces. Here are some family photo ideas to inspire you.

Idea 1: Implement family photo color schemes

Yes, we’re talking about matching outfits, which sounds cheesy but can actually work really well if you do it right. We’re not suggesting that everyone in your family photo wear the same outfit or even the same color. Instead, use outfits that go together without obviously matching. You can do this by choosing colors that are either next to each other or across from each other on a color wheel. White, black, and gray can be thrown into the mix as well because they go with just about everything.

Idea 2: Include pets in family photos

Pets are part of the family, too, after all. A photo session with pets is a bit more unpredictable than one without, but animals also add spontaneity to photos and help people feel more comfortable with having their picture taken. The method you use to pose your family pet will depend on the circumstances. Dogs can often be lured with treats or toys. Other animals, like cats, may require more patience. And small critters like rodents and reptiles can usually just be held during the family photoshoot.

Idea 3: Take a walk

Asking your family to hold still while you take photos will often result in shots that feel unnatural and staged. Instead, round everyone up for a stroll in one of your favorite outdoor spots. As you walk, you can make a game of your photoshoot by asking your kids to give each other piggyback rides, skip, sing, dance, and jump. Show them some of your favorite shots as you walk to inspire them to be silly.

Idea 4: Capture little details in your family photos

It can be difficult to remember to capture some of the smaller details of everyday life with your family, but those are some of the shots you will most appreciate as the years go by. Here are some family photo ideas for capturing all the details of family life:

  • Take photos of hands and feet. From baby toes to hands lined with age, take some time to capture the hands and feet of the ones you love. Ask your kids to hold hands and get a close-up. Take a photo of your mom’s hands as she works in the kitchen. Get creative as you zoom in on the hands and feet of your family.
  • Take photos of your kids’ toys. Believe it or not, there will come a day when you actually miss those toys strewn across the floor! Try to see your kids’ toys from their point of view and capture the scene as they would want to remember it.
  • Food photos are family photos. Families often come together around food, so it’s only natural to capture meals with your camera. From the elaborate to the mundane, take time to photograph your changing table-scapes.

Idea 5: Remember that eyes really are the windows to the soul

Have you ever looked at a loved one and thought, “I need to remember that look”? Those moments were made for photos! Capturing emotions through the eyes requires practice, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t get it right away. Here are a few tips for capturing a special look in your family photos:

  • Use a telephoto lens. If you’re shooting with an iPhone 11 Pro/iPhone 11 Pro Max or later Pro/Pro Max lineup, you have a telephoto lens on your camera. This means you can zoom in a bit to capture close-ups of your family without the need to get too close physically. Keeping your distance will allow you to capture a moment without interrupting it.
  • Try to capture the catchlight in your subject’s eyes. A catchlight is a bright highlight reflected in a subject’s eyes that appears almost like a sparkle. Capturing a catchlight in your family photo will add emotion to your shot.
  • Use the autofocus feature. If you are trying to capture a special look, you need to make sure that their eyes are sharp in your photo. After you frame your shot, hold your finger down on your screen over the eye(s) of the person closest to the camera. This will lock the focus, making the eye(s) the center of attention.

How to take outdoor family photos

Outdoor photos are great for capturing natural light and poses, with the added benefit of not having to capture a cluttered or busy home. There’s a reason the best family photos are captured outdoors. Here are some family photography tips for the outdoors — in your backyard or on your next adventure.

Outdoor tip 1: Keep a list of beautiful locations on your phone

Have you ever been outdoors with your family and thought, “This would be the perfect spot for a photoshoot”? If you’re not prepared to start taking photos on the fly, at least add the location to the Notes app on your iPhone so you can come back to it. The best outdoor locations for family photos are spots that you can easily get to and that have special meaning for your family. Perhaps it’s your favorite mini-golf course or playground, or maybe it’s a secret trail through the woods. Make a note of all of your favorite spots, so when the mood strikes for a family photo session, you can just pick a location and go.

Outdoor tip 2: Take family photos in open shade

To avoid harsh shadows that will wreak havoc on your family photos, look for spots that provide open shade during the daytime. Woodland trails are great for midday photo shoots, but you can also take photos on overcast days or under covered pavilions. Any place that offers wide swaths of shade will work for family photography sessions outdoors.

Outdoor tip 3: Photograph each pose several different ways

Have you ever scrolled through your photos only to wish that you had incorporated more close-ups, landscapes, or vertical shots into the mix? You’re not alone! To avoid disappointment later on, try to take several different shots of each pose. Turn your camera horizontally and vertically while shooting. Get in close for a few shots, then take several steps back and get a few more. If you have an iPhone with two or more lenses, switch between them so you have lots of choices when editing and saving your favorites.

Outdoor tip 4: Take family photos during the golden hour

The golden hour is every photographer’s favorite time to take family photos. That’s because the warm light masks imperfections and gives your subjects a beautiful glow that seems to come from within. To capture golden hour photos of your family, head outside just after or just before sunset. During the golden hour, you can even shoot directly into the sun for unique silhouette photography. The resulting family photos will be naturally warm and intimate.

Outdoor tip 5: A simple background is best for outdoor family photos

It’s easy to find simple outdoor backgrounds that won’t distract from your special family moments. Instead of busy gardens or houses as a backdrop, look for solid or patterned walls or shrubbery with plenty of green. If you find yourself taking photos in a busy environment, you can minimize the visual clutter by getting down low and shooting toward the sky. Or point your camera downward so that you use the ground as a backdrop. Another option is to use Portrait mode so that the busy background is blurred and becomes less of a distraction.

Family photography tips for shooting inside your home

Outdoor family photos are a fabulous choice, but they aren’t always realistic, so don’t beat yourself up if you can’t get outside for family photography. Instead, think about ways you can take beautiful photos indoors.

Indoor tip 1: Use different textures for better contrast

There’s just something about cozy indoor shots that creates intimate moments between family members. When looking for good backdrops, think about combining different textures for a cozy feel. Soft blankets and pillows, textured rugs, and comfortable furniture — all of your favorite things can be used to set the backdrop for beautiful indoor family photos.

Indoor tip 2: Use Portrait mode to minimize distracting backgrounds

There are times when you won’t be able to change the background when snapping family photos, and that’s totally okay. If you have Portrait mode on your iPhone, you can use it to create beautifully blurred backgrounds that won’t distract from your family portraits. With Portrait mode, that pile of dirty laundry becomes a gentle mix of blurred colors and shapes. You may even start to seek out cluttered backgrounds for the cool effects they create.

Indoor tip 3: Look for natural indoor light

Natural light is still the best option for shooting family portraits, even indoors. Follow the light around your house as it shines through the windows, and pose your family members in the warmth of the glow. Natural light works best in the winter when the sun is low in the sky, but you can take advantage of the sunshine whenever you see it. If the light is too harsh or too bright, hang a sheer curtain in front of the window for a softer glow.

Indoor tip 4: Use a tripod for indoor family photos

Because there is less natural light available indoors, it can be helpful to use a small tripod to keep your phone steady. This will help you get sharp images, even in low-light situations. Want to reduce camera shake even more? Set the timer on your iPhone or use a remote shutter so you aren’t touching your phone at all when you take a photo.

Family photography is a rewarding way to preserve memories while improving your photography skills. Follow our tips and ideas to capture the moments with your family that you want to remember forever.

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About the Author: Michael Johnson

Michael is a landscape photographer based in Sydney, Australia. He has a keen eye for capturing the natural beauty of his surroundings, from sandy beaches to rugged mountains. His work has been exhibited in galleries throughout Australia and has won many awards for its stunning composition and lighting.

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