Taking the Perfect Family Photo: Photographers Give Their Advice

By Elizabeth Ohanian

Summer Activities family photos

“You can mix colors together but make sure they relate to each other and don’t distract,” says Zeke Ruelas. PHOTO BY ZEKE RUELAS

With summer under way, families are getting together for barbecues, pool parties and outdoor adventures, and taking advantage of all these summer activities to stage family photos.

Family portraits can get a little stressful, especially since there is always that one person in the group who feels like taking pictures is not for them.

Whether you have little ones who get fussy and don’t want to pose, a relative who gets impatient mid photo shoot, or you simply just don’t know what to wear, there is always a solution.

With the help of Zeke Ruelas, an L.A. Parent cover photographer and family photographer Julie Martin, I’ve put together some essential tips for your family photos this summer.

When deciding on what to wear, start by choosing a color scheme and have everyone coordinate.

But be aware, while coordinating is a great way to make the overall photo look more put together, the days of wearing matching outfits are long gone.

“When I collaborate with my clients on wardrobe,” says Martin, “I like to have a color scheme that flows well together, but I don’t like a ‘matchy’ look for families. I take what they love to wear every day and just tweak it a bit to look harmonious and slightly styled, but not trying too hard.”

Ruelas says that when it comes to wardrobe, the simpler the better. Keep things on the classic side, because you’ll have these photos forever and don’t want to be haunted by poor outfit choices in the future.

“When choosing outfits, I would say keep it simple. Sometimes less is more,” Ruelas says, “For a family of four, let’s say, I would put a couple of people in solid colors, and a couple of people in mellow prints, but have the colors of the clothes work well together so no one is a distraction.”

summer activities family photos

“I think family photos should look effortless and families should feel comfortable in what they are wearing,” says Martin. “Clothing should reflect each person’s own style, but stay within the same color palette.” PHOTO BY JULIE MARTIN

Martin, on the other hand, reminds families to be true to their own tastes. “I don’t like to play it safe with clothing! If your family likes to wear polka dots and plaid every day, then that’s how you should look in your portraits,” she says.

Once you’ve decided on a color scheme and chosen everyone’s outfit, the next aspect of the photo to focus on is the location.

“I’m a fan of natural light, so any location outdoors with natural light is great,” Ruelas says, “Going to a beautiful park with great greenery and flowers is great, or even finding a nice green space in one’s backyard.”

“With my style of ‘everyday’ family photography, any location that the family has a connection to is the best location,” says Martin. “I love photographing families in their own homes, as well as parks that they may frequent or ice cream shops the parents take the kids to on treat days.”

Both photographers prefer that families act natural and don’t pose.

“I love candid shots. Capturing a moment is 10 times more appealing to the eye than a posed shot,” says Ruelas.

“I like to be a fly on the wall and strive to document those special little everyday moments,” says Martin. “When people get lost in those moments, I get the most genuine and beautiful family portraits!”

In the end it all comes down to your personal family dynamic, interests and taste, so don’t stress and just have fun with it!

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