Last Updated: Jan 19, 2017
Family photos are perfect for introducing a new member of the family or simply as a remembrance for times gone by and all the great stories you share. For photos of large families, or those encompassing the full extended family, they can serve as a focal point in the room, as part of a gallery wall or you may even consider printing them and sending to all family members as a keepsake.
However, with everyone’s difficult schedules, it’s very rare that your whole family has the time to come together in one place to take the ideal shot. Therefore, if you want to create a fun family photo, start by making a plan to gather everyone together. Logistics like locations, what everyone will wear and potential themes and poses work best when decided in advance. But not to worry, we’ve outlined the best large family photo ideas to help you every step of the way.
After you’ve taken your photos be sure to order digital prints to give to every member of the family!
Large Family Photo Wardrobe
One of the first steps in setting up your large family photo is going to be coordinating clothing for your big group. When you look at similar large family photos online, one thing that truly separates professional looking pieces from amateurish attempts is a cohesive quality in clothing. When people are wearing anything they want, the photo can seem disjointed or distracting.
You might choose to have the family prepare to wear exactly the same clothes to create this feeling. Be sure to give a thought to comfort and convenience. Make the uniform something that everyone already likely owns, like a white button down shirt and jeans.
When picking a color, use the location for your guide. For example, light whites or pastels look great on the beach, because they work well with the tan sand and blue sea. Dark colors look lovely in studio, but can weigh a picture down in an outdoor location.
However, it’s not always necessary for the family to be wearing the exact same thing in a large family portrait to create a feeling of cohesiveness. Choose two colors (three at the most) and ask each member of the family to wear any type of combination they wish. Try a palette of fall colors for a lovely outdoor shot when the leaves are changing. Or go with neutral pastels for a beach shot to match the tan sand and blue sky.
Color schemes that coordinate work just as well as matching outfits and allow each family member some flexibility in their personal style while staying connected to each other.
Either way you decide to go, you’ll always want to keep the weather in mind. After all, getting the right shot might take longer than you think, and if you are standing outside, it’s imperative for everyone to be comfortable—from a warm summer beach photo shoot or a wintry outdoor landscape.
Choosing the Right Location
The best large family photo ideas are centered around a venue. Always keep in mind which members of the family are going to be in the picture. A secluded forest spot might be tough for elderly relatives to reach. You’ll also want to make sure that you pack suntan lotion or bug spray, if necessary, and definitely snacks, water and special treats to bribe little ones into smiling. Here are a few ideas if you want to go with classic large family photo locations.
On a Bridge
There’s something about a bridge that speaks to the span of generations and the testament of time. Covered bridges are rustic and classic venues if you want to tell a story of cozy togetherness, particularly in the fall. Bridges also allow the extra space for some silly family photos, like a jumping, action shot. For a wide shot of the family in a row, be sure to choose a bridge wide enough to show everyone.
In a Field
An expansive green or forest glen is another popular location for large family portraits, particularly if your family has a tradition of meeting together to hike or camp in the outdoors.
If you are looking to create visual interest, one trick is to bring a piece of fine furniture, such as a chaise or plush chair, into the field. Not only does this give the photo some juxtaposition, it is a convenient place to sit for relatives who need to rest their feet.
On a Beach
Surf and sand immediately fills your large family photo with the festive atmosphere of a vacation. Make sure your clothing on the beach is appropriately light in both color and in cloth; white linens and khakis or pastel colored shirts work well. And, of course, bare feet only.
While it’s tempting to get an expanse of the water in the background when you set up on a beach, be careful. The background of rolling waves can be distracting and overwhelm your picture when the focus should be on your family. Usually, just the hint of a beachfront, a sand dune or palm tree is perfect for setting the stage.
Up the Steps
Stairs make an ideal setting for a large family picture, because you can easily arrange the whole family in levels. This means that everyone can get in the picture without awkward posing. Additionally, the stairwell creates tiers that automatically give a photo visual interest.
If you’re feeling traditional, perhaps find a building with a nice stone façade featuring a colonnade. These columns create a natural border to frame the photograph. Grand indoor stairwells are great for producing a visual sweep.
Or, consider taking a photo on the steps of a family home. From that vantage, it’s possible to create a comfortable scene that will bring back memories of summer evenings playing cards and relaxing together as a family.
Large Family Photo Poses
When thinking about what exact poses will work well, consider logistics. Don’t force family members into awkward positions that they will have to hold for a long time. Another tip to remember when posing your family—children get heavy if they have to be held for too long, and they have short attention spans. Get the shot as fast as you can if little ones are involved.
Grouping family members in a studio or on a stairwell is a classic for a reason, but formality doesn’t mean you have to be serious. Smiling faces give a large family portrait a sense of the happiness that is shared throughout your home.
Clothing-wise, a formal pose usually calls for something nicer—a jacket and tie for men and dresses for women. Again, it is important to coordinate colors and with formal poses. In this instance, a darker color scheme is best.
A Fun Pose
You want to smile every time you look at your large family photo. A playful pose takes all the stodginess out of some photo shoots and projects the atmosphere of a fun-loving group.
To bring out the fun in your photo shoot, find aspects of your environment that create visual excitement, such as throwing leaves in fall or tossing snowballs in winter. Finding fun poses is about capturing your family in the moment, which means letting everyone be a little more creative with their expressions. Even if you have a formal shoot scheduled, be sure to take at least one “fun” family photo as a break from a formal sitting—you might find it’s your favorite.
A large family photo may take longer than you think. To keep people from getting cranky, don’t have your photo be the only event. Instead, build the shoot around another occasion like a dinner, reunion or vacation. Set a specific time as “shooting time” and have a party beforehand, along with food and drinks. Remember, the atmosphere should inspire everyone to smile and look refreshed in the photos.
How to Arrange the Family
Don’t leave the placement of your family in the photo to the last minute. Consider beforehand who is coming and where and how they should stand, keeping your shooting location in mind. One surefire way to cause tension in a large family portrait session is to improvise arrangements at the last minute. Draw up a quick map with stick figures and have a few different configurations thought out before guests arrive.
Separating Kids and Parents
Putting all the children together in the foreground often balances the picture, as the shortest family members are up front. However, some younger children away from their parents might get restless, and that means a headache during the shoot.
Family branches grouped together make it easier to tell the story of the picture to visitors and usually mean some breathing room. When dealing with children, this arrangement lets parents keep hold of their kids so they don’t squirm as much during shots.
Large family photos require a great deal of planning and decision-making in advance to get the best possible shots. However, the hard work will pay off when the photo shoot is stress-free and the picture makes you smile every time you look at it.
Whether playing in the sand on a beach or capturing the kids in their Sunday best in a studio, you want your photo to tell the story of your family together. Make it one that earns a special place in your heart and on your hearth, bringing back all your favorite memories again and again—including that one about the family picture sessions that went smoothly.