How to Shoot a Family Portrait

You’ve seen those perfect family portraits where everyone is dressed up in their Sunday best, not a hair is out of place and everyone is smiling like they’d just won the lottery, right?

How do you get that result?

Actually, I don’t know. But I can walk you through how we got as close as we’re ever going to get.

Here are the gory details in 7 minutes 46 seconds

It was a family Easter Sunday

The whole West Palm Beach Steinhoff Clan gathered at Ken and Lila’s for Easter egg hunting, dinner, biking and swimming.

I was ready for a nap when Son Matt hauled out his Nikon D700

Matt, AKA Farmer Matt, herded us out to a shady spot in the backyard that was cluttered with debris from our recent construction project. Thecast of players included Matt’s wife Sarah, their 4-year-old son Malcolm, Son Adam and his wife, Carly, Mom and Dad.

Photographers don’t get any respect

Poor Matt tried hard, but our family is a tough act. It didn’t help that Dad decided that the whole process should be documented with his new Canon FS100 video camera.

photo-1Take One

After much hauling of cinder blocks, moving of debris, cajoling and threatening, Picture One was taken with a self-timer.

Matt didn’t like it

Malcolm wasn’t looking at the camera.

Steinhoff Easter Sunday Take TwoTake Two

He didn’t like this one, either. He wasn’t happy with the some of the expressions.  (Malcolm’s still not looking at the camera and he’s got that Are-We-Done-Yet? look that the rest of us feel, but mask.)

photo-3Take Three

This time everyone has a great expression. Malcolm is looking into the camera and giving a perfectly adorable smile.

What’s not to love about this?

Oh, Mom has her eyes closed.

Time to do it again

While Matt is futzing around trying to convince us that I’m the only one going to be eligible for Social Security before this is done, he notices our bemused backyard neighbor watching the proceedings.

photo-final“Hey, can you push a button?”

Despite all the ways that perching a six-year-old on a concrete block so he’d be tall enough to push the shutter release could be a bad idea, the result wasn’t bad.

At least by the standards of folks who wanted to move on to biking, swimming and napping. It might not be art, but it’s as close as you’re going to get with this group.

[Disclaimer: No actual family members (or neighbors) were injured in the making of this photograph.]

13 Replies to “How to Shoot a Family Portrait”

  1. This was very funny! I loved seeing the pics and the video side by side. We have the same issues in our family with getting everyone together. Once time my mom and sister and I built a progressively higher tower with tissue boxes, books, dvd’s paper etc to take a pic of the three of us. We havent had a back yard incident like this though. I loved just the interaction of the family, seeing the neighbour kids and all the beach sand! It reminds me how far from the sea I live. Thanks for sharing it. Jenny-Lee, Johannesburg RSA

  2. Jenny,

    Glad you enjoyed it. I’m sure we’ll appreciate watching more in the future than we did while doing it.

    We’re about two miles from the beach, but the only way we’re going to see green in our yard is if I spray the sand with paint.

  3. Funny!The last photo is perfect.Everybody put smile on their face. In photography, one shot is not really enough, it takes tow or three or even up to a dozens of shots to get a good one. That was a nice experience. :)

  4. I really enjoyed reading this, Ken! I was almost hoping you’d never get the perfect shot! ;)

  5. haha so nice, cute and funny. Why making themselves difficult wherein fact there is another way to shoot. hehe, but.. in fairness all of the result from take 1 to the last was good and perfect. even if some are closing their eyes. hehe

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