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Do-it-Yourself Family Photos

No one knows your family quite like you do - a reality you can use to your advantage. You have a unique ability to capture your family as you know them - how they truly are. Personalities, quirks, and attributes of a family can easy get lost when working with a professional. They don't have the same long-term and close relationship with your family that you have. You know your family and they trust you. Use this reality to your advantage.

In this article, we discuss key steps to taking professional looking family photos from a do-it-yourself perspective, no matter your experience or skill level. Let's get started!


Photo by Anna Caitlin. Edited with Luxe Sip of Cider Presets.

Research Phase

It always pays to know what you want out of your portraits. When planning holiday or family portraits with a professional photographer, things like coordinated outfits, stages, themes, poses, and even props are typically discussed when planning your shoot These considerations can be just as important to integrate into your do-it-yourself photo shoots. Also consider formality preference in relation to shooting style, environment, and dress.

Shooting style - Are you wanting your portraits to be more whimsical or more traditional? Posed or candid?
Environment - Outside or inside? Thoughtfully designed set up like the front steps or living room sofa or documentary-style and authentic? 
Dress – Formal, coordinated outfits like color themes, patterns, matching tees, or pajamas? Or casual looks with typical-day attire? 

While considering some of these preferences, we recommend browsing some portrait inspo on Instagram or Facebook and saving your favorites for quick reference. The planned set-up should reflect the personality and temperament of your family and not what you think others are doing. But a little inspiration never hurts!   

Once you know what sort of image you want, you’ll also need to determine if you’ll be shooting with a tripod, which will ensure you'll be shown in the image. 

Quick Tip: If using a tripod be sure you have a blue-tooth or wireless remote set-up or else you’ll be trying to outrun a timer.


Photo By Danielle Navratil. Edited with Brixton Film Oak & Ivy Presets.


Once you know what you want, consider the practicality of shooting in that environment. Be it a set-up you created or a pre-existing space, there will be associated lighting conditions and external factors that influence your shoot. Proper lighting is particularly important for a family photo. 

If planning for a shoot indoors, take note of any fixtures, like plants or furniture, that throw funny shadows. Additionally, track what times of day the indoor or outdoor space gets different types of natural light. Aim for soft, diffuse, natural light whenever possible. When the light is right, you can create a magical shot just about anywhere. 

It is also important to be sure you are familiar with what time the sun sets so you're never in the position to outrun the clock, especially when aiming for golden light.(Don't know? Google "Sunset" and you should get sunset/sunrise times for your location and today's date). 

Quick Tip: Take sample photos of the intended space at different times of day to compare lighting differences before setting the time for your shoot. A stuffed animal or large object can easily serve as a stand-in for people.  

Location, Location, Location

Ideally you'll want to choose a location where everyone feels comfortable and natural. The home or a familiar space is best, but don't be afraid of a natural setting or a cute, local spot. An adorable, local farm or a nearby arboretum that's decked out for the holidays are two fun examples. Just be sure to make sure the area will be open, easily accessible, and available to you on the day and time you plan to shoot. 


Set it Up

Whether indoors or outdoors, with an elaborate set-up or no set-up at all, coordination is key. Before wrangling your family for the shoot, make sure that everything you want is in its place and everything you don’t is removed or easily disguised.

Be as confident in your environment as you want your family to be. A family often senses the energy of their photographer - even if they're related!  If you're anxious about how everything looks, you likely won’t be alone in the feeling for very long, and it may show up in your photos. Proper planning is an important aspect of avoiding uncertainty and anxiety tied to the set-up of your family shoot. 

Once you've set-up your environment, it's time to set-up your family. If shooting outdoors, make sure that the sun is located behind your family and there is no additional light that strains their eyes. Additionally, pay attention to shadows. Harsh lighting often results in a harsh-looking image. 

Outdoors, you’ll want to position your family and self in the shadow or shade facing out to avoid unflattering direct sunlight. If indoors, with a prominent window as a light source, position so that features are evenly lit and not contoured in shadow. Eyes should be bright and clear. On a cloudy day, light will be diffuse and more flattering, so positioning can be more relaxed. Here, focus on facing toward the light and illuminating features.

If wearing coordinated outfits, dress your family members as close to the shoot as possible to avoid discomfort and/or unplanned accidents. Be sure to space out patterns or matching colors so that no one blends into anyone else or gets washed out/camouflaged into the surroundings. Be ready to let go of some aspects of planning in order to capture special moments or shining personalities. 


Photo by Bree Friesen. Edited with Luxe On The Farm Presets.

Always Take a Test Shot

Whether shooting with a DSLR or an iPhone, you’ll want to make sure that your camera lens is clean and clear, that your settings are just-right, and that everything you so painstakingly set-up (including your people) fits in the frame. The best way to do this? A test shot.

Quick Tip: Encourage everyone be silly, casual and relaxed. This isn't the final product, so having everyone tense, posed, and ready in the testing phase may be overkill. 


Photo by Beth Philippidis. Edited with Brixton Film Cinematic Presets.

Pose and Shoot

As much as possible make it playful, make it fun, and make it authentic. Whether formal or candid, you want to make everyone feel at ease. The best photos from the pros come from clients that are comfortable and confident. Especially for posed group shots, you'll want to be aware of your family's comfort levels. If the kids are fidgety or a family member is lacking confidence in their appearance, these things should be addressed before continuing on with the shoot.

When working with kids, let them run around until it's showtime or decide to let go of the reigns a little and capture them being wild. For the adult, teenager, or older child hesitant to be captured, try changing the subject. Take a light and easy approach to take any focus of their fear of being photographed. Compliment them, and gently direct them. Or ask for their opinion or guidance on the set-up of the shoot. 

Quick Tip: If you follow any photographers on social media it may be time to see if they offer any posing guides or videos. these sort of guides and tips are usually much more helpful than just trying to re-create what you saw in a snap on Instagram or Pinterest. 

It's especially helpful to understand that a good family portrait can be snapped in seconds. So if everyone is feeling good and you're able to quickly arrange everyone, there shouldn't be too much time to feel self-conscious or to worry about expressions faltering (If you're worried about how this might work, try a test run the week before). 


Photo by Stephanie Jones. Edited with Light & Airy Portraits Presets.


Didn’t Go as Planned?

 The most rewarding and timeless family photography is usually not the perfectly coordinated and posed glamour shot of old, but those in which the family members are relaxed into themselves. Tensely strained smiles and sweaty brows from trying to get everything just-right have been replaced with genuine smiles, joy, and laughter. As in life, your shoot may not go as planned. You may try your best, but fail to get your desiredly perfect family shot. If this happens, don't feel discouraged. Even the most seasoned professional photographers have shoots that feel off.  We recommend giving it another go. But this time, take a more casual approach. Casual shots are often referred to as story or documentary photography. This is an especially effective option when working with children, pets, or finicky teens. Never tried? Simply get on their level, make it playful and capture them in their element. Authentic is the new posed. Still meeting some resistance? Put the camera in the hands or your child or teen and ask them to capture what they see. You may be surprised by what their shots reveal. 


Photo by Brittany Miller. Edited with ColorMade Raindrops on Roses Lightroom Presets

Make Magic in Editing

You got your shot. What now? While easily overlooked, the editing phase can be what transforms a decent photo into a great one. From a good crop and frame, to perfecting light and dispelling shadows, applying stylistic toning, and even whimsical special effects, the editing stage is quite literally where the magic happens. Want a professional edit but don’t know where to start? That’s where our handy-dandy presets, actions, and overlays come in.

Presets provide quick, stress-free, full edit solutions at the click of a button for desktop and mobile users alike. Photoshop actions put you in the driver's seat in providing a more involved pixel-level workflow and many more whimsical editing options, while still saving heaps of time. Overlays are especially great if wanting to add some atmosphere or special effects to your images, be it dancing snow, falling leaves, fantasy fairy lights, glitter, or fog. These editing solutions can also be especially great for seasonal or themed portraits. Seasonally themed collections provide the perfect mood and tone to your image.

Want to surprise mom, dad, or grands with a unique photo gift this upcoming mother's, father's or grandparents day? Transform an existing photo with our Watercolor actions following this easy guide! 

Don't know the first thing about editing or have questions about how specific products types work and interact? Check out our Help Center & Blog or reach out to our dedicated support team at

Photo by Kim Kelsey. Edited with Luxe Watercolor Actions & More!

Print Away! 

Once you've captured and edited your DIY family photo, you'll want to move on to thinking about printing. For this, be sure to export any images intended for print at full resolution, and not web-size, so that you don't experience stretch, blur, or grain in the final product. Once you have a print-ready image, you can start thinking about y print options and whether or not you want to print your photos as-is or transform them into cards! 

If you're thinking "I did this whole photo shoot myself, why would I now pay for someone else to design and print the card??", you may just consider creating your own template or trying our easy-to-use Holiday Card templates. You can simply drag, drop, mask and save your print-ready card to print from the comfort of your own home, the local drug store, grocery store, or print shop. 

You've Got This

If you find yourself unable to budget a professional this year-or simply want to try your hand at capturing your family in a way that only you can-we believe in you! It is still possible to get a professional-looking family photo without working directly with a professional. 

In this article, we've provided you with a set of tools to recreate professional family portraits from the comfort of your home. When it comes to your next family photos? You've got this.