How to Light Family Portraits

The lighting in family portraits falls under the same rules of group photography. You're trying to light everyone evenly while eliminating harsh shadows on faces and bodies. This can be achieved with soft, powerful lighting.

Step 1: Develop a Strategy

You don't need a lot of lights to pull of a family portrait. Two strong lights should be enough to get you started. Ideally these lights should have soft boxes or chimeras mounted to them so the light will be spread out and diffused.

You can also bounce the light into a silver umbrella but that will be harsher than using the soft boxes.

The stands should be raised high with the lights shinning down. This will minimize the shadows your camera will see and keeps them on the floor. You're camera should also be positioned so the shadows are out of frame.

Another reason to have your lights soft and high in the air is that you don't want to blind your subjects. No one likes to be in a picture they're squinting in.

If your studio has a grid then you should mount a few lights above where the subjects will stand to evenly light your backdrops while keeping that light off your family. Make sure the lights have safeties tied to them to avoid falling down.

Step 2: Set Everything Up Safely

When you're shooting family portraits you need to realize that children are going to be constantly streaming through your studio. Some of these kids are not going to be well behaved and could quite possibly run around, bumping into your lights. A stand raised high with Chimeras is going to be top heavy and could tip over easily.

Make sure that you throw enough sand bags on your light stands so they won't fall over and hurt some one. It is your responsibility to prevent accidents.

Step 3: Get the Family to Stand In

Now with the lights in their general positions it's time to bring the family in. Block them so everyone is visible and prominent. Unless the family requests it, don't have any of the kids standing on boxes to make them look taller than they are. Most parents want family portraits so they can preserve this moment in time .

Step 4: Make Sure Everyone is Evenly Exposed

With everyone in place now it's time to adjust your lights to make sure everyone is covered with an equal amount of light. Raise and pan your lights as needed to achieve this.

Step 5: Shoot

Now with your lights set up it's time to shoot away.

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