Tips for Getting The Best Family Photos

November 08, 2017

Tips for Getting The Best Family Photos

I don't know about you, but it is nearly impossible for me to get my family together for a decent photo. The funny thing is, I don't know who is harder to get in front of the camera - my wild boys or my camera shy husband! 

But 'tis the season for family pictures, so I turned to Angelina Hills for some tips on getting the most out of family portraits this year. Angelina is a Maui mama to two little ones and a talented photographer. She channels her artful eye into family portraits and also unique photo products that evoke our tropical paradise (like the cute pineapple hat pictured above! He's rocking it with our Pineapple Swaddle and shirt by Sticks + Stones Hawaii).

Whether you're taking photos on your own this year, or have booked time with a professional photographer, read on to learn Angelina's do's and don'ts for getting your family's best shot...

What drew you to photography and how did you get started? 

When I returned home after college I fell into a job as a second shooter for a wedding photographer. From the moment I picked up the camera, I was in love.  I have always considered myself to be artistic and as a child I had wished to be an artist when I grew up.  Having a camera in my hands brought out that creative side in me again but in a new form. 

Second shooting was a nice way to learn the basics of photography without the pressure of being the main wedding photographer. I was there to capture the little details and find artistic angles and candid moments. After about two years of working under another photographer, I decided it was time for me to purchase my own camera. I started taking photos for friends and family in hopes to build my portfolio and branch off to build a business for myself. My passion for photography was strong and fueled me with the courage to push myself and believe that I was capable of working for myself. 

Did you find that your approach to photography changed after becoming a mom? If so, how? 

I always loved taking photos of children. So when it came time to have my own little ones, I'd say I just got a little more obsessed with getting them all dolled up and doing my own little photoshoots with them. Being a mom does give me more of an understanding of how difficult it can be to get a child to listen during a photo shoot. You really need a lot of patience and energy in photographing children...but when you get that great shot it is all so worth the effort!

With the holidays approaching, family photos are on everyone’s mind. While some will get professional photos taken, others will take pictures on their own, usually on a smartphone. What are some "Do's" and "Don'ts" we should keep in mind when trying to take family photos? 


*Look for good light: early morning or late afternoon are usually the best times to take photos. If you're going to shoot in the middle of the day, look for somewhere with shade. 

*Choose a simple background such as a grassy lawn, forest trees or a plan colored wall.  You don't want a lot of distracting objects or things in the frame of your photo as you want your subject to be the main focus. 

*Be sure to make it fun for your child so you can get their real smiles. This might mean telling them some silly jokes or dangling a favorite toy near your camera...for very little ones a squeaky toy really helps to get their attention. 


Don't try to take photos of your child if they are not in a good's no fun for either of you!  

What tips would you share for families who are getting professional portraits done? 

*Choose simple color coordinated outfits. You don't want clothing with a lot of's ok if say the girls are wearing floral dresses but then have the boys in a plan colored shirt and pants otherwise it's too busy and you loose focus on the family as a whole. 

* Pinterest can be a great tool for finding inspiration from other family photoshoots that you like or for outfit ideas. I also suggest sharing your desires with your photographer so they have a clear understanding of what you are looking for. Some people prefer candid natural looking shots while others really want to make sure they get that family photo where everyone is looking right at the camera. You can also take a better look at your photographers website and screen shot a few photos you really like as reminders to show them.

* Make sure your child is well rested and fed before taking photos. The last thing you want is a tired hungry child at a photo shoot as it becomes 100 times more difficult to get them to look at the camera and smile. 

* Be on time, if you arrive late you will feel frazzled and you won't get all that you deserve out of your session. 

As you know, shooting with little ones can be tough! What tricks do you use to keep a little one happy and cooperative during a shoot?  

Good question! I think bringing something your child loves does help - whether it's a doll, blankie, or even pacifier. Although you probably don't want these things in your main family shot, they can be sweet in candid solo shots of your child and can help keep them calm and happy in between shots. I often find myself dancing a doll or stuffed animal over my camera to get a child to look at my lens. 

Bribery, although it's not ideal, it does help to get through a photo shoot. I don't recall a photo shoot with a child where I didn't hear some kind of bribery. Candy or their favorite treat mentioned several times throughout the session seems to help keep those little ones motivated! 

I also like to let kids run free for the last part of a session or even for a few minutes half way through if I feel like I'm loosing their attention. Letting them play for a few moments often makes it easier to get them back into a final family photo without being too burnt out. 

Sometimes I'll bring bubbles to create some fun candid moments...what child doesn't like bubbles, right?  

Similarly, do you have any tips for capturing pictures of moving targets, like little ones who never stay still?

With little ones I suggest being active with them. Take them by the hands and swing them or toss them in the air a few times. This movement keeps them close to you and usually brings out a fun smile for an awesome shot. You can also put them up on your shoulders or hang them upside down.  

If your child is loosing steam, you can also play a game like peek a boo, hide'n seek (behind a tree) or tag depending on the age of the children . 

For toddlers, I suggest bringing a prop they might sit down to play with, like a bucket and shovel or a favorite little toy. You can also bring a small book if they like reading and just sit there and read to them for a short period. 


For more information about Angelina, check out:

Aloha Portraits 


Angelina Hills 



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