Smile For The Camera!

Smile For The Camera!
A family photo, or a photo of the children and family pets, makes a wonderfully personal festive gift.
But capturing the image so that it looks good enough to print can be tricky. With so many 'perfect' images flooding our social media pages we can feel under pressure to create an image that is worth of 'the gram'.
Shaun Flannery, professional photographer, who has over twenty years' experience capturing photos of celebs, sporting heroes and everything from boats to babies, shares a few hints and tips for you to get the perfect shot at home and will make recipients of cards and presents smile fondly.
Fun or formal?
First of all, and before you get started, it's important to decide what type of picture with you like to capture. Is it a fun one that shows off the crazy size of your family or are you looking for a more formal affair?
Both can look hugely effective but it is worth remembering that if you have children and/or pets taking part in the photo shoot, that a fun photo may be a little easier to achieve.
You also need to decide if there is going to be a theme or dress code and choose where you are going to take the photo. Will it be in the family living room, the local park or another pre-determined venue?
Animals and offspring
They say never work with children and animals and certainly not together, but when it comes to a family photo everyone will be involved!
The key to success is to make it fun and let them dictate the pace of the shoot. Let the children have their toys and as an owner of a cocker spaniel, I know the power of a pocket full of gravy bones when getting the family pooch to sit for just a few seconds to capture that perfect picture!

Location, Location, Location
Indoors or outdoors; what's your preference? Personally, I love to shoot family groups and children and pets outside; it brings a certain element of freedom to the shoot and plenty of opportunities for me to capture those photos that are entirely natural.
This time of year is particularly beautiful for outdoor photography, the weaker sunlight, autumnal colours and striking architecture of trees that have lost their leaves look superb. Or, look for a tumbledown wall or ramshackle gate that everyone can congregate around or stand in front of. Just have the confidence to play around a little bit and take a few shots at different angles and locations. 
To really maximise the effect, try and choose an anchor point for the photo - perhaps a tree or branches, or even probs if the children have a favourite toy that could be incorporated. 
Colour creativity
Perhaps the most common question I get asked is about photos when the participants wear white and are photographed on a white background. This really needs a studio setting to be able to make the most of this effect. This type of image is called a 'low key' image whilst black on black is 'high key' and again can create an amazing visual effect. Again, it's pretty tricky to capture so if some uniformity is required in the photo you could look at getting everyone to wear white tops and blue jeans or something like that as a much more straight forward alternative. If you fancy creating a white background image at home, then you could find a white wall without decorations or simply hanging a white sheet as a background. 
Festive flair
If the photo is to be used as a festive greeting card, perhaps, then adding a little festive flair can be great fun. 
In addition to the obligatory Santa hats ans tinsel, how about creating a festive themes 'frame' which everyone can fit into? Or. you could all dust down your Christmas jumpers for a fun family picture.
And finally, three little tips that always work whether you are professional or not. Try to get the taller people to the edges of the photos and get everyone to lean in slightly to the centre of the photo. This makes the image appear less formal and relaxes everyone which is perfect for capturing a great family photo. And, check your images as you go along, just to make sure that there isn't one person that has their eyes shut or has glanced away, potentially making that perfect image, not quite as good as you would have hoped. 
Have fun creating your own happy memories!