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Eight tips for great family photos

This informal family photo is one of my treasures, the last photo of the family with my grandmother.
This informal family photo is one of my treasures, the last photo of the family with my grandmother.
Michelle Posey

Thanksgiving is a great time to get the family together and take some family history photos.

Though these photos are not considered "art" by many photography enthusiasts, they are extremely important, and they become more important as the years go by. So while they may not land you in the "interesting" category of Flickr today, in years to come people will scrutinize them and cherish them. What more could you ask?

1. Get it together. Inform the family in advance that you will be bringing your camera to take some group photos. This will at least give them the chance of dressing nicely and fixing their hair.

2. Have a good lineup. You will need to direct people a little bit. Older relatives can, and probably should, be in chairs in the front of the group. Children can sit on the ground. If someone is self-conscious about their weight, letting them stand behind a seated person can help them relax. Get everyone to get really close; you are family after all, and it will eliminate gaps in your photo.

3. Bring the tripod. You don't want to be left out of the photos. Bring the tripod and use the timer so you can be included in the family visual history.

4. Light well. Large groups can be difficult to light. The ideal situation for indoor photos is to find a well-lit room without too high of a ceiling, then aim your flash straight up to bounce light off the ceiling. This will help avoid harsh shadows behind your subjects. Use a bounce card to direct more light towards the group. If you don't have a bounce card you can make an emergency one out of an index card and a rubber band. Just fold the index card until it is the same width as your flash and attach it with the rubber band.

5. If the weather is nice, take everyone outside. And, for heaven's sake, don't make them all stare into the sun like the old camera manuals used to suggest. If you can find a shaded area for the photo. Open shade creates some of the best photography light available.

6. If the group is really big, climbing up on a ladder or some other high place and shooting down on them can make a great photo.

7. Have fun. After the stiff "say cheese" photos are done, give everyone the chance to make a funny face, strike a goofy pose, or even make "bunny ears" on their brother in law's head. People tend to reveal their personalities in these photos, and they can be lots of fun to look at later on.

8. Don't stop. When the group photos are over, don't put the camera away. Get some candid shots of the kids, or of grandpa growing animated as he tells his funny watermelon story.