Tips for Photographing Family Gatherings

You have lots of "smile and pose (or mug) for the camera" photos of family and maybe a few selfies, but you want to remember more about your next family gathering. You want to create time traveling images that will help you remember how it felt. Here are a few tips to make your photographs of the family events and traditions memorable and tell an authentic story.

boy in Santa Hat using laptop📷Hold your phone or camera horizontally.

Why? This is how we naturally see, and when we see a horizontal photograph, it feels more real. 

📷Don't ask people to smile or pose.

Let your family know that you are going to be taking candids and they can relax.

📷Pick a subject and a story.

By subject I mean a person--or two--or an action. This may seem obvious, but the more intent you have in the images you make, the more powerful they are for the viewer and the more memories you'll inspire.

📷Anticipate moments.

The kids have been playing tag or tossing the football while dinner cooks. Mom and Grandma are making pies in the kitchen, having some wine and laughing. People tend to repeat behaviors--especially kids, so get your camera ready and wait for it--that moment when someone fumbles the ball or turns the corner or throws their head back and laughs at a joke.

📷Tell a mini-story in 3-6 images.  

If you were telling your family story through images to someone else, how would you do it? This is a great way to capture a family tradition, like baking cookies or decorating. Try capturing 3-6 images that tell a mini-story from your gathering. For example: 

Large to Small (overall scene--close up of person--detail shot)
everyone piemaking in the kitchen | Mom rolling dough | Grandma's hands crimping the crust

rolling the dough | pies going in the oven | eating pie 

Around Thanksgiving, our family starts making Grandmom's famous fudge to give as gifts.
I typically help by taking photos and eating the fudge.

📷Get in the picture.

You've photographed everyone else, now hand your phone or camera to someone and ask them to take photos of you.

📷Relax and enjoy the moment.

Be sure to put away the camera and play tag, and have some wine, or fudge, or pie, and a laugh.

📷Don't forget to get your photos off your camera, save them, and share with your family. 

Save your images on an external hard drive and in the cloud. Don't rely on your laptop, your phone, or social media to save or share your images! Phones and laptops don't last forever. Kids aren't on the same social media as parents, and images can be compressed and lost. 

If you have a quick slideshow option with you on your laptop or computer, what about an old school family slideshow in person? Or make photobooks and give them as gifts. 

Have you ever tried a storytelling approach with your family gathering? How did it go? Let me know in the comments.


  1. Super informative post, Diana. I love photographing family gatherings. I tend to focus my lens mostly on the kids during these get togethers, but this season I'm going to focus more on capturing the adults.

    1. Thanks Kaleen! For a long time I focused on the kids as well, but I agree it's important to get the adults in the photo.


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