How to Take the Perfect Family Photo

Make the most out of your family photo session.

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Action! It’s time to put some of those camera-ready makeup tips to use. Now that your appearances are picture perfect, it’s time to make sure you know how to pose, where to look, and what to do with the kids during a family photo session.

1. Smile with your eyes

“We’ve all seen those photos where someone is smiling but their eyes are just dead, and it doesn’t look genuine,” says Chevy Chase-based photographer Emily Weiss. Take yourself to a happy place by thinking about a really joyful moment.

Or create one: Instead of getting stiff, grab your kids and hug them or act silly. “If there’s true happiness in the moment, you can see that, whether you’re smiling or not,” Weiss says.

2. Don’t face the camera with your body

The easiest way to look thinner? Stand at a 45-degree angle to the camera, one foot in front of the other with one shoulder facing the camera, says Julie Fischer McCarter, a Leesburg-based photographer. “Put your weight on your back leg and hip, and don’t forget to stand up straight.”

3. Define your jawline

Even if you don’t have a turkey neck, the wrong head position can leave your chin seeing double. Elongate your neck (as if a string is pulling your head upward), then lean down slightly with your forehead only, and tip your chin slightly out and down, says Weiss.

Expect this to feel a bit unnatural at first, but trust us, it’s worth feeling like an ostrich!

4. Sit up straight

Your mother was right about this one, but there’s a little more to it when posing for photos.

“Of course you don’t want to slump, but it’s also important not to settle back into the chair, which will squash your legs and make you look heavier,” says Weiss. Instead, sit sideways on the edge, putting weight on your back butt cheek. Keep shoulders down, forehead forward, and chin slightly down toward your shoulder for a streamlined silhouette.

5. Know where to look

Chances are, most of your vacation photos will be snapped with a smartphone, but instead of looking at the phone, look at the camera in the phone to ensure that you’re really making eye contact, says Crowder. If you’re using a traditional camera, look just above the lens.

6. Be conscious of your arms

When posing with a group, don’t wrap an arm around the person on either side; this can make you look wider than you really are. “Keep one hand free, down by your side, or even resting on the shoulder of the person next to you,” says Crowder.

To keep upper arms from appearing heavier, Fischer McCarter recommends creating space between them and your torso by slightly moving elbows out.

7. Don’t have unrealistic expectations for your kids

“The photos you’ll love years from now document your family as you really are, not what you’re forcing them to be for a picture,” says McCarter. So relax, and let your kids be, well, kids.

8. Pay attention to lighting

To avoid harsh, unflattering shadows on your face (especially around the eyes), avoid looking into direct sunlight. If you must, Annapolis-based photographer Heather Crowder suggests you throw on sunglasses—not only do they instantly up your chic quotient, but they hide your squinty, mascara-less peepers.

9. Shoot down, not up

Not even supermodels look their best if the camera is looking up at them. Keep it slightly higher than eye level to get the most flattering angle, advises McCarter. Eyes also look bigger and brighter when you’re looking at something above you.