“What greater thing is there for human souls than to feel that they are joined for life – to be with each other in silent unspeakable memories.”  –  Mary Anne Evans (George Eliot)

A portrait should be intensely about you. As most people would prefer, the reflection you and your photographer create together should depict you, but on a really good day. Anything else is rubbish.

By far, the most popular family portrait we take is outdoors. We agree. It’s difficult to pass up on beaches and mountains, blue skies and puffy white clouds. Keep in mind, this is called environmental portraiture. You and your family will share the stage with nature. Be aware that these images are gorgeous, but your details get diminished as viewer will be drawn to the scenery as well. Formula is less you, more mountains.

We get a lot of use from our studio too, especially during the cooler months. Studio results are always perfect as we choose exactly the light we want, but more over we can isolate you from distractions such as beautiful, majestic mountains. Even though you will occupy the same amount of the frame, the result is the viewer will be drawn to your faces first and primarily. This is pure portrait. Or…intensely you.

family portrait. studio portrait
monochrome, studio portrait

Read on, dear photograph-able one and we’ll tell you secrets! No matter how good your photographer, no matter how many gizmos with buttons they present and no matter how authoritatively they press those buttons, ultimately it’s you in front of the lens. There are still things you can do to help yourself ensure a terrific image you’ll love for years. Some of these things seem so obvious, but post shoot editing experience tells us some things slip through once in a while and some you’d never think of that might help a lot.

What to wear? Remember how we were talking about putting focus on your faces? We suggest one way to do that is similar clothing. If one person is in shorts, it looks better if everyone is in shorts. If one of you is barefoot, all of you barefoot is better. Why these seemingly dumb suggestions? What? You demand 4 good reasons?! Okay…

#1 – By dressing in similar garb it lends a unity to the image. You all look like members of the same clan. Believe us; three people all dressed the same is cute. If your clan has fifty people, onlookers wonder if you’re an invasion! You will have more impact than being individually dressed. Your outfits can be as simple as white shirts and jeans for casual. By white shirts we mean anything from teeshirts from button ups.

high key portrait, studio portrait, 4 sisters portrait

family portrait, remote portrait

#2 – By dressing similarly the viewer is more likely to look at the faces in the picture and less at clothes. This is what the picture is all about! You! Are you sensing a pattern in this blog?

#3 – White shirts are timeless. That means in fifty years your portrait will still be valid. If you don’t know what we mean, take a look at any prom picture from the 70’s and know that we have never made the mistake of powder blue tuxedos again. Trust us! Just hair styles are enough to time your image. If you are too young to remember or out of self preservation have blocked this from your mind we suggest you perform a search for “big hair” “shag cuts” or “mullets”.  See what we mean?

sisters portrait, studio portrait

family portrait, beach portrait,

#4 – Everyone can find a white shirt. Everyone looks good in white. If you don’t have one, a teeshirt is easily the least expensive article of clothing you’ll ever own. Of course, this is just a suggestion. You may feel this isn’t your style. If your family is a mix of strong personalities, playing that individuality up with particular clothing items works just as fine as well. It may lose it’s timeless charm someday, but it’s a great slice of your current lives and that’s just as valid.

If you’ve taken the time to consider your clothes for a shoot, you helped make your portrait a little bit better – perhaps raise it to the next level. Did you know what you wear can absolutely break an image? With that in mind, here’s the ‘forbidden’ list:

#1 Bright colours! There are places for bright colours. We believe they belong more on a parrot than in a family portrait. Nothing should shine more than your smiles. More importantly, bright coloured shirts can also reflect onto the bottom of your chin. Nobody wants a green tinted chin! Red tends to bring out any redness or ruddiness in your face. If you have red eyes or blemishes red shirts really help that stand out. If you must wear hues,  we recommend pastels.

#2 Stripes: Just don’t! Unless you want to make a geometric impact we strongly would like to dissuade you from this. At best they are distracting. At worst they can create a moire effect.

moirre efect

#3 Logos or shirts with texts or pictures…unless everyone is in the same shirts and it’s a company picnic…and you have to because the CEO is looking. By wearing clothing with text, all eyes will first look at what the words say.  Portraits by definition are about you, not a brand name or cute quip.

parrot face, parrot

Your photographer and you both want the same thing: A really great image of you. For us, it’s an ego thing. Our deepest fantasies see us winning the Pulitzer Prize for your family portrait. Closer to reality, we just want you tickled with our work.  A sensitive area to cover is personal grooming. Yes, once in a while in post production we have to fix a few things for you. Sometimes a fix isn’t possible. You should know our lenses are very good and catch everything. Here’s a list of the kind of thing that gets through once in a while.


#1 Stray nose hair can be difficult to fix post shoot. Same for a patch of face the razor missed.

#2 Everyone has good hair days and bad. Sometimes your hair is best right after washing, sometimes it’s day two. Everyone is different. Time that into your shoot date. If you sport a crew cut, never mind.

#3 Fingernails and toenails should be touched up, painted and/or clean. Many times, A barefoot family shoot looks better than shoes or just socks. Usually feet match. It only takes one person to wear fuchsia or striped socks to ruin things! Remember; every bit of attention that is on somebody’s feet is a bit of attention that is not on your faces.

#4 If you are one for getting your hair done, do it before as opposed to after your shoot. It is good practice to bring a comb or brush.

bluebird, blue bird, steller's Jay

dirty dog, dog, dogface

#5 Yes…your teeth will be in that smile. It could be – so will that bit of lunch! Be aware of it. When meeting a large group of people, your photographer might miss it. Angel Studio has a washroom and make up lights. Bring your own toothpaste and brush if concerned.

#6 Still in doubt? Then you’re most likely a man. Seek feminine opinions.

If you are a photographer and you want to stay in business, you have to move with the times! We are not the same industry your great grandparent’s used. Your photographer also has to be pretty handy with photoshop. Don’t kid yourself: ALL professional images pass through photoshop! We always try to keep it to a minimum. Pimples and temporary blemishes are removed. Moles usually stay.  They are part of your facial landscape that people get to know as part of you. Speaking of facial landscape, if you wear glasses all the time, do wear them for your portrait. We will place the focus on your eyes, but many frames are rendered useless due to glare on glasses. To cure this problem as best as possible, make sure they are squeaky-clean.

We hope you found this article useful. It was written in the tone of “sit up straight, shoulders back and say cheese”. We think everybody in the family should be happy with family portraits. We don’t want to leave one person unhappy.