Mastering Family Portrait Photography: Tips and Techniques

By Louise Bagger

Family portrait photography is a cherished art that allows us to freeze moments in time and create lasting memories. Whether it’s a candid shot of a child’s laughter or a formal group portrait, the fundamentals of family portrait photography play a crucial role in capturing the essence of the family bond. After working as a photographer for almost 15 years, I have had the privilege to photograph many families, and indeed seeing families grow. Children, first photographed as toddlers or adolescents, now captured in early adulthood.

I first photographed the Michos family in 2010 on a windy summer morning at Brighton Beach in Adelaide. Fast forward 13 years, and it was time for an update. The initial idea was to return to the scene of the original shoot and attempt to replicate some of the shots taken when their daughters were much smaller and a lot shorter! Time restraints against us, we opted to do the shoot at their beautiful family home. Creativity was the key, as we still wanted to have a go at replicating some of the set-ups.

Understanding the Fundamentals

Location Selection

  • Choose a location that holds significance for the family or complements their personality. It could be their home, a park, or any place that adds a personal touch to the portraits. Somewhere they’re familiar with, will add a special connection to the memory of the shoot.


  • Encourage natural interactions among family members to capture genuine emotions and expressions. And yes, the family pet is most definitely an important part of the mix.
  • Provide gentle direction for posing, ensuring that everyone feels comfortable and authentic in their positions.


  • Invest in quality lenses suitable for portrait photography.
    The LUMIX S 35mm F1.8 lens is versatile, and suitable for a variety of situations. For a family shoot, this lens provides a wide angle with a beautiful F1.8 maximum aperture, merging its portrait capability while taking in the environment to add context. Built to minimise aberrations, the lens is compact and lightweight – ideal for hand-held shooting.
  • Tripod – I prefer not to use a tripod for family shoots, but this is of course up to each individual based on style and preference. I choose to remain as flexible as possible by shooting hand-held, ensuring my camera settings are appropriate for the lighting and the situation. Let’s face it, photographing a couple of toddlers on the go with a tripod would be super tricky, and not very practical, and for any family with time constraints, I like to be as efficient as possible.


Natural light is not only flattering but is often the most practical for family portraits when shooting on location. The Golden Hour (early morning or late afternoon) is a popular choice of time for the benefit of soft, warm tones. Starting at 8 in the morning for this shoot, I was fortunate to be presented with an overcast sky which helped to create a natural diffusion.

If shooting indoors, subjects can be positioned near large windows to maximize natural light. Leading into this shoot, I had an idea for a couple of group shots I wanted to capture indoors. I opted for a studio light setup enabling me to control the light to achieve the desired outcome. For these shots, I used my ‘Elinchrom One’ off-camera flash, with a diffused 130cm XLite deep parabolic silver umbrella. Using such a large modifier would provide me with the spread of light necessary without compromising the consistency of the light across the family.

I always scan the surroundings to see how I can use the space I have to complement the image. The curtains in the living room provided the perfect back-drop.

Composition and Framing:

Before each shot, I will establish the composition and position of the subject/s for the best balance. I like to experiment with different angles and perspectives to add depth, interest and a point of difference to family portraits.

In-Camera LUTs: Elevating Your Photography

Panasonic has recently engaged Julia Trotti to develop a set of in-camera LUTs (Look-Up Tables) for the LUMIX S5II. You can download yours here. LUTs are essentially colour-grading presets that alter the colour and tone of an image, allowing photographers to apply creative looks in-camera achieving a distinctive look and feel in their images straight out of the camera. A more common phrase would be to call them ‘filters’.

Using a LUT can help to ensure consistency throughout a series of images, creating a cohesive and visually appealing collection. This also gave me a head-start for the final post-production with only minor adjustments needed.

(NB – My style is generally to shoot slightly underexposed, then lift the shadows in post-production)

SOOC RAW – SOOC with LUT – Final Adjustment

Choosing the Right LUT

For this shoot, I opted for the ‘Sage’ LUT for its deep, rich tones. I selected this particular LUT as it complemented the location, mood, and style I wanted to convey for these portraits (warm and cinematic). The Julia Trotti LUTs provide a range of outputs targeting different colour concentrations. Had we returned to the beach for the shoot, I may have opted for the cooler tones of ‘Seaside’.

Family portrait photography is an art that combines technical skills with a deep understanding of human connections. By mastering the fundamentals of composition, lighting, posing, and location selection, photographers can capture timeless moments that families will cherish for generations.

The integration of the LUMIX in-camera LUTs further adds a creative dimension, allowing you to enhance your images with unique colour grading straight from the camera. I would encourage you to embrace both the traditional and modern aspects of family portrait photography to create captivating and emotionally connective images. Above all….. have fun. Make the shoot an experience they will remember, whilst creating magical, visual results through your lens.

In case you’re curious, here’s a bunch of the images we were looking to recreate. We came pretty close 😊

My sincere thanks to Steve and Sophie and your beautiful daughters, Arissa, Kayla and Cassie.

family portrait compilation