Hello everyone. As we reach the crescendo of of the Christmas family portraits season, I thought it would be a good time to post another of my articles from the now-defunct High Peak Local magazine. This one is a guide I wrote for those of you who would rather do your own family portraits than come to me (**sniff 🙁 **). Seriously though, photography is one of the most popular hobbies in the UK, so lots of people are going to be taking pictures this Xmas. The article is in it’s original unedited form, and has never appeared online before. Hope you enjoy it 🙂

Thanks for looking


If you ask me, the single worst thing about Christmas is the music. I ought to admit that the sound of Christmas music, and in particular sleigh bells, strikes fear into my heart. Christmas is, of course, a fine institution – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It has a habit of temporarily reassembling geographically dispersed families, and one oughtn’t to overlook the important upswing in business for many traders in what appear to be trying times.

I could, therefore, dispense advice on the dangers of photographing recumbent post-turkey relatives and posting the results on social networking sites, but I won’t. Family portrait photography is a much more relevant subject.

Many families will have an official portrait at this time of year, whilst they are all assembled. Others will have some lovely natural photos of their children taken to give as gifts to friends and relatives. Still more will wield a digital camera (which they might or might not have received relatively recently for one reason or another) to capture the family group themselves.

If you fall into this last category, there are a few simple things you can do in order to improve your pictures. After all, you might have to look at it on various family mantelpieces for the next twelve months.

Firstly, light. If you can and particularly if it’s a nice bright day get everyone outside into the garden or a park, or even a conservatory. This will help to ensure that the whole group is evenly lit. If this isn’t possible, try to choose a bright spot inside or at least turn the lights on. Most modern cameras have some sort of flash, but the less work it has to do the better. If it is quite dim, you could also try turning the ISO up, but beware of noise (graininess) at higher settings.

Try to arrange the group so that you’ve got a nice pyramid shape taller people in the middle, and more than one row if necessary. Gentlemen can always kneel, or kids sit on the floor. Make sure you look at the background of the shot too a lamp post emerging from Uncle Graham’s head might sound like a good idea, but will be less effective in print.

Make sure you take plenty of shots once you’ve got the group set up. People have a habit of blinking, and the more people in the group the higher the likelihood that someone will have their eyes shut.

There are of course many other points one could consider, but the best advice is to keep it simple.

Just don’t turn on the radio.


Tim Hensel is a professional photographer based in New Mills. He offers portraits & weddings see www.timhenselphotography.com for further details.





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