6 Tips for Nailing Your Next Family Photo

Taking a professional family pic should be as simple as gathering your loved ones and saying cheese, but as you probably know, there's way more involved: the lighting, the outfits, the cranky kids who missed their naps. So, how do you get that amazing shot you'll want to hang on your wall for years? Start with these pro tips.

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Image: Summer Lyn Photography

The family portrait is one of the trickiest of photos to take. The goal: Look effortlessly chic and capture your family in a most flattering light (literally and figuratively), but all too often, the result looks more like a contender for Awkwardfamilyphotos.com. So, how do you get the image in your head to match the image the photographer takes? We asked a few pros with lots of on-set experience for their best camera-ready secrets.

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1. Timing is everything.

If your shoot is outside (and by the way, photographers love shooting in natural light), schedule your session a couple of hours after sunrise or before sunset. "In the photographer world, we call it the golden hours -- the lighting is amazing," says Summer DelliBovi of Summer Lyn Photography in Port Washington, New York. Plus, everyone will be way less squinty than they would be midafternoon. If you have young children, plan around nap and meal times. A cranky, hungry kid isn't going to sit for a photo.

2. Skip the matchy-matchy outfits.

If Facebook is any indication, a white button-down shirt with jeans is the official uniform of a family pic, but our experts say don't do it! "Families shouldn't dress alike in photos," says Cristina Pearlstein, stylist and founder of howdoyoufashion.com. "It looks too planned, too perfect, and obviously not real," she says. Instead, give everyone a little direction. Have the group to wear one color, or two shades that are close to each other on the color wheel like green and blue. "That could mean everything from navy to seafoam green."

DelliBovi is big on color, too. "Blues, purples, plums, corals, and teals look amazing in photographs," she say. Avoid black and white -- the colors of shadows. "A black top will look like a big black blob on film," DelliBovi says.

Also on the "do not wear" list: small-scale prints like micro stripes or tiny dots. "If you're going to wear a print, try a graphic one in contrasting colors, so it shows up in the picture," Pearlstein says.

3. Consider your location.

"There's nothing I hate more than photos of people dressed in fancy clothes at the park," Pearlstein says. "You want everyone to look natural, and that can only happen if the outfits go with the environment." Snapping your shot at a fancy restaurant? Then go ahead, glam it up, but if you're taking pics at the beach, keep the dress code casual.

4. Say "squeeze."

Forget the overly posed pic. DelliBovi's rule is that everyone must be touching someone. "During my shoots, you'll hear me yell 'Squeeze! Tighter! Tighter!'," she says. "I get a lot of laughs and natural smiles as everyone gets close, and bam, you've got your family photo." DelliBovi also likes to photograph what she calls "the real family dynamic:" parents on the ground playing with their kids, a mom kissing her daughter or hugging her son, etc.

5. Keep your makeup natural.

"Natural makeup doesn't mean no makeup," says makeup artist Laura Geller. Do use foundation, eye makeup, blush, lip color, and bronzer (if needed), but keep it matte, she says. "There's so much talk of highlighting, shimmering, and strobing, but they don't make for the best finish on your skin when the camera light hits," she says. Geller says to stick to matte earth tones such as brown, charcoal, and taupe for eyes, with pink, berry, or coral for cheeks and lips -- nothing too bright or too deep, she says. Tone down shiny skin with a setting powder (try Laura Geller New York Filter Finish Setting Powder, $32; laurageller.com).

Don't normally wear much makeup? Here's the minimalist's guide to looking your best.

6. Go for a fuss-free hairstyle.

Hair in your face is never a good look. "To avoid unflattering shadows, style your front layers away from your hairline," says Devin Toth, a stylist at Salon SCK in New York City. A strong-hold hairspray will help keep strands in place (he likes K√©rastase Laque Couture, $37; kerastase-usa.com). DelliBovi loves a mom in a sleek ponytail. "I don't have to worry about her hair covering her son's face while they're hugging and playing together," she says.

Get short-hair styling tips.

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