I am a storyteller, always trying to capture a simple family photo that tells a story. Today I’m sharing a few tips for including the setting in family photos that any photographer can use.
When I photograph families, I want to include enough of the setting so that years later when stories are told using those images, grandchildren who were not even born yet will be able to imagine being there at that time, in that place, in that season.
Thinking about what details to include and why to include them can lead to stronger storytelling images.
Simple Family Photo Trick: Include Trees to Give a Seasonal Feeling
Look at any image that includes a maple tree and you’ll know the season it was taken at a quick glance. Be it the reds and oranges of fall, the grey sticks of winter, the maroon buds or yellow-green leaflets of early spring or the vibrant green leaves of mid summer, the leaves ground us in time. Leaves cling to beeches through the the winter while the other trees are reduced to mere sticks and snowfalls.
Photograph Seasonal Activities and Places
Especially here in Vermont, our activities change with the seasons. Embrace the chance to capture long shadows in the snow and bright greens under the summer sun.
But, equally fun is the change of seasons. Some of my favorite family photos are of the transitions — the first snow in November and the first April day that we all decide is short sleeves weather because 50F feels so hot after a long Vermont winter!
Places are part of our journey. In each season there are places we frequent so often, it’s hard to imagine not going there. But, then the school year ends, the kids are too big to ride in a backpack or that sledding hill is no longer exciting.
Tech Tip: Use a 35mm or Wider Lens
Bottom line: seasonality is best shown when you include carefully selected background in your images.
One of the simplest family photo tricks for those moments when you want to capture the whole story is to use a wide lens — something that lets you take in the whole scene.
I find that focal lengths in the 24-35mm range are generally best for this kind of photography. (Note: adjust accordingly if you are not using a full frame camera.) These normal to wide angle focal lengths allow you to be close enough to the people you are photographing while also including the setting.
Read my post Five Favorite Camera Features I Love for Family Photography for more family photography tips.