Friday Photo Tip - Taking Family Pictures at a Special Event

Welcome back to Friday Photography tips! 

Today, I want to talk about how to take great family pictures at a special event or place. 

My family and I visited the Biltmore House in Asheville, NC. You can't photograph inside, but you can on the outside. So these are from that visit.

Let's get started. 

I want to show you what a typical shot that people take. This is a very average shot, taken by *cough  cough* one of my kids, who shall remain nameless. 

What do you notice about it that makes it average? 

See how our faces are right in the middle of the photo? The lion had its head chopped off. While my husband's face and mine are right in the middle of the frame, there's a lot of clutter around us. It's hard to focus on one thing.

So, it was my turn to get behind the camera and take a family picture. 

I made sure to get the entire statue in the shot and crop out most of the clutter around them. And, I turned the camera to the "portrait" position, unlike the one above.

Even though the lighting was flat, I'm still happy with it. Why? Because I'd been to the Biltmore House once before, back in the 80's. My mom snapped a pictured of me and my siblings in front of that same lion….It means something to me. Not every shot has to be jaw dropping. Just the best it can be under the circumstances. 

When we first arrived, my youngest started sketching the house. So, I got behind him and caught both him and the mansion in my shot. It's a picture that will remind him in later years how much he liked to draw. Take some shots of "mundane" or "ordinary" life, but make them interesting. We tend to remember the big events of our life, but remembering the details or mundane is pretty cool, too. 

Here's what I call a "mood" shot. I walked up behind my family and just wanted to capture the moment. My daughter was on her cell phone…or mine, actually, prepping to take a picture. My youngest had started sketching and my other son was looking below. He had probably dropped something and was watching gravity work! 

Again, I was just capturing the moment with my family. 

Hubby and son having fun at Biltmore
This is a picture I love! My husband and son had started goofing around while I was taking their photo. I took multiple pictures and I love how you can see that they were having fun. Notice neither of them are looking at me. But you can see the fun in their smiles and laughter. 

Not every shot of a person has to be directly head on. Side shots or shots from behind can be special, too. 

But notice how little clutter there is in the picture. You can see the mountains in the background. I cropped out columns and railings to make the shot just about them. 

So when taking people pictures, focus in more on them. Like the pics of my family and husband and son together. 

But if you want to capture a mood shot, make sure to get enough information around them to make the picture make sense. Like getting my son's sketch pad in the photo with the Biltmore House in the background. 

Is there anything that stands out to you in the pictures? Or one that you like? 

As always, leave comments of anything you'd like to ask about and I may include that in a future post! 

Hope this tips helps!

Keep on clicking!



  1. I like the way you explained everything. Helpful tip. Thanks for linking up with us at Welcome To The Weekend Blog Hop.

    1. Glad it helped you Nekky. Thanks for hosting The Weekend Blog Hop!

  2. Great advice. I've changed the way I take photos over the last year pretty much in line with what you're saying. The people aren't always in the middle, facing forward and smiling like they used to be. I realise other angles and expressions often work better.

    1. They do make a difference. It's fun to play with angles and try new things! Thanks so much for dropping by. :)

  3. Thanks for the advice, Mary. I'm terrible at taking pictures. Two questions: what do you mean by a picture being "flat"? And how do you crop a picture? Is that something you do in Microsoft, or does it have to do with how you take the pic?

    1. Great questions Ellen.
      To answer the first, I said the lighting was flat, meaning that it was taken completely in the shadows. When you have direct light, it changes the nature of the picture. The sun was behind the house so the light in the picture was indirect and getting dim. I can do a post on lighting to help explain better.

      About the second question, You can crop when you take the shot or afterward. What I mean by cropping the shot while I'm taking it is that I move around or move my lens to "cut out" or "crop" the parts out of the picture I don't want.

      See how much stuff is going on around me and Todd in our shot?

      Notice then how I moved in to NOT have all that stuff (the chain, the pots etc.) in the picture with him and the kids. That's cropping while taking a shot.

      Yes, you can crop a shot on your computer. That just depends on where you put your photos. If you use a pc and have Microsoft on it, you could use their software. But since I've been on a Mac so long, I couldn't tell you exactly how to do on your computer. But you could google a question on how to do it.

      Hope that helps! I will do a post on each of these questions to further explain. :) Have a great weekend.

  4. I couldn't help but chuckle when I noticed the photo taken by "kid" says 'Not Mary Denman Photography." Hope you went inside and took lots of photos of the house all decked out for Christmas. So glad you had a fun family day.

    1. LOL! I wondered if anyone would notice that Karen! ;) You're not supposed to take shots inside. :( So I got some good outside ones. :)

  5. Great post Mary, I am always interested in find out new ways to take pictures :)

    Thanks for linking up :)

    1. Thanks Claire! I'm glad the tips are helpful! You've got some good ones on your blog. Thanks so much for dropping by! Have a great rest of your weekend!

  6. Hi there, some fab tips there, I'm a keen photographer with my Z10 and loving this post! Hopping over via the weekend blog hop

    1. Thanks for popping by Nikki! Hope your blog gets off to a great start!

      Hope to see you again soon!

  7. What an awesome day you guys had! I love all your shots. I think my favorite is of father and son. God bless!

  8. I'm afraid that I rarely think about how my pictures are going to look while I'm taking them and they usually end up something like (or worse) than the first one you shared. I'll be sure to remember these ideas the next time I'm documenting an event or activity and hopefully I'll get better quality photos for my blog! Thanks for linking up with us at Living and Learning With Our New Normal

  9. I love the family moments you've captured, they made my day. Keep up the great work!