We’ve all seen them, the family portrait that appears to be something out of the dusty halls of the Adams Family mansion. All the members standing stick straight and everyone appears to be in a state of excruciating pain. Then you have the other end of the spectrum. They look like mannequins taken directly off the conveyor belt, set-up, and a snapshot taken. None of these portrait's positioning produces a flattering natural picture, or portrays what most real-life families look like.

A great family portrait can easily become a family masterpiece with just a bit of planning: Consider a natural, outdoor setting. This will be more casual and will make the process a bit less “painful” for participants, not to mention providing an interesting backdrop. You will want to take the photos in the shade, place your family members under trees in a park or wooded area, or a cabana at the beach. Also best is when the sun is softest such as at dusk or early in the morning.

The photos should appear impromptu, as if little actual posing was done before the shutter was snapped. Asymmetrical positioning of family members will make your photo a stand out and varying heights can really make a difference.

Typically you should place children in the front. To add interest to the composition, have them do something like build a sand castle – you will just have to make sure they look up at the right time and give you a winning smile! Or have someone lie on the ground or sit on a tree stump. This front section is your “anchor.” Work backwards, utilizing chairs, if necessary, in order to keep the heights varied, but don’t make the chair a focal part of the picture.

The most important elements of your finished product are those smiles. Have everyone say “I love my family!” Giggles ensue and between the parted lips formed by the word “family” and the laughing afterward, you will never obtain an Adam’s Family smile from that crowd! Best of all, with the casual, fun experience they will have, this group will remember this experience each time they look at their beautiful, finished portrait!