Family photography is a key element to a successful and memorable family reunion. The moments and photos captured will be treasured by your family for a lifetime, even generations! 

However, if you are the designated family photographer, it can be a bit daunting to figure out how to capture all the special memories, as well as how to photograph the main large family group photo. We spoke with a number of experienced photographers and experts to learn how to take excellent family photographs at a family reunion, while also dealing with family dynamics. With the guidance and expertise of these photographers, your knowledge will expand and you will be prepared to capture timeless family memories. 


Family Reunion Photography Tips and Ideas


1- Creative and technical preparation before the event

As you plan to photograph your family reunion or gathering, your preparation phase will be essential to ensuring the day goes smoothly.

Preparation, for any shoot, is really key. When I capture events and know that group portraits will be required, I always try to make sure I get a list of the important people that need capturing and any specific grouping requests. Oftentimes it’s as simple as approaching my client during the party and asking when they are ready for group shots.” –Emily Louick Photography, Emily Louick Instagram

You’ll want to do as much preparation for your family photography as you have time for, but also allow for flexibility on the day of.

family photos

One specific thing I do in preparation for a large photo shoot like a family reunion is to have a specific conversation with the clients. I always ask what their expectations are. Is there something that they saw on Pinterest that they want to emulate? Are there particular people that we want to make sure and include in specific shots?  –Bonnie Bowman Photography, Bonnie Bowman Instagram

The Technical Elements of Family Photography


Part of preparing for your family photography includes organizing your technical items.

What kind of camera do you plan to use? Will it be easier for you to use your iPhone? Or do you have a more professional camera you’d like to use?

If you plan to use an iPhone, make sure you have enough space on the phone for all the photos you need to take. There are many excellent cameras you can purchase if you want a more traditional photography camera.


Technical Preparation To-Do’s


The week before the event, make sure your photography camera is working. A few days before, do a camera test by taking photos with the memory cards you plan to use. Check to ensure you have enough space on your memory cards to account for the amount of photos you need to take throughout the event. 

photography preparation

It is essential to charge your camera’s batteries the day before, or buy new batteries. Always have extra spare batteries with you or in a little bag nearby!

You may want to invest in a tripod or a gimbal, depending how much you will be moving around. These accessories are available for both professional photography cameras, as well as iPhones.


Review the Guest List Before the Event


Not everyone is going to be overjoyed to be photographed at the event. Part of your preparation is familiarizing yourself with the guest list so you can help them feel comfortable. 

“The majority of my clients don’t love having their photo taken – to be honest, I often don’t myself – and I think the key to taking a good photo in which people are most natural is getting to know them before putting a camera in their face.” –Emily Louick Photography, Emily Louick Instagram

With Reunacy’s family reunion directory, you can familiarize yourself with the names and photos of everyone attending your event. That prep will empower you to make your family feel more comfortable on camera!

family party


2 – Create a shot list for your family photography


Create a list of shots that you imagine capturing. Keep your shot list in a notebook in your pocket, or in the notes app of your phone. 

I am kind of old-school – I do write down my shot list during my meeting with the client in an agenda notebook that I carry everywhere with me. –Bonnie Bowman Photography, Bonnie Bowman Instagram

Study other photographer’s family photos online and their creative style to observe shot composition. Learn what kinds of photos you’re drawn to. You might discover that you love documentary-style, candid moments over posed moments. There are hundreds of family and event photographers online that you can study before your event!


Collaboration on the shot list


As you create your shot list, make sure to collaborate with a few other family members and get input. What photos and moments are your family members most excited for you to capture? 

“One of my favorite questions to ask my clients is to describe their favorite photos of themselves or their family. This gives you so much information to work off of.” –Anna Zorn, Anna Zorn Instagram

 Finding out favorite past family photos might spark some ideas for interesting shots!


Plan for a range of shots in your shot list

My process of photographing large gatherings typically is a mix of event details, documentary candids, and posed groupings. By capturing a wide range of photos over the course of the event, this allows for authentic “event” moments as well as making sure everyone at the event is photographed at least once. Make sure to determine who the VIPs are and what group shots are needed. –Emma Rose Milligan, Emma Rose Milligan Instagram

Remember to take pictures of the family reunion details, especially if a lot of time and effort went into the decorations. For example, shots of the flower arrangements and family tree decorations are part of the ambiance of the event.

flower arrangement party

For your shot list, make sure you arrange your shots around important scheduled events.

Find out ahead of time the best time to coordinate the large group photo. Making sure that communication is clear in your preparation phase will only benefit in managing the logistics on event day. –Emma Rose Milligan, Emma Rose Milligan Instagram

Read to the end of the post for a sample shotlist for your family photography!


3- Check out the location ahead of time

If you can scout the location a day before, that will help you understand the scope of what you’ll be dealing with. Look for beautiful backgrounds and try to pick the spot where you will take the large group photos.


Also look for areas of shade versus sunshine. Where will the tables be set up for eating dinner? Where will the activities and games be held? Is your reunion in a public place like a large park? Consider where bystanders might be walking by in the background of your photos, and try to find some private areas at the location.

The biggest challenge I run into when it comes to capturing large groups is the setting. An ideal space for me is one with good lighting and without a ton of distractions. Location scouts before the event to take in the space and plot out the spots are extremely helpful. Everyone staying flexible is really key to making it work! It’s a team, collaborative effort between everyone. –Emily Louick Photography, Emily Louick Instagram

Getting a handle of the event location and layout ahead of time will ease your mind on the day of the family reunion!

When I scout the location, I like to imagine what the lighting situation is going to look like at the time of the photo shoot. I also like to get a better understanding from the staff at the venue what their recommendations might be for locations, because they are the ones that are visiting this property the most often. Physically getting to visit the space allows me to picture in my mind what needs to happen during the shoot and how I can best execute that. –Bonnie Bowman Photography, Bonnie Bowman Instagram

4- How to Plan and Navigate the “Big Family Photo”

The large posed family shots is a moment to plan and be prepared for, and an essential part of family photography. These special photos will likely framed, placed in hallways in family homes, and on computer backgrounds. The large family photo moment may also be the key photo to use on the cover of a family photo or memory book. 

family photography with dog

We surveyed expert photographers and compiled their most essential advice for capturing this special moment.


Communicate the Time and Location of the Large Family Photo


First, it’s important to communicate clearly when this large photo moment will happen. If you can set a time during the event (maybe right before dinner?) and have someone in your family make an announcement that it’s time for the photo, that will make your life easier!

It’s a bit like cat wrangling sometimes! When photographing a large group together, it’s important to have a game plan to make the process as seamless as possible. I find it useful to plan for this shot about midway through an event, which covers those who are running late and those who like to leave early. –Emma Rose Milligan, Emma Rose Milligan Instagram

Ask a friend or another family member to help corral everyone together for the family photography. That will empower you to focus on capturing the best photo!

How to Stage or Pose the Large Family Photo

Every expert family photographer we interviewed emphasized the need to provide clear direction when arranging a large group. The most common response was to arrange the group by height, so that everyone can be seen in the photo.

I separate people into different height groups. I tell everyone taller than 6 feet to line up first, and so on until the shortest people are in the front. You can also try putting the matriarch and patriarch in front of everyone in chairs while the rest of the group stands behind them, or all the youngest children sitting in front of the adults. Emily Geraghty, Geraghty Creative Instagram

big group shot family photography

Photographer Emma Rose Milligan also agrees to place VIPs in the center of the photo:

“If there are VIPs, I prefer to have them in the center of the image with the remaining guests evenly surrounding them. Having taller folks in the back, shorter in the front always is a go-to. Consider checking with the venue if they have a ladder when photographing really large groups, so you have more room from above and won’t miss anyone’s face.” Emma Rose Milligan, Emma Rose Milligan Instagram

The ladder trick

Another expert photographer, Anna Zorn, also emphasizes the ‘ladder trick!’

The classic strategy of gaining height via a ladder or looking down on your large group never fails. If you know these people are close, allow them to show it with a prompt like “now show some love to those around you” or even simply “now everyone squish even closer together.” Being an observer and then adapting to the group’s needs is by far the most helpful skill you can cultivate.   Anna Zorn, Anna Zorn Instagram

Family dinner cheers moment



Communicate Clearly During the Family Photo

Once everyone in the large family photo is arranged and ready to go, do your best to help your family feel comfortable! That’s the best way to get the most authentic smiles and reactions.


How to make everyone loosen up and feel comfortable

If you feel that the guests are a bit rigid in energy, prompt them to “shake it out!” Do a little dance to help them loosen up and feel a bit more comfortable in front of the camera. My go-to posing directives typically are “give me a big smile” and then a “big fake laugh” At first, that feels funny, but then everyone actually starts laughing at how silly it is, so it lends itself to an authentic moment. –Emma Rose Milligan, Emma Rose Milligan Instagram

friends laughing

Laughter really does go a long way in setting the tone for that big family photo.

I direct everyone to let out a big laugh before I take the photo. If you also let out a big laugh, people will laugh with you and you’ll get natural smiles. People also tend to scrunch their eyes up when they smile. In a large family picture of 10+ people, one person’s face might be so small in the frame that you can’t see their eyes at all. I instruct these people to keep their eyes open as wide as possible without moving their eyebrows. Think Tyra Banks – smile with your eyes. But smile with teeth, too. Emily Geraghty, Geraghty Creative Instagram

More ideas for posing direction

Gauge a temperature check of the guests can also help in posing. If the group is more lively, consider some fun group poses like “everyone make a silly face,” “blow a kiss,” or “toss your arms up the air.” Ultimately, making sure everyone feels welcome and is having a good time will show in the photographs, so have some fun with it! –Emma Rose Milligan, Emma Rose Milligan Instagram

silly family photo

Taking the large photo of the family is a balancing act of communicating direction to everyone, as well as staying focused on capturing the photos:

For large posed group shots, I always say ‘if you have a window and you can see me, then your face will be in the shot!’ I always try to line up people so I can see everyone’s face, while keeping family units together if possible. During this time I try to make jokes and talk frequently so no one feels lost. I’m not generally a loud person, but I find that staying engaged with everyone is really important. My go-to is always to do the formal portrait, then a ‘silly’ shot. I also like to bring the kids to the front for a jump, or let the kids give everyone a pose. Sometimes I’ll do superlative prompts (look at the person who cooks the best, burps the loudest, who you’d want to be stuck on an island with) – these usually get really good laughs.-Emily Louick Photography, Emily Louick Instagram

The advice to play with a little humor can go a long way to ease the tension during family photography! Remember, not everyone will be accustomed to having their photos taken, but if everyone can laugh, the moment will go smoother!

family photography at a family party

Make them feel protagonists! Ask them to talk to each other, say hi, Ask them to tell the person next to them a secret. Make it fun for everybody!  –Celeste Martearena, PhotographerCeleste Martearena Instagram

5 – How to Use Humor and Authenticity for your Family Photos

Giving clear direction will help the group relax and produce more authentic reactions.

Prompts based on an action help people loosen up and reconnect with their own emotions. It’s shocking to see the difference between “Everyone make a weird face to the person next to them!” and then have them look back at you for the original smiling photo you wanted. You can see the real, renewed joy reflected in people’s eyes and body language.   –Anna Zorn, Anna Zorn Instagram

Don’t be afraid to ask your family for their craziest faces!! Getting a little weird for a moment will help everyone’s smile be more genuine in the next photo. 

Another important quality for any photography – the ability to listen.

Listen, validate, and work with whatever folks bring to the table. If they are anxious– give them direction, compliments, and keep it fun. If they have concerns about their body– listen, politely remind them of the beauty you see, and adjust how you’re shooting to flatter them how they prefer.-Anna Zorn, Anna Zorn Instagram


6- Be friendly and smile during family photography!

Throughout the event, remember that your mood and positivity will set tone of the family photography.

Friendly confidence goes a long way. Learn a few names of folks beforehand, crack a few jokes, and observe everyone’s body language. Give gentle direction to those who seem lost and pay attention to any dynamics at play. –Anna Zorn, Anna Zorn Instagram

friends smiling together


Just as with the large posed photo moment, you may want to use humor throughout the family reunion to get people comfortable!

Come prepared with a joke or two! Making people laugh is the easiest way to break the ice. If you’re not much of a jokester, giving a compliment and striking up a conversation always works too. Read the room and see what works best for you. –Emma Rose Milligan, Emma Rose Milligan Instagram

Friendly conversation as a photographer

Not every family photographer can also be a jokester! If you prefer genuine conversation, lean into chatting a bit with family members as you take photos. It can be a great way for you to feel connected to everyone at the party.

I do love to take photos of people hugging when they first enter a room, but for the beginning of most parties I don’t take photos right away. I like to chat with people as they enter for a few minutes, make some jokes and just be friendly so that later when I am taking their picture, they trust me and feel comfortable enough to be themselves. I also have been told that I smile a lot and that helps people to feel at ease.  I like to ask about the people I’ll be photographing – their personalities, fun facts about them and any family dynamics I should be sensitive to. On the day of the event I hope to be seen as more of a trusted friend who just happens to have a camera. –Emily Louick Photography, Emily Louick Instagram

Keep a smile on your face, and have a good attitude!

greeting family at a party


Keeping the mood cheerful and light

Your family will certainly respond to your mood as you take photos. Approach the family photography with a mood that is upbeat and energetic!

Being an event photographer is one part camera skills and the other part people skills – it’s really important to make sure guests feel comfortable. After all, it’s not a photoshoot – it’s a gathering – and I try to keep it that way. I generally take a guest/fly on the wall approach. I’m there to observe and not interfere, so I try to blend in as much as possible and notice all the fun interactions as they happen. –Emily Louick Photography, Emily Louick Instagram

candid family photo after dinner

Remember, family photography is all about fostering intimate connections and moments between people we love!

Tell them how amazing and special they look, and the great vibe they have. Guide and direct them! –Celeste Martearena, PhotographerCeleste Martearena Instagram

7- Find the action throughout the event

Sometimes the most meaningful shots can come from little groups congregating and naturally interacting at the event. As the family photographer, you’ll want to scope out all the conversations and sense the enjoyment and tone present. If you hear a group of family members laughing and really enjoying themselves, go and take some photos! Follow the positive interactions.

I really like to observe people as they interact. If I see a convo in full swing, I might stop and watch through my lens for a bit, primed for a key moment of a laugh or a hug or just something fun and exciting. Sometimes I feel like I have eyes in the back of my head – I’m always ready to whip around and grab a moment before it’s gone. Lastly, I’ll do “grip n grins” (an industry term) where I’ll walk up to a small group and ask them to take a photo together looking at camera. I usually don’t start taking these until the event is underway, when people have had a chance to connect with each other. I like to make sure that any conversation I’m interrupting doesn’t seem too serious, and that it seems like the people are comfortable enough with each other to take a photo together. –Emily Louick Photography, Emily Louick Instagram

If your family reunion is outside, try hanging out around the tables and the games area to find the most laughter and fun interactions!


8 – Don’t forget to look for the generational moments


grandma at family dinner

There are some moments so precious that if you’re not actively looking for them, they could slip away quickly! 

Be on the lookout for grandparents interacting with grandchildren. When you see an interaction like that, dart over and capture that precious moment!



9 – Stay conscious of family sensitivities and dynamics


Some people will be more excited to be photographed than others. Some of your family members may be trying to give you lots of direction on how to take every photos. 

Definitely all of the attitudes can be a hurdle when taking photos of a large family…. There’s a reason ships have only one captain. The trick is acting like you’re listening to everyone’s suggestions, and then just doing your own thing to get the photos you need! –Emily Geraghty, Geraghty Creative Instagram

With family photography, always stay aware of the dynamics at the event.  Try to keep your cool even if family members push your buttons!

If it is your family, emotions might be high. If there are family members there who have known you since you were a little kid, they might feel like they can tell you what to do. Try to stay calm even if someone pushes your buttons…something family members can be quite skilled in. If you’re the photographer or the “producer” organizing everyone, your attitude is going to dictate the situation. Be firm in telling people where they need to go and what they need to do, but remember, this is a joyful moment, even if it feels like herding cats. If you’re smiling, the people in the photo will probably also be smiling. Emily Geraghty, Geraghty Creative Instagram


10 – Upload your photos where your family can all enjoy the new memories!


If you’re a member of Reunacy, you can upload all your photos from the family reunion into your Family Reunion Group! Our platform makes it so much easier for everyone from the reunion to access the photos.


In addition, everyone else who attended the event can also upload the photos from their phones to the Reunacy group as well. 

There is nothing better than to take a look at all the special memories from your event, in one place!

Taking on the challenge of photographing your family at the family reunion can be quite the responsibility, and adventure! We truly hope that the guidance and advice from these expert photographers will prepare you for your family photography, and empower you to capture timeless family memories.

At Reunacy, we value getting together… and we want those memories to last a lifetime. The best part of getting together is cherishing those memories and keeping the bonds strong, even when you don’t get to see your family and friends until the next get together. Start a Reunacy group today to plan your next family reunion.


Here is the sample shot list for your family photography:


Candid Photos:

  • Arrival Photos: Guests arriving and greeting each other in the cabin backyard
  • Activities and Games: Photograph all the hilarious moments as your family plays games together.
    • Uncle Jeff laughing with Dad and Grandpa during the card games.
    • Dad and cousins playing football.
    • The cousins kayaking on the lake in the afternoon
  • Special and Emotional Moments: There may be more emotional or sentimental moments during the events, make sure to capture some reaction shots! You may see tears of joy or pure laughter, all memories will be meaningful.
    • Shots of family during Stephanie’s welcome speech.
    • Photos of family while Grandpa DiCocco’s memorial video is played for everyone.
    • Photos while everyone sings “Happy Birthday” to little cousin Archie!
  • Meals: Photography in the kitchen during meal prep can always be fun. Photos taken at dinner can also catch family members deep in conversation and connection!

Group Photos:

  • Large Group Photo: The classic shot of everyone getting together. Consider different arrangements and backgrounds for variety.
  • Generation Photos: Capture a photo of each generation (e.g., grandparents,parents, children).
    • Capture all the kids in one photo/pose.
  • Family Unit Photos: Photos of individual families within the larger group.
  • Fun Group Photos: Capture silly group poses or recreate a funny family photo from the past.

Individual and Portrait Photos:

  • Individual Portraits: Capture individual shots of each family member, young and old.
  • Couples Portraits: Photos of couples, both young and old.
  • Grandparent/Grandchild Portraits: Capture the special bond between grandparents and their grandchildren.
  • Sibling Photos: Get photos of siblings together, regardless of age.
  • New Family Members: Capture photos of new babies, spouses, or anyone new to the family.

Creative & Themed Photos:

  • Props & Costumes: Use props or costumes related to the reunion theme or location for fun photos.
  • Silhouettes: Capture unique silhouettes against a scenic backdrop.
  • Reflections: Utilize reflections in water, mirrors, or other surfaces for creative compositions.
  • Details & Decor: Capture close-up photos of reunion details like decorations,food, or family heirlooms.