Resourceful Wednesday | How to Take Your Own Family Portraits

Okay, admit it, you’ve either attempted to take or have seriously considered taking your own family portraits . . . right? You need family photos done and you think to yourself “I’ve got the equipment and I’ve got the skills. . . and my BFF who is also a photographer is totally booked . . .”  Sound familiar? You’re not alone. And taking your own family photos isn’t such a horrible idea, but let’s be real — it ain’t always easy!

When we received this Family Portrait session from Dana Pembroke Photography and learned that it was her OWN family that she photographed herSELF, we had to know more! Dana did such a great job that we decided to reach out to her for some of her secrets for how to take your own family portraits and Dana so graciously responded with some FANTASTIC tips! So whether you’re looking to save a little money, or just to have some fun photographing your family and YOU want to get in the pictures, too. . . and you don’t mind sacrificing just a bit of your sanity . . . Here’s some great information on how to take your own family portraits along with great examples from Dana Pembroke Photography.

What We Love: 

Dana: As a photographer I am not in many photos. Each year I send out a holiday card with photos of my children. This year I decided to send a family photo. I took my family and tripod down to beautiful Laguna Beach. It was the first time since I have become a photographer where I was the one choosing outfits, hoping for a good hair day and getting everyone ready. It was good for me to feel what my clients feel before a shoot. The hardest part was my three year old Bryce. He is not into photos and is a little character as you can see in the photos. My daughter, on the other hand, is my little model that will pose all day. It was definitely an experience but Im happy with the results and now have an updated family photo!

Dana’s Tips for How to Take Your Own Family Portraits: 


A camera with a self timer or remote and a tripod is essential for the photo.


As a family we love the beach, especially Laguna Beach. I felt like that was a good fit for us. Find a location that fits your family’s style and personality.


The time of day is crucial for photos especially at the beach where there is no shade. The “golden hour” is an hour after sunrise or an hour before sunset. The light is soft and warm.

We have some of the most beautiful sunsets in Laguna Beach so I knew to start at the golden hour.


My daughter insisted on wearing her coral skirt, so I based our clothing choices around coral.  I would suggest choosing three colors and have everyone wear different variations. Coral, black and blue where my choices. I simply purchased a coral shirt to match my daughters’ skirt.  Do not feel you need to purchase new outfits for all.  I recommend everyone wearing something comfortable and familiar.


I promised my family I would shoot the photos within twenty-five minutes, I had to have a plan to move quickly.  I wanted to shoot the more difficult first, the family shots. Once we arrived I scouted two locations to shoot and set up my tripod. I posed my family, metered the shot, set the timer and hit the shutter release button. I had ten seconds to step in the shot and smile. I took five family shots. The biggest challenge was getting my three year old to look at the camera.  I shot five takes, knowing this challenge.  It only takes one good shot.

Relax and Have Fun:

Once I had the family shots complete, I took a few shots of each child with my husband, then spent five minutes with each child individually.

It was definitely an experience, I am pleased with the results and now have an updated family photo!

Rachel and Lisa:  We love the beach setting for these family photos and especially love that the setting is meaningful to the family. Settings that match a family’s personality almost always make for more dynamic family photos. We also love the outfits and how the coral color really “pops.” The light is just gorgeous in these images and shows off Dana’s beautiful family so well. We are especially grateful to Dana for providing such useful tips and giving us a bit of a “behind the scenes” peek at how she pulled off these adorable family photos. Thanks so much!

Gear Used: 

Camera: Canon EOS 6D

Lens: Canon EF 24-70 f2.8

How To Take Your Own Family PortraitsHow To Take Your Own Family Portraits | Dana Pembroke Photography Featured on Life + Lens Blog_0061How To Take Your Own Family Portraits | Dana Pembroke Photography Featured on Life + Lens Blog_0060

How To Take Your Own Family PortraitsHow To Take Your Own Family PortraitsHow To Take Your Own Family PortraitsHow To Take Your Own Family PortraitsHow To Take Your Own Family Portraits

Dana is an Orange County photographer specializing in child, family and boudoir photography.

Connect with Dana:

What is your favorite tip that Dana shared? Leave a comment below!

We are always accepting submissions for possible features on the blog. Please see our Submission information for further directions. We are looking to showcase family photo sessions as well as milestone celebrations (birthday parties, baby showers, cake smash, religious celebrations) and style inspiration for both home (nursery, kids’ rooms.. ) and family photography sessions (what to wear, packaging, etc.)

Looking for more family session inspiration on the beach? Check out this beautiful Multi Generational Family Session at the beach photographed by Heather Schwenk Photography.

What would you like to see featured on Life + Lens Blog? We’d love to hear from you!

Life, Lens + Love,

Lisa + Rachel

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