Good family portrait ideas aren't always easy to think up and often you will find that, left to their own devices, your subjects will just arrange themselves in a row in front of the camera.
However, with a little imagination even lining everyone up in a straight line can produce great shots!
The photograph shown below is a lovely example of the application of a little imagination to a shot that could have been spectacularly dull! The photographer has chosen a low angle to shoot from and exposed for the foreground to create this captivating silhouette.
But to get a shot like this you have to be very careful with the exposure as both the background and foreground will have very different values. Try setting the exposure on your camera to spot metering when your subject is backlit in this way.
Above: Family Portrait by a4gpa
With your camera set to spot metering, it will give a reading for a very narrow angle and is ideal when your subject's background is much brighter than the foreground as it is here.
The photograph below is another example showing that family portraits are best when kept simple and builds on the idea of posing your subjects in a row. Again, we cannot see their faces, however, it is obvious to everyone who knows this family just who is who in the lineup!
It is an unusual shot, and a nice contemplative moment. It works well too with the row of markers in the water which echo the line-up of girls in the foreground.
Above: Five Sisters by Christine VIncent
Of course most of the time we want to see the faces of our subjects but rather than just lining them up horizontally like ducks(!) you might like to try the arrangement shown below where the photographer has placed her subjects in descending height order.
Above: Photo by Vera Kratochvil
Note that there is a sense of unity to the image not only because of the vertical composition, but also because of the way the man has wrapped his arms around the mother and child, enclosing them within a circle. This circle is also echoed in the shapes of the three faces.
Once you get used to looking for the underlying geometric shapes in a scene you will start to find shapes and forms in everything. With practice, it will become instinctive and you will then be able to find family portrait ideas with ease.
Follow the link to read Part 2 of Family Portrait Ideas where I will be looking at triangular compositions.
The Digital Photographer's Guide to Natural-Light Family Portraits
Photographing Families: Tips for Capturing Timeless Images