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Picture This!

10 tips for taking a great family photo

Taking, storing and distributing pictures can be a daunting feat, from organizing family portraits to snapping shots for a holiday greeting card. But a few simple tricks can alleviate your frustration with film – and transform you into an expert member of your family's paparazzi.

1. Candid catches. Some of the most adorable pictures happen when the subject wasn't expecting the camera. Capturing your daughter feeding her stuffed animal cereal or your son trying to bathe the cat shows your child's spirit and personality. Watch for little "side track" moments at your next family gathering.

2. Displaying memories. Compile a group of favorite shots taken at your kids' sporting events, Scout outings, holidays, birthdays and other events, to put into a family album. Consolidating a year into one central location gives everyone the chance to reflect back on the memories at their own leisure.

3. Quality vs. quantity. To save on developing charges and film or batteries in your digital camera, take your time when snapping. Look twice at the picture you're going to take through the viewfinder, as well as with your naked eye. And ask yourself if it's one you'd deem worth saving.

4. Child-friendly photos. Everyone fears their child will bawl during a family photo or refuse to smile. Make sure your photographer is experienced with kids. Ask if they have changing facilities, props and toys to use as distractions – and, just in case, what the cancellation or re-shoot policy is.

5. What to wear? Some families pick a color palette; others even dress alike. "Clothes should be simple, so they don't detract from the subject of the picture," says family photographer Dawn Norton of Minnesota. Take time to consider the entire outfit everyone will be wearing. Just think how dirty old sneakers will look in an otherwise-pristine family portrait!

6. Furry photos. Cherished dogs, cats, iguanas and other critters are family members, too - so it often seems fitting to include them. If a studio doesn't allow pets, investigate alternative locations. For an added fee, many photographers will accompany you to a park or come to your home, for instance.

7. Location counts. If your family digs nature, take a picture in your favorite park. Or, pose food lovers simulating baking in the kitchen. Just be aware of what'll show up in your picture. Consider light that might glare from a nearby window or mirror. Move distracting items off of a table, and watch for how items on walls will appear in the background.

8. Theme photography. Instead of traditional groupings like siblings or grandchildren, consider a shot of everyone with blue eyes, or the baseball fans, for instance. "At every birthday party, we take pictures of the oldest and youngest, or of everyone willing to stick their tongue out and wear party hats," said Kim Andres of Delaware.

9. Staging a scene. Props are a great way to add warmth and personality to a pic. Giving your future paleontologist a dinosaur to hold or your princess a crown tells the story of who your child is at the time of the photo. Think about display, too: If you plan on making a photo greeting card, ensure the picture's orientation matches.

10. Keep it real. While most would prefer their toddler not choose the night before a family portrait to cut her own bangs, life happens. Instead of canceling, embrace this phase of your child's life – and immortalize it on film. If he insists on wearing a favorite T-shirt, strike a deal that he take one photo with that shirt, and one in the T you'd prefer. Remember: family pictures are meant to enhance family memories, not cause stress.

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