How To Take Great Family Photos This Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to be with family.

For many, it is also a great time to try to take family photos. Many family members who are normally out of town are together and visiting. It’s a great time to get a picture of the whole family at once.

For many, it is time to take the annual Christmas card picture.

For others, is just a time when everyone is together and they want to treasure the memories. After all, family is one thing to be very thankful for. It is often nearly too late to have a professional portrait done in time for Christmas.

A couple years ago, I decided Thanksgiving would be a great time to get a portrait of my grandpa and grandma.

While they were both still in reasonably good health, I knew that there would not be too many more chances to get a great photo of both of them together. Although I had access to professional equipment that few people can use, I made a few mistakes that prevented me from getting the portrait that I wanted. My grandfather died recently, and I was never able to get that last portrait that I wanted.

Here are five rules for getting great family photos this Thanksgiving.

5. Don’t try to take the family photo at the table.

It can be very difficult to get everyone in focus while sitting at a table.  Those closer to the camera will appear larger in the photograph and those that are back farther away from the camera will look smaller. Find a place where you can keep everyone closer together and about the same distance from the camera.  Also, your flash will tend to be too bright on the people in front and to dark on the people in back.  Bouncing the flash off the ceiling can help with this problem if you still want to take photos at the table.

4. Try to find a simple background that will not be too distracting.

You want to make sure the emphasis is on the people in the photograph and that they are not getting lost in a distracting background. If the weather is nice, you may want to try a photo outdoors. Again, try to find a place outside that looks nice, but is still not going to be too busy of a background.

3. Decide who is going to be in the photo before you start.

If you are going to be in the photograph, make sure you have a tripod ready.  This might be a good time to invite a friend with no family over for Thanksgiving if you don’t have a tripod. In my case, I just wanted to get Grandpa and Grandma together and before I got a real good photo everyone else got into the photo. If you are going to do a group, I always start with the biggest group first and then work to the smaller groups unless there is something that is more important the the whole group photo.

2. Make sure you can see everyone in the picture.

Make sure you have everyone posed so that they can see the camera and the camera can see them.  Also make sure that no one will be hidden in a dark shadow.  Make sure that everyone will be looking at the camera.  This can be especially hard with children.  At the same time, you don’t want a picture of mom pointing at the camera what she is trying to get the child to look at. Be patient and keep a good sense of humor.

1. Most importantly!  Take the photo before anyone eats.

This will avoid that red cranberry stain on dad’s white shirt.  They hand out napkins at restaurants because accidents do happen.  Also, after everyone eats that wonderful meal, no one is going to feel like going through the work of taking a photo.  Everyone can just relax after they eat then.  It also ensures that grandma won’t be fainting from grandpa’s onion breath!

Enjoy your Thanksgiving and remember to be thankful for the other blessings in your life.


About James Thoenes

James has spent most of his life involved in photography. He is now dedicated to producing portraits that his clients will treasure for the rest of their lives.


  1. Hi, just popped in from your wp site… that was a nice video you made there… and funny too… Happy Thanksgiving to you and your wife… Enjoy the turkey and family love

  2. James Thoenes says:

    Thanks, I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving also.