How to Take Family Portraits on a Budget

I want to share with you some valuable tips for taking family portrait photos on a budget, including how I got into the satisfying world of portraiture after years of taking random (and disappointing) snapshots. Hopefully, this post will interest family photographers who want less expensive equipment and any beginners to photography who want to capture excellent photographs of people.

Many amateurs cannot spend lots of money on quite expensive photography gear and do not have time to travel to “magical” locations, but none of that is necessary if you want high-quality pictures. Below, I will demonstrate how you can keep portrait photography inexpensive and enjoyable at the same time, both in terms of camera equipment and finding locations, based on my personal experiences.


The Portrait Photography Mindset

I feel that the majority of individuals need some impetus in order to make the transition from being an unsatisfied snapshot photographer to a more skilled photographer. The birth of our first child was the final straw for me. I had the sudden realization that ever since then, I wanted to photograph her and the other members of our family to the highest possible standard. I started learning photography, taking notice of our neighborhood, and making plans for my first picture session when she was still early in her pregnancy.

For me, having the right frame of mind was all that was required. Without it, I assume that you would still be able to shoot photographs even if you had equipment worth thousands of dollars. (On the other hand, I cannot say for certain because I have never been in a position to put this hypothesis to the test!)


Finding Locations for a Family Photoshoot

It was approximately six o’clock every day when I would recall heading back home for dinner. It was late spring of 2014, and the sun was lowering above a building in the neighborhood. There were some little trees on a hill that were lighted up wonderfully before nightfall. Only for around half an hour, when the sun was sufficiently low in the sky but had not yet wholly disappeared behind the building, could you take advantage of this vivid magic.

Someone would go up there and mow the grass on that hill every once in a while. When the grass was allowed to grow to its full height and length, it always presented the most attractive appearance. It took them a few days to cut all of the grass, so whenever they smelled the scent of freshly cut grass in the air, they knew it was time to get to work.

On another occasion, as I was making my way to a shopping center, I came upon a meadow that appeared to have some prospective uses. Along the roadway, there was thick grass and a wooden fence with split rails, which ran the length of the street. Or, at a later time, I will remember a wonderful lighthouse by the lake where we used to have picnics, or I will recall exquisite flower arrangements that I have seen here and there.

The important thing is to keep your attention focused on everyday times like this. The grass, flowers, and landscape that you see on a daily basis all have the ability to serve as excellent backdrops for your photography, and you won’t have to spend any more money to visit these sites. When I was getting ready to photograph my pregnant wife for the first time, I found that sites like this one really called me.


Learning Portraiture

In this post, I am not going to make a fresh discovery about the field of portraiture. Aperture, depth of field, and perspective are the three components that come together to form portrait photography. Photography Life contains a number of excellent articles, both introductory and advanced, that cover these three aspects.

(If you are interested in learning more about portrait photography, be sure to check out this website.) My one and only piece of advice is to experiment with these factors so that you may customize how your shot looks. You have a great deal of control over aspects of a photograph, such as isolating the subject of the shot and blurring the backdrop, both of which may result in a wide variety of interesting artistic effects.

A significant portion of it is also dependent on the photographic approach and choices that are unique to the photographer. In my personal work, I find that the best way to isolate a subject is to utilize apertures that are somewhat wide and to move back from the subject a little bit. This viewpoint also results in visuals that are more two-dimensional and flat. (This is why my favorite lens for a DX camera is a Sigma 85mm f/1.4 lens; see below). Nevertheless, there is one thing I will stress above all else: Never, ever lose concentration on the subject’s eyes!


Inexpensive Lighting: A Softbox and Flash

When doing portraiture photography with a flash, there is frequently a need to supplement the main light source with some fill light that is more diffused. Shadows will almost always find a way to emerge on the face of your subject, regardless of whether it is a sunny day with a high contrast or a gloomy day with a low contrast.

A Speedlight or flash produces illumination that is rather intense and prone to reflection; therefore, it is helpful to have a softbox that may assist in softening the light. Because there are a lot of guides available online that walk you through the process of constructing your own softbox, my wife and I actually created our very first softbox as a joint DIY effort.

Because I still have and make use of that softbox, I can confidently say that it is one of the least expensive pieces of photographic equipment that one could purchase. These days, I always have a low-cost, collapsible, commercial softbox stored within the bag that I always bring with me.

When it comes to the flash, utilizing a straightforward Nissin Speedlite Di622 with a consumer-level DX camera like the D5100 is simple and straightforward. (That flash is no longer offered at most places, but you can get a low-cost AmazonBasics flash that is brand new for the price of $28) In most cases, I utilize my flash away from the camera and position it at an angle that isn’t parallel to the subject.

When I am inside, I will reflect the light off of a reflecting surface, such as the ceiling or a wall. The only mode I use it in is manual mode, which is also the only option available on the model sold by AmazonBasics. This allows me to adjust the light output of the Speedlight manually so that it is compatible with my exposure. After firing off a few practice rounds, you should be set to go.

Sasha, 9 days old


When I was still using my old Nikon D50 equipment, I was waiting in line with several other visitors to take pictures of a well-known attraction many years ago. A lovely lady asked me a straightforward query: “Why are you doing that?” As a result, I shared some information about the place with them that I had gleaned from a travel book.

Regardless, she maintained her thoughtful gaze on me and inquired once again as to why I was acting in this manner. She was looking for a more in-depth explanation. Why do you take images, whether they are portraits or anything else, and what does photography represent to you? This is a question that each and every one of us needs to ask ourselves.

After you’ve made the conscious decision to forge your own path in photography, I believe the only way you’ll find success and genuine fulfillment in the medium. I have been able to perform portraiture as well as capture images of my family on a budget, which is something that I really like doing. One thing that I am convinced of is that in order to take the photographs that you want, it is not necessary to make an investment of several thousand dollars in photography equipment.

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