Large Family Photo Shoot (Tips & Ideas)

One of the most difficult photo shoots are the ones where you have a large group of people, like a large family photo shoot.   As the photographer, not only do you have to be assertive and control everyone involved, but you also have to make sure everyone looks great in one single shot.   Unless you plan to spend hours in Photoshop and select everyone’s perfect shot and compile it into one.
The first time I had to take a large family photo shoot, I was a bit nervous at first, but I realized the best way to deal with that was to have fun.   Have fun with the family.   I had to take a photo shoot of a family of 6 adults and 3 kids, for a total of 9 people.   Adults are easy, but mixing in the children into the large family photos it’s a bit tricky.   You have to get them to look at you, all of them, at the same time.   The adults will try to help you when it comes to making the children look at the camera and smile, but by doing that THEY will end up being the ones not looking at the camera.  It is tougher with younger children, but if I could do it, so can you!

So here are a couple of tips and ideas for your own family photo shoot, whether you are the photographer or the family.

Color Coordinated Clothing

Color Coordinated Clothing


The most important tip I always give my photography clients before I photograph them is to color coordinate their outfits.   The second tip, is don’t dress in white! Having a color-coordinated family looks cute, and also makes everyone in the photo look like they belong together, as a cohesive family unit.   But you don’t have to look boring or too similar.   You can create a cohesive look by deciding a color scheme first.   You can base your color scheme on the seasons, the location of the photo shoot, the family’s favorite sports team, fashion trends, or even a family inside joke.   Usually casual styles are better, and jeans are a favorite so everyone is comfortable.   However, you can always go more formal for some Holiday photos or studio shots that will probably end up on your Family Holiday Greeting Cards.   Just make sure you all follow the same style, whether it is casual or formal.   You don’t all have to wear jeans and a green shirt.   If your color scheme is green and blue, then girls can wear green skirts and a blue shirt, and guys can wear jeans and a green shirt.   Also play with layers, a sweater over a shirt, a scarf, etc.   Matching everyone’s outfit doesn’t mean the same shirt and pants for everyone, but the same colors over all, in different pieces of clothing.   Different shades of the same color are good too.   For these large groups it’s good to stay away from too much patterns.   It is best to select pieces that are solid colors and that don’t have distinctive words, like the brand’s logo on them.   Remember that your shoes will show in some pictures, so make sure they match your outfit!

Different Levels

Different Levels


Great family photos usually feel like everyone in the picture loves each other and are happy.   But we all know that is usually not the case in real life.   Setting up the family in a pose to create the “Perfect Family” photo might be difficult.   Different heights, age, hair color, couples, kids, and clothing can help you decide how to place each person in the picture.   The tallest people behind the shortest people, the kids in the middle, the oldest in the middle, each couple on a different area.   All of these are good possibilities, but a bit overdone.   Think outside the box, group people in two’s or three’s and compose the larger group with those smaller groups, and even separate each group in a different level, one group behind another, or on a step above or sitting down below.   However, make sure to “angle” everyone, meaning don’t line everyone up one next to another with their shoulders touching each other’s.   Make sure they stand at an angle so their shoulders overlap instead.   Also, make sure they don’t tilt their heads towards the person next to them; people tend to do that when taking pictures.   You can also split the group up and take a moment to take some shots of each individual section of the family, like only the kids, or only the grandparents, or only the couples.   Also remember to take Candid photos.   While the family is repositioning, moving to another location, taking a break, keep taking pictures and catch them when they are not looking.

Beware of Funny Faces :)

Beware of Funny Faces 🙂

Taking the photos

Make sure you adjust all your camera settings before you begin shooting.   If you are not sure about a certain pose, or background, test it with the adults first, and then include the kids when you are ready, so they don’t get restless while you are taking the shots.   Make sure all the subjects are lit in the same manner, so that you don’t have some people in the shade and others in the sun.   Focus on the person in the middle, or right next to it.   Make sure you continue shooting even if everyone is moving or changing places, you might miss out on something fun.   However, make sure you continue to check your photos after you move on to a different pose or location, and check to make sure no one blinked or made funny faces.

Keep Shooting, Even When No One Is Posing!

Keep Shooting, Even When No One Is Posing!

More Tips

Always check the weather!!!
– You might need some shade for the children while they wait, so bring an umbrella.
– Bring a toy or something that usually catches the kids’ attention, so you can get them to look at the camera.
– Ask your clients to think of different poses that they would like and to practice them. Also, if they have a sample of something they want, they should give it to you. Like if they want a particular pose they’ve seen somewhere else, or if they want a particular toy or thing in the picture.
– Let your clients know that if you keep shooting pics when they are not really posing, not to be caught off-guard, sometimes the best pics are the ones where they are not posing.

Unexpected Angles & Poses

Unexpected Angles & Poses

*Special thank you to the beautiful Hunt Family for allowing me to share their large family photo-shoot with the world 🙂

Other Designs I: Package Design

There are tons of different types of designs and design branches that a Graphic Designer may choose to specialize in.   For example, a Graphic Designer may choose to focus only in Web Design.   Perhaps another Graphic Designer realizes his or her Illustrating capabilities are great, so they may focus only in Illustration.   Other Graphic Designers create great logos, so the mainly focus on that and on corporate identity design.   There is also product and package design, and some professionals may focus mainly on those types of designs as well.

Product & Package Design: A Lucrative Business?

Package design is the combination of planning and creating the structure, form, and appearance of a specific product’s packaging, and it functions as an encasing, protection of the product, promotion of a brand, presenting information, and turns into a brand experience.   Billions are spent in packaging every year, and the reasons are pretty obvious.   I believe that the most important reason why product and package design is such a lucrative business is because the package of a product ultimately determines whether customers purchase the product or not, because it is the first impression they get of the product and the company.   Other reasons why packaging is important include the fact that packages protect the product, it keeps components of the product together, it identifies the product, it protects the product during transportation and makes transportation easier, it makes it easier to stack and store product and you can include printed information on the package such as the price.

Design Steps in Package Design

The package design process involves five different phases, which are: Orientation, Analysis, Concepts, Design and Implementation.   Orientation and Analysis include defining the problem, establishing goals, determining the project scope, conducting research, preparing marketing and competitive audits, researching the competition, researching the target audience, establishing positioning, establishing brand personality and setting a strategy.   The Conceptual Design phase includes making sure that the offered solution is in line with all the research conducted in phases one and two and also that the solution has on-shelf impact.   The Design Development phase implements the concept into an actual design and makes sure that it is visually sticking and interesting enough to catch the attention of the target audience and ultimately make the customer purchase the brand over the competition.   The Implementation stage is the final creation of the three-dimensional and physical box or package for the product.

Prototypes Through The Ages

Nowadays, hardly anything is created without using a computer.   But a long time ago, in simpler times, people still communicated and created things without computers.   Prototypes where created a long time ago without using computers.   We could say that the first prototypes where created in the 4000 BC years by using clay.   Clay was used to create clay models to represent mythological creatures and gods, later turned into stone sculptures.   Later, during 3000 BC paper and ink was used to plan and create prototypes of incredible monuments like pyramids.   During 1452 and 1519 Leonardo Da Vinci himself created paper models as concepts of his extreme ideas, using also other materials like wood and carving techniques.   Thomas Edison also created multiple prototypes when creating initial concepts of his inventions, like the phonograph, the motion picture camera and the light bulb during the 1800s and 1900s.   Henry Dreyfuss in the 1900s took the concept of design and prototyping to the next level and his understanding of the function of prototyping is the initial idea of our modern understanding of a prototype, because he created the prototype as an illustration of a product in context.   Before 3D rendering was invented, product prototypes and packaging where constructed by hand.   For example, a product prototype could be sculpted out of clay or wood, and a package design could be printed and assembled by hand to view the 3D version or final result.

To Window Or Not To Window?

When constructing the mock-up for a package design, there are some very important factors one should consider before deciding whether the product should be seen or if the package shouldn’t have a window.   One of these deciding factors is the visual appeal of the product itself.   If the product is visually striking by itself, then the product should be showcased through a window in the package.   If the product is not particularly visually striking then the package should make up for that and there should be no window displaying the product.

Mock-Up Package Design

A good idea to “practice” package design and see if it is something you as a designer would be interested in doing, is to create a mock up package design for any particular product.   I created a mock-up package design for a class assignment for a LeapFrog product.   Here is the package design in it’s “flat” printed version as well as in the three-dimensional version of the assembled box.

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Also, here is a 2-part video describing a simple way of creating the three-dimensional version of the package design using Adobe Photoshop.


Inspiration Can Be Found Anywhere (Part I)

I first encountered Leopoldo Metlicovitz’s posters at a very young age.  My grandfather loves music, and more specifically, he loves opera.  Throughout his home there are several opera posters of the early 20th century, including two of the four seen the photo below, which are all poster designs by Leopoldo Metlicovitz.  Throughout my life I had seen these posters all over my grandfather’s home, and whenever I saw the poster elsewhere it would remind me of my grandfather and his love for opera.  I had always enjoyed the top left poster for Madama Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini, because it had certain mystery about it and I also liked the name “Madama Butterfly”.

Leopoldo Metlicovitz Poster Designs

Leopoldo Metlicovitz Poster Designs

Last year in school I had to design my own 20th century poster, and for that particular assignment I remembered those posters I was exposed to throughout my life and immediately searched for opera posters for the early 20th century to inspire me.  To my surprise, designer Leopoldo Metlicovitz is the creator of some of my favorite opera poster designs.  I enjoy the Madama Butterfly poster design because of the use of color and contrast from the inside of the window with dark red tones and the outside of the window which depicts cherry blossom trees with light pink and brown tones and a robin nesting on a tree.  I enjoy the contrast of color as well as the placement of the text underneath the seating female figure.  The use of light and dark to express the folds on the figure’s clothing is very interesting and it explains how the light from the window is approaching the figure.  I particularly enjoy how the painting explains an act of the opera where the female figure, Madama Butterfly, awaits her lover.  The rest of Metlicovitz’s designs are similar in color contrast.  The artist seems to use dark tones like red for the negative spaces and then lighter pink tones for flowers and lighter skin tones for the female figures. Negative and positive space composition in Metlicovitz’s designs is powerful like the Madama Butterfly window and the Tosca design floral borders.

Much has changed since Leopoldo Metlicovitz painted and designed these posters.  It has changed so much that nowadays these poster designs are reproduced in large quantities by the touch of a button.  The way we design has changed dramatically because of advanced in technology.  In the early 20th century, without computers, artist could replicate artwork yes, but they had to do it by hand.  Meaning that one piece of art would not be exactly the same as another even if it were the same artist and design.  Technology has made mass production possible; therefore design styles have lost their ‘originality’.  For example, the Tosca poster design by Metlicovitz seems symmetrical, but the floral border is not exactly the same on the left as it is on the right.  Nowadays, borders like those can be identically symmetrical because of technology and options like ‘reflect object’ in software such as Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.  Design styles have lost their uniqueness and become more ‘stenciled’, where you can see and recognize one simple design element in several design compositions because of the distribution of things such as clipart and stock images. However, the main purposes of a graphic designer’s work still remains to visually impact an audience and clearly represent important information.  This can be compared to Leopoldo Metlicovitz work, which is visually captivating, and also clearly states information about the opera or product it is trying to advertise.
I designed the poster below for the class’s assignment, and I was inspired by the posters of Leopoldo Metlicovitz that had been stored somewhere in my memory as a part of my childhood.

Early 20th Century Style Opera Poster Design

Early 20th Century Style Opera Poster Design

I dedicate this post to my grandfather Felipe Ramón Ojeda Russo, whose passion for great music has inspired me all throughout my life, both in my own music studies and appreciation for art.

For more design inspiration check out this website.

Color Modes

If you are a Graphic Designer or Photographer, then you should already know a little about the different color modes, or color spaces, RGB and CMYK.   However, if you are not aware of these concepts, don’t sweat it, it is very easy to understand.   Color modes are basically systems used to describe colors in a numerical way.   Color modes can be classified into additive and subtractive.   An additive color mode, such as RGB, will result in white by the addition of all the inclusive main colors (Red, Green, Blue) at 100%.   The subtractive color mode, such as CMYK, will result in black by the addition of all the main colors (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) at 100%.

Color Modes

Color Modes


RGB stands for Red, Green and Blue, and this color mode works by assigning an intensity value to each pixel on an image.   Intensity values go from 0 to 255 for each of the channel or color mentioned (RGB).   When the intensity value is set equally for all channels the result is a neutral gray, when they are all set to 0, the result is black, and when they are all set to 255, the result is white.

CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black.   This color mode works by assigning each pixel a percentage value for each of the process inks (CMYK).   When all the colors are set to 100%, the result will be black.   When all the colors are set to 0%, the result will be white.

The LAB color mode is an entirely different model.   This color mode is based on the human eye, and the human perception of color.   This color mode is considered device-independent, because it describes what a color looks like, and not the intensity or amount of ink in it.   The L component is the light component, which goes from 0 to 100.   The A component is for the green-red axis.   The B component is for the blue-yellow component.   The A and B components go from -128 to +127.   These numeric values are a description of all the colors that a normal human eye can perceive.

Grayscale color mode uses only shades of gray in an image.   There are no colors but black, white and gray.   Grayscale can be edited either in percentage from 0% to 100%, where 0 is white and 100 is black, or in value of shades of gray, from 0 to 256, 0 being black and 256 being white.

Duotone color mode can create either monotone, duotone, tritone or quadtone images.   Duotone does this by creating grayscale images.   The difference is that the user can select to have custom inks, either one, two, three or up to four custom inks.   A good example of this would be sepia images. The Bitmap color mode has two color values, either black or white.   This color mode represents an image only using black or white. ***When placing a Photoshop Duotone file into InDesign, the color palette changes.   The color palette will no longer let you choose values for CMY, it will only go from black to white.

Color Modes for Printing

Designers use CMYK color modes for printed documents.   The reason for this, is that CMYK color modes will better match and image on the computer screen to that on the printed-paper.   Once you create a document on CMYK mode, the printer will know how much Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black to use to duplicate the same color on your screen, because printers also use CMYK color modes.   That is why inks come in Cyan, Magenta and Yellow packages, and then Black.

Color Modes Not for Printing

One of the Color modes not used for printing is the RGB color mode.   Most TVs, and computer screens use red, green and blue lights to display the images on your screen.   However, as discussed earlier, printers work with CMYK color mode.  Therefore RGB color mode should be used for images and designs that will only be seen in screens.   But for printing, we must use CMYK.

A Bit of Color

The term “Bit” as it pertains to computers, comes from the term BInary digit (BIT).   A bit is the smallest unit of computer storage.   When it comes to colors, a bit is information about the color in one single pixel of the image.   This is also known as color depth or bit depth, which is the number of colors, that certain hardware or software can represent.   For example, an 8-bit document has 2 to the 8th power of colors (256 colors).   A 16-bit document has 2 to the 16th power of colors (65,536 colors).   Therefore a 16-bit document is capable of representing more colors than an 8-bit document.

How to create a Cool Duotone Image

Here is a quick little video tutorial on how to create cool duotone images.

Duotone Video Tutorial

Raster, Vector and Type

While typing up documents and blogs in Microsoft Word, the software is using typefaces, or fonts, to determine the style of the text or type.   The title could be set up to be 24 points and the text of the project at 12 points, and the title would be as crisp and high quality looking as the other text.   This is all possible because type and fonts are vector-based graphics.

Typefaces in a Word Document

Typefaces in a Word Document

A good strategy for manipulating type as a vector shape in Adobe Photoshop in the same way you would be able to in Adobe Illustrator is by converting the type into a shape.   In order to accomplish this, all you have to do is open a new document in Photoshop, then type some text.   Now, right click the type layer on your layers window and select the “Convert to Shape” option.   After this step, your text has become a Photoshop shape and you can scale it up or down without loosing quality because now it is a vector object.

Convert Text to Shape In Photoshop

Convert Text to Shape In Photoshop

Because Photoshop’s limited text and type editing tools, I would advise you to create the raster graphics in Photoshop, then place in InDesign as a background and add the text directly in InDesign.   However, it is possible to layout both raster images, vector objects and text copy in Photoshop and then bring into InDesign while vector objects remain crisp and scalable, including text.   This can be achieved by saving the original Photoshop file as a Photoshop PDF or Photoshop EPS file.   Then this file should be placed in InDesign.

Quality and Resolution Defined

During their careers, graphic designers will usually encounter clients and even coworkers that do not understand the graphic design world and common design concepts used in that world.  One of the most common concepts that individuals find hard to grasp is the difference between raster files and vector files.  This concept would be easier to understand if most of those individuals knew the definition of image resolution, which is usually confused with image quality.  It is the job of the graphic designer to learn all of these concepts and to be able to explain these concepts to their coworkers and clients, when creating a project.

Image Quality and Image Resolution

Before understanding the differences or similarities between image quality and image resolution, a definition of each should be studied.  First, we must understand how digital images are formed.  When we take a photograph with a digital camera, or we create a new document using a raster-based software like Photoshop, we are creating digital images as raster files.  These images are composed of pixels, or dots of color and digital information.  When we talk about the Image Resolution of a digital image, we are referring to a number, a proportion, defined by the number of pixels that compose the image.  When we talk about the Image Quality of a digital image, we are referring to the compression, the size of the file of the image, defined by the reduction or not of the information in each pixel within the image.  This explains that image quality and image resolution are not exactly the same thing, but they both have to do with the pixels within a digital image.

More on Image Quality and Resolution

The number or proportion of pixels in an image determines the resolution of an image.  This proportion is known as pixels per inch, or PPI, which can also be called dots per inch or DPI.  This pixel per inch ratio or proportion refers to the number of pixels inside one square inch of the image.  For example, images prepared for the web are usually saved with a 72 PPI resolution; therefore they have a low resolution.  An image prepared to print is usually prepared at 300 PPI; therefore it has a high resolution.  However, it is possible to have an image that has a high resolution of say 300 PPI, but is low quality.  This can be accomplished by creating a 300 PPI image in Photoshop using the Image Size window, and then saving it as a JPG with a low quality of 1, or even 0.  The same is true for creating an image that has a low resolution, like for example 72 PPI, and then save it with a high quality of 10, or even 12 on the image options of the saving window.

Do’s & Don’ts

As a graphic designer, you will most likely learn on your own the do’s and don’ts of image resolution and image quality throughout your career during trial and error.  Nevertheless, there are several do’s and don’ts that you should be aware of when dealing with these concepts that I have learned on the job and will share with you.

  1. After manipulating an image in Photoshop, make sure to save as a copy and keep the original images intact.
  2. Always keep a Photoshop version (with layers) of your manipulated images, and a flattened JPG version.
  3. Remember you can go from high resolution to low resolution, but not the other way around.  Therefore, always take and create high-resolution images.
  4. Always have a backup of your files.
  5. Never prepare an image for printing at less than 300 PPI.
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