Assembling the memories of our lives or those we love so much is especially important!

Legacy portraiture is defined as the gift of property (photographs) to be handed down. Creating the Legacy Portrait is probably one of the most important photographs Sally Ullman Photography produces.  To begin planning for such a professional portrait, conduct an interview with the person establishing contact. Discover and learn about the family which allows me to determine what will best represent them photographically in style and place.

Legacy portraiture is a personal history documenting your family. We all leave a “unique footprint’ on earth and our portrait should show this uniqueness for generations to come. Look at the creation of this portrait as an opportunity to show the world your family!

Specifically, my goal in producing family photography is to determine whether it is appropriate to photograph them in their house, my studio, or at their favorite location that represents a cherished family activity. What will they wear?  How many generations can we include and represent? All these decisions factor into creating the unique photographic memory that will best represent them through a combination of their style and ideas.

Let us break this down into how to photograph a family successfully and produce Family portrait sessions.

Important reasons we create Legacy Portrait sessions.

  1. How many of us will be together for a special event?
  2. Can we travel to include even more of the family than we did last year?
  3. Can we bring all of us together for a family portrait?
  4. Will the kids be away next year at this time?
  5. Is someone elderly or sick in the family?

All these reasons are why we record family memories in Family Portrait sessions.

Be sure to ask your family these questions every year!

I can think of no better gift than the memory a photograph creates. So, whether you photograph your family yourself, or hire a professional photographer to help turn your family legacy portrait into a reality, just seize the opportunity to make it happen soon!

The experience is priceless!

Pick the location for your Family Portrait session

What setting will be best for the family photography session?

Sally Ullman Photography creates family Portrait sessions in a variety of locations. Here, on the Suncoast of western Florida, I shoot family portraits in Lakewood Ranch, Longboat key, Siesta key, Anna Maria Island, Bradenton beach, and all the way down to Venice!

You, the client should decide what is best for your family – is it your home, the beach, a park nearby or a studio setting? There are many different styles of photography to think about utilizing in your portrait session.

Ask the following questions

  1. Do you like black and white photography or color photography?  Maybe for the legacy portrait of your family, you will select other tones that can be applied- like sepia or retro colorations.
  2. Should the family portrait session be candid or formal? Do you like a lifestyle photography style or more documentary?
  3. Are there members of the family that have limitations in movement such as grandparents or young children?  If so, the session should be timed around the best times for those family members.
  4. Should we include our pets?
  5. What about the location?  If in your home, make sure there is adequate space and light -talk to the photographer about that. Can furniture be moved or rearranged?
  6. Is the outside of your home a perfect backdrop to create the legacy family portrait for your family?

In Sarasota and Bradenton, we often utilize the beach for family beach photography.

Then we must consider the best time of day for the light and for all the family members to be comfortable accessing a beach location. * More about this in the Golden Hour section.

If we use a studio, the lighting is controlled, and you are in an enclosed environment- no need to worry about whether or hair blowing in the breeze. Often studio family photography eliminates the background by providing a seamless backdrop. Family members are arranged depending on their comfort levels for casually sitting on the floor or more formally standing and sitting.

A studio session does not have to be formal – there can be spontaneity and interaction with family members to create a more candid session for your legacy portrait.

Whatever style you choose, there are other considerations to pay attention to in advance.


Will you want to match your clothes for the family portrait session or blend colors and not match them identically?

Some families want each person to wear whatever they want which provides a picture of the family just as they are. I recommend if that is your choice, then photograph the family often so you can see how each person changes their style of clothing over time adding historical value to the legacy family portrait.

Beach Photography and Outdoor Photography 

SHOOT AT THE Golden Hour outside or at the beach.

Be sure to review the portfolio of the photographer you choose if you decide to create an outdoor Family portrait session. Especially for shooting the portrait session during the Golden hour!

There are several good reasons to select an experienced photographer for this type of session.

Shooting a family portrait on the beach requires skill and experience. Some photographers use only natural light and others add a fill flash to their portrait sessions.

Which do you prefer? if you do not know, look at the photographer’s work and be sure you can clearly see the faces of the people and the light in the background is balanced to the light in the front of the faces of the family?

The golden hour refers to the early morning or late afternoon sun, sunrise, or sunset. Sunset is the most popular especially for large families ’ ability to get together. I usually shoot 1 hour before sunset. If at the beach, this is the ideal time for a family photograph, and you really do not need more time than this.

The sun is best 30 minutes before the actual sunset but starting 1 hour before allows time to meet everyone and select the groups they want to have in their family portrait sessions.

I often photograph the large group family photo first, then break into groups as the family wants and then repeat the large family during the golden light!

The Golden hour is best because:

  1. There is no harsh light overhead that creates shadows on people’s faces and eyes.
  2. I always photograph families with their backs to the sun, so their faces are not shadowed and then I use a small fill flash to capture the spark in their eyes. This light balance of foreground to background is critical and should not be underestimated when choosing your Family portrait photographer.
  3.  Notice how brilliant the colors are at this hour in the sky.
  4. Photographing during any other time of the day must be done in shade or at specific angles so as not to produce shadows on faces or lack of color in the sky.

How to use the Family Photography session once the shoot is complete!

Family photos often hang on the walls of homes. They are displayed on nightstands at our bedsides where they are the last things seen before and after sleep and living rooms for guests to see. We leave them at office desks, where they remind us of our family and special times together.

This is the entire reason to create a family legacy photograph! Family photographs, from the act of capturing and viewing the photo, reinforce what the idea of family is; what the idea of what your family is.

You are creating a historical portrait and it will be treasured as time goes by. They create the idea of what the family is and mark a moment in your lives that can never be repeated.

Photographs help make a family feel connected and they are the first things we look for as the years go by and our families grow and change. Each child cherishes looking back as they grow at their photographs and it is the first thing we all look at when entering someone else’s home.

Ask yourself

What do family portraits tell us?

Where should I hang my family portrait?

Can we use this portrait session as a gift or for a family book or greeting cards?

Making a portrait wall in your home is a great way to preserve these important memories.

A family Legacy portrait at its best is the one displayed to enjoy each day on your walls or desks at home or office! Ask your professional portrait photographer for ideas on wall display.

I personally use the following finishes on a lot of my photographs.

Canvas, Acrylic, metallic finishes are both made from real metal and metallic papers. All these finishes come ready to hang and display.

Family photography is all about capturing groups of people that have family ties. These range from the small group, such as parents and their children.

Newborn photography also falls under this umbrella. Families often want to show off their newest members. To be a newborn photographer requires expertise and patience and there are fundamental photographic skills that make this type of shoot successful.

TIPS to make a better family photograph!

Of course, if family photography were as simple as picking up a camera and shouting ‘look here everyone!’, we would all be doing it. But it is not; there are a ton of details to it.

Often, the members of the family or group are inexperienced models in front of the camera. You need to make them feel comfortable and at ease.

Natural images are the best, but they should not all be candid. You, the photographer, have control. But the family supplies the mood, tone, and action. You, the photographer will add the spirit to keep the session moving along. Most sessions should not last longer than an hour because people lose interest and patience. Time the session for what is best for the family.

Photographing newborns is no easy task. Thankfully, most of them cannot move so well. So, they tend to stay where you place them, but placing them is an art unto itself. This does not mean they cannot fall, rollover or pull faces that are less than admirable. A camera for photographing scenes with newborns in them needs to have a wide range of settings. This includes specifically ISO and shutter speed. Camera lenses should have a variety of focal lengths. I often prefer a zoom lens for this reason. The wider ones will help you in low light.

Like newborn photography, your family photography will benefit from having a wide range of settings. Most settings, such as ISO and shutter speed, depending on your camera of choice. A higher-end camera will give you a broader range. The lenses you choose determine the aperture at which you can photograph. This allows you to use a small depth of field. It is great for blurring out backgrounds.

Having a wide range of focal points is helpful when it comes to photographing family photography portraits. The variety lets you get closer and further away from your subject. Perfect for keeping them at a distance.

A low ISO is always the best. This determines a higher quality in your images but with digital cameras and photoshop, a lot of corrections can be made. Make sure you are familiar with how your camera works before you shoot an important family event that cannot be repeated.  Higher ISOs will add digital noise or grain to your images. These should only be used for low light conditions.

Shooting in Raw is another must. This setting gives you so much more play in post-processing, but it takes up a lot of space on your computer’s hard drive.  Professional photographers are knowledgeable about this and have backup systems on their computers. Jpegs come out of your camera processed. There will not be much you can do to help it if it’s less than perfect.

Photographing your family (or someone else’s) does not have to be a serious matter. You will benefit from a lively, creative, and fun shoot. These images are going to be the memento for the family for a long time.

Utilize the setting you are into group families with different levels so everyone is not crowded into 1 long line. It can create contrast or juxtaposition within the shot. This can create interest and a happy reminder of the day.

Summary of Family Photo Shoots and creating Legacy Portraits

  1. Determine the style of the shoot-candid, formal, lifestyle, or documentary.
  2. Determine if the setting will be outside, in your home, or at a location.
  3. Will the studio be a better choice?
  4. Clothing- matching, blending, or everyone on their own?
  5.  Are we including the pets?
  6. Are there any young children that dictate the hours we work?
  7. Do you want to utilize the GOLDEN hour if shooting outside?
  8. Do you want natural light, fill-flash, or studio lighting?
  9. Have you discussed the images that you will have after the shoot and how to display them?

What to expect when hiring a professional photographer

Family photography is a genre that requires knowledge of different photo genres. You need to know how to take good portraits and group photographs. You also must be able to show the connection and relationship between people. The photographer you chose should have a portfolio visible by a website with plenty of examples of the type of work you are looking for.

Hire for the quality, not the lower price.  Also, people often think being given all the files is what they want to have after the shoot is complete. It is never a good idea to own all the files from any shoot. I personally show the family the entire shoot on my viewing site and allow them to choose the agreed-upon number of pictures based on the price that they want. Then I retouch those and give them to them fully ready as high-resolution usable files for their choice of printing.

The experience is priceless!

Contact Sally Ullman Photography for a unique and quality experience!


Serving the Sarasota and Greater Manatee county areas in beautiful Southwest Florida