Family Portrait Including Dogs - dummies

Family Portrait Including Dogs

By Kim Rodgers, Sarah Sypniewski

The family portrait is a classic must-get, and you can go as traditional or creative as you’d like. Just remember to use depth of field and keep your subjects on the same plane. Generally, the easiest way to keep your subjects on the same plane is to put them all in a straight line, but that’s about as exciting as watching paint dry, so think creatively:

  • Set them on the staircase or front porch to create two rows. Have the front-row folks lean back a little and the back-row folks lean forward to make one plane.

  • Gather them in a corner of the couch, using pillows and cushions to create different heights.

  • Use a cool-looking chair or two; a couple of people can sit on the chair while others lean on it.

However you choose to set up, make sure all the subjects stay on the same plane as much as possible. That is, of course, unless you don’t want them all on the same plane. Maybe you’re bored with the traditional setup. Maybe you want to try something new. Intentionally place your subjects on different planes for a more unique family portrait.

For example, have Mom and Dad (or two brothers or whomever) sit down in the middle of a staircase. Position them in your frame like you want and then bring Beau in and give him a sit-stay command a few steps down (closer to the camera).

Set your aperture at a low f-stop number (that is, a wide aperture for shallow depth of field) and focus on Beau. This results in Beau being in sharp focus while the humans are blurred. It’s still a family portrait, but the emphasis is on the dog.

Remember though, you can still see the humans in the background; their details are just obscured, so make sure you have them do something cute, like look at Beau with googly smiles of love on their faces.


34mm, 1/200 sec., f/2.8, 320

This approach is not only a nice twist on the family portrait but also perfect for people who are camera-shy or self-conscious. Also, it gets you around that extra step of having to Photoshop the humans later. You can try this approach with any setting, such as

  • A pooch standing on-leash in the park with humans sitting behind on a park bench

  • A doggie on the ottoman and a human sitting in the chair

  • A canine on the end of the couch and humans in the far corner of it