Grandparents greeting and welcoming visiting family at front door.

10 Tips to Take Great Family Gathering Photos Without Missing the Party

Are you your family's ‘photographer' at family gatherings? If so, sometimes, it's hard to strike a balance between “I'm taking pictures to remember this event.” and “I'm at this event and making memories.”

Here are ten photographer-tested tips for capturing beautiful memories while still being able to participate in and enjoy events with your family.

1. Make a Shot List

group of happy friends having christmas dinner at home.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Think about the story you want to tell with your photos and jot down a list. For instance, a holiday party might be preparing the meals, the table setting, a family toast, and grandparents talking with grandchildren.

You don't have to carry your list around, but the process of writing it down will keep the photo ideas fresh in your mind. Look for those key moments and relax about trying to capture every single thing.

2. Take Pre-party Photos

little girl laying down on soft cushion and looking up near Christmas tree at home.
Photo Credit: Alena-Ozerova/Shutterstock.

If you hope to capture pictures of a child all dressed up, before the party is a great time to stage a few photos. You get the photos out of the way before the event even begins, and you don't have to pull said child away from the action later. Bonus- no worries if someone spills grape juice on their shirt later.

3. Look for the Light

Cute girl dancing surrounded by family
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

The key to capturing clear photos is having lots of light available. Depending on your location, you may not have the option to let light in. If light is lacking, using a flash may be inevitable, but when possible, set up the party in a location that allows decent natural light to come streaming in.

4. Enlist All Five Senses

lit up start against a backdrop of colorful lights
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Take pictures of the details. How does the moment you’re living smell, taste, hear, touch, and look? Enlisting your senses ensures that years from now, you’ll be able to remember these moments just as if they happened yesterday.

5. Vary Your Perspective

A man in a living room decorated for the holidays surprised by christmas gift given by wife and daughter.
Photo Credit: bbernard/Shutterstock.

Try to change up how you take an image, whether a close-up, taking a step or two back, getting a wide view of an entire scene, looking up, looking down, or getting at eye level. By adding variety to your images, you’ll avoid having 20 of the same setup and add interest to any life story you’re trying to tell with your photos.

6. If Using a Phone, Know Your Phone’s Camera Shortcuts

hands holding a phone taking a picture of a couple
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Get to know your way around your camera ahead of time. Tapping on your subject to improve exposure is just one of the many shortcuts phones offer for snapping images. Each phone is different, but a bit of poking around Google will help you uncover what shortcuts you have available! These shortcuts will let you take great photos without messing around with your phone for too long.

7. Have a ‘Second Shooter’ on Hand

young woman holdin a camera standing against a red backdrop
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Ask for help! Find a trusted friend or family member you can pass the camera to. Have a teenager who likes to take photos? They're probably more than willing to help you capture the event so you're able to enjoy the day too. And if you've made a shot list, it'll be easy to ask for help getting the photos you want.

8. Use Continuous Shooting Mode

Excited little girl with open mouth looking at the beautifully decorated Christmas trees with lights.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.


Most cameras have the option to take a series of shots each time the shutter button is pushed. That series option is called Continuous Shooting Mode. It can save you countless hours behind the lens! By taking multiple shots at a time, you end up with A LOT more photos, but the time it takes to get the ‘1 in a million’ photo comes much quicker than taking one shot at a time. And once you get that shot, you can put the camera away for a while and get back to partying!

9. Be Imperfect and Delete Later

Happy family eating a meal together.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

In the moment, when you're chatting and snapping pictures, you likely won’t have time to pose everyone and everything perfectly. At least, not without making it really annoying. Grab a bunch of photos without overly perfecting each one, and then delete extras later. If you've taken photos on your phone, get into the habit of deleting some images during your downtime.

10. Trust That You Don't Have to Capture Everything

Young couple sharing hot drink while enjoying date in winter outdoors.
Photo Credit: SeventyFour/Shutterstock.

You'll make better memories and have more fun if you lean into what works and let go of forcing things. If someone hates having their photo taken, don't push it. If the dog runs through the group photo- ok, that's very authentic. Years from now, you'll still love coming across the photos from the event, regardless of whether you caught everything perfectly.

It's About Connection, Not Perfection

Three little girls relaxing on sofa with mom at Christmas watching television.
Photo Credit: DGLimages/Shutterstock.

Beautiful photos are nice, but they can't replace the moment you're actually in.

Idea – Make a Family Time Capsule With Your Photos

Happy woman and her little daughter are looking through photos and smiling while sitting on couch.
Photo Credit: Dikushin-Dmitry/Shutterstock.

One fun way to make a memory of an event is to use your photos for a time capsule.