Tips for capturing family portraits on a limited budget

I’d like to share helpful suggestions for taking family portraits on a budget. I will also share how I came to the joy of portraiture after many years of snapping randomly (and disappointing) photographs. I hope this article will appeal to family photographers looking for affordable equipment, as well as anyone who is new to photography and just want to take nice pictures of their loved ones.

Many amateur photographers aren’t able to invest a lot of money on costly camera equipment and do not have the time to visit “magical” places, but all of this is not required if you want to take top-quality photos. Below, I’ll explain how to keep portrait photography cheap and enjoyable with regards to camera equipment and places, based on my personal experience.

Family Photo Maternity
NIKON D5100 + 85mm f/1.4 @ 85mm, ISO 500, 1/200, f/1.4, speedlight, softbox

The Portrait Photography Mindset

I think that the majority of people need some desire to transform from a frustrated snap-shooter to a professional photographer. My wife’s first birth did it. I knew immediately that I wanted to take pictures of our family members and her in the best way possible since. In the early stages of her pregnancy I began learning about photography, watching our neighborhood, and then planning my first photograph shoot.

This is all it took me to get the right mental attitude. If I didn’t have it, I can imagine that you could have thousands of dollars worth of gear and still be taking snapshots. (Then I’m sure that I would not know, as I’ve never owned the tools for testing this idea!)

Family Photo Maternity
NIKON D5100 + 85mm f/1.4 @ 85mm, ISO 100, 1/400, f/1.6

Finding Locations for a Family Photoshoot

I can remember walking to my home for dinner every evening around 6 pm. It was the spring in 2014 when it was a sunny day over the nearby structure with tiny trees on a hill that were lit stunningly prior to sunset. The view was vibrant and beautiful. beauty for only half an hour if the sun was at a low enough level but was not completely obscured from view behind the buildings. Every once in a while, somebody cut grass on that hill. This grass was always most attractive when it was long and tall as was possible. It took a few days to trim all the grass in the first place, so when the scent of greenery evident it was the right time to get involved.

A few days ago, on my way to a mall, I came across the meadow and thought it could be a good place to start. There was a large area of grass, and a split-rail fence that ran along the road. Perhaps, in a previous I could recall a beautiful lighthouse by the lake, where we would have picnics, or see beautiful bouquets of flowers in the midst of the.

It is important to pay attention to everyday instances such as those. Things such as flowers, grass, and the landscape you walk by everyday could be great locations for a photography session, and do not require any additional money to travel to. It was these kinds of locations that struck me as I was planning my first photoshoot with my wife who was pregnant.

Maternity Photo-3
NIKON D5100 + 85mm f/1.4 @ 85mm, ISO 100, 1/200, f/2.8, speedlight + softbox

Learning Portraiture

I will not revisit the art of portraiture in this post. There are numerous excellent simple and advanced articles on the aperture depth of field and perspective that make up portrait photography a breeze, and even photography life itself. Photography Life itself. (Check on this site to find all the portrait photography tips available on the website.) My suggestion is to experiment with these settings to determine the appearance of your image. There is a lot of control over aspects like isolating your subject or defocusing the background. This can lead to various creative designs within a photograph.

Much of it is dependent on your individual style and choices regarding photography. In my work, I prefer to make use of wide apertures and then step back a bit from the subject in order to separate the subject well. This can result in more 2D flat-like photos. (Hence my favorite Sigma 85mm f/1.4 lens for the DX camera, which is shown below). However, I’ll say this regardless of what happens you do, make sure to keep your person’s eyes on the camera!

Maternity Portrait
NIKON D5100 + 85mm f/1.4 @ 85mm, ISO 100, 1/320, f/1.6

How to Pick Inexpensive Photography Gear

There are numerous options to buy photography equipment at a lower cost than what that you’ll find with top of the line DSLRs or mirrorless models available online. There is always the option to purchase second-hand, an older or less expensive camera, or compromise on certain specifications, but your final equipment can be very high-end and affordable.

Personally, I’ve not had any issues using second-hand equipment. I always make use of local buy-and-sell services so that I can take a check out the equipment and try it before buying. But, purchasing secondhand isn’t the only method to save money on camera equipment when you’re on a tight budget. You can also save big by purchasing a top-quality manuel focus lens in place of an autofocus as an example, or just reduce the specifications a little (like purchasing a lens with an f/1.8 maximum aperture instead of f/1.4).

You can also get a better deal by choosing the “consumer” DSLR or mirrorless camera instead of an option for prosumers that does not offer you as many buttons or dials, but usually comes with the same excellent camera sensor. Also, a camera with a crop sensor rather than a full frame option is the best option when you’re in a pinch.

Below is the list of my personal camera equipment I use for photography of portraits. Then, I’ll explain the reasons I chose these specific equipments:

  • Nikon D5100 (or the similar sensor D7000)
  • Samyang 85mm f/1.4 ED AS UMC (manual focus lens)
  • Nikon 35 mm f/1.8G AF-S DX (autofocus lens)
  • Yongnuo The RF-603N The Wireless Flash Trigger (to operate a flashlight remotely)
  • Nissin Speedlite Di622, and a softbox made from scratch
  • Kit for basic continuous lighting (5500K 4x85W bulbs E27 sockets, 20 inches x 28 inches softbox 2m tripod)
  • Basic white background screen (1.6m 5m)

Camera and Sensor Options on a Budget

Being a self-taught novice I needed a budget-friendly however decent and fairly high-resolution camera with RAW capabilities. I wanted the camera’s sensor to be able to produce high-quality images (with an excellent lens) and also giving me some cropping options and frame flexibility. In addition, a good dynamic range and the ability to be flexible in editing using Lightroom were top of my list of requirements.

Some time in the past, I was led to pick a camera that has a stellar image – the 16 megapixel model available on the Nikon D5100 and D7000 as well as a few other cameras. It was already an affordable option in the past, and is now even more affordable. I still make use of it in all my work! Personally, I went with Nikon D5100 to get Nikon D5100 to save some cash, and to benefit from the articulated frames.

This is a huge benefit when using manual focus lenses that allow me to utilize the LCD to view my focus point much more quickly. This also makes it more comfortable to take family photographs. Also, the higher priced D7000 comes with the advantage of having separate dials for shutter speed and aperture and also an AF-fine tune feature (among other options) should you want to make use of more sophisticated settings.

Black and White Maternity Photo
NIKON D5100 + 85mm f/1.4 @ 85mm, ISO 200, 1/250, f/5.6

An A-Grade Lens (a Prime Lens with Wide Aperture)

Sometimes, while using my first camera kit with low resolution which included with the Nikon D50 the 18-55mm, and 55-200mm lenses, I was captivated by the option to zoom. My indecisive zooming style would often cause me to lose focus, then just to let it go and I would then take a photo and then lose it. Therefore I opted for prime lenses and have never regretted it. (By by the by the way, prime lenses helped me frame my images better.)

I wanted the same results as other photographers using full-frame cameras and iconic 135mm f/2.0 lenses, also known as the “king” for portrait cameras. My aim was to get an image with a narrow depth of field as well as a unique perspective. You have to stand away from the subject when using the longer focal length of this lens. I just wanted to achieve pleasing image flatness and subjects that are not surrounded by background.

I was looking at older, cheaper lenses like Nikon’s AiS, E or D series. I found that the lenses I was looking at had poor contrast and chromatic aberrations and were not made to be used in digital photography. However, lenses that cost a lot like Nikon 85mm f/1.4 Nikon 85mm f/1.4 were out of the budget of my, so I needed something that had an f/1.4 aperture, not f/1.8.

So, I took an entirely different path and bought an affordable manual-focus lens, with modern technology that is the Samyang 85mm f/1.4 lens. When used on a crop sensor DX camera, it lens provides roughly an equivalent field of vision and depth to 135mm f/2.0 lens on a full frame FX camera.

There is a possibility of manual focus on this lens. How has it performed for me? After a while it becomes easy to become comfortable with it, and I am now able to am enjoying it. When I had my Nikon D5100 I mostly focused using the LCD screens. Then, when I upgraded to the D7000 model, which comes with a 1.36x Tenpa magnifying eyepiece (effectively changing the size of the viewfinder to match the size of a full frame body) I focused in the traditional way.

Surprisingly, I’m able to photograph running children better using the manual focusing method than employing autofocus on the D7000 but I do believe aware that the latest cameras have better tracking algorithms.In the end, if I require an even wider frame I opt for Nikon 35mm f/1.8G Af-S DX lens. It is also great to photograph a crowd of people, or for taking photos indoors due to its wide field of view and its large aperture.

Pregnancy Portrait Photo
NIKON D5100 + 35mm f/1.8 @ 35mm, ISO 100, 1/200, f/4.5, speedlight + softbox

Inexpensive Lighting: A Softbox and Flash

There’s usually an excuse to employ a soft fill in the light of portrait photography when shooting with a flash. It doesn’t matter if it’s a high-contrast day, sunny one or a low-contrast cloudy day shadows will often are able to show on the face of your subject.

Because flash and speedlight lighting can be rough and reflective the softbox comes in handy to disperse the light. I built my first softbox as a DIY project along with my wife as there are numerous tutorials available online to make one from scratch. I still own that softbox, and I use it regularly frequently, making it one of the most expensive photographic equipment that you can purchase! Nowadays, I keep a small folding softbox for commercial use in my bag all the time.

For the flash itself, it’s simple and easy to use a Nissin Speedlite Di622 on the consumer DX camera, such as the D5100. (That flashlight isn’t available in many stores, however you can get a bargain AmazonBasics flash that is brand new for just $28.) I generally use my flash off camera and set it in different angles relative to the subject. In indoors, I bounce the light off of a reflective surface like the ceiling or wall.

I run it completely in manually controlled mode (which is the only mode included in the AmazonBasics model also). So, I’m able to alter the power of the light source in a way that matches my desired intensity. After a few tests, I’m ready to go.

Infant Photo
NIKON D5100 @ 85mm, ISO 100, 1/160, f/1.6

Indoor Portraiture Considerations

Outdoor portraits typically, you need large apertures to give your subjects that are not surrounded by a complex backgrounds. I usually use the aperture f/2.8 or larger apertures when using the Samyang 85mm zoom.

If you’re working in a studio that is indoors but, you might take pictures against a white scree or wall, where the feeling of being isolated is already a requirement. If you’re in control over lighting from artificial sources (and consequently you’re not running out of light) You can choose any aperture you like to get the highest performance possible from your lens, which could be an aperture of F/4, f/5.6, or f/8.

Personally, as I don’t have large spaces and can’t move back often and have limited space, I frequently make use of my Nikon 35mm f/1.8G FX AF-S lens in this instance. (In earlier times, I also had the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G FX AF-S lens however, I prefer the combination of 35mm and 85mm focal lengths more flexible with a crop sensor camera). Concerning lighting, the most straightforward solution is to bounce the flash off the walls or ceiling. But, you might find more sophisticated lighting systems will yield superior results.

Personally, I have found that I take the best photos when I mix speedlight and softbox in combination with continuous lighting. I place both sources of light at an angle to the subject, creating an approach to cross-lighting. Additionally, I remove an ordinary white screen from a curtain railing in front of the subject. The easy installation and disassembly of the temporary studio works with ease each time.

Family Portrait Photo
NIKON D7000 + 50mm f/1.8 @ 50mm, ISO 100, 1/160, f/4.0, speedlight + softbox, continuous lighting kit, material screen background, cross-lighting technique


A few years ago, when I was using my old Nikon D50 camera I waited in line along with other tourists to capture the famous landmark. A woman approached me with an unassuming question: why did I bother doing this? Then I outlined some of the facts I read in a travel book regarding the area. But she still stared at me in a thoughtful way and questioned, yet again why I was doing this? She was looking for the deeper motive. It’s a question we should all consider: Why you want to take photos either portraiture or not and what is photography to you?

I believe that you can only grow and really delight in photography when you’ve decided to do it your individual method. Personally, I am a fan of photographing family portraits and taking pictures and have done this on a tight budget too. This is something I’m certain about that you don’t have to purchase thousands of dollars of equipment to get the images you’d like.