Assuming that you are setting something up, choosing the time of day and the location carefully, you have control of all the elements. Meaning, once you get set up the exposure should not need to change. But if you put it in Aperture or Shutter priority, depending in the metering mode selected, the camera could choose a slightly different exposure for each frame. You do NOT want that! Consistency is very important.
I volunteered my time at an event called Help Portrait last year that has photographers, make up artists and organizers giving their time to create portraits for people that otherwise couldn’t afford a professional one. They ended up sending most of the families to me, initially because I had the biggest area to do the group photo and later because the other photographers said I was the best with the kids. To see some of my photos from that event go to Help Portrait, Edmonton 2012.
I think the best way to get family pictures is a little of both – print and digital – especially since photographers generally charge a lot for their rights to be released via digital images/CDs. If I am limited in the package deal to only 1 image on a CD (like when we’ve gone to Sears or JCPenney), then I generally choose the family group shot as my one image, and get prints of the individual shots.
…and think outside the box. Scarves, hats, flowers in the hair for girls, jewelry, sweaters, vests, jackets, etc. – all these things can take a ho-hum image and make it feel “complete.” Don’t let the accessories overwhelm the subject or the photos though. I believe that especially with sweet babies and toddlers that they don’t need much in the way of “accessories.” Little kiddos are beautiful in their simple purity, and I want them to be the star of the show instead of making one’s eye go straight to a giant headband as big as their head as they sit awkwardly in a big bucket. I want the viewer to notice my subject and their personality first. The accessories and clothing should just complement them – not be center stage. Choose your accent colors and fill in outfits with those punches of color in accessories. For instance, if big sister’s patterned dress has tones of aqua, coral and gray, have mom wear a coral headband and little brother in an aqua pair of Converse and bow tie. Show off the kids’ and your unique personality with accessories!