How to Take Your Own Family Photos at Kusel Castle

Taking your own family photos is quite challenging, but it can be done with plenty of preparation and a little bit of luck.  First, lets talk about gear. You’ll need:

  • DSLR Camera with a self timer capability or remote trigger capability
  • A good sturdy tripod
  • A remote trigger (optional if you can use the self timer option)

Additionally, when shooting at Kusel Castle or any outdoor family session, I prefer to use a longer lens to compress the background to really utilize all the beautiful scenery found around Kusel Castle. A 55-200mm is a good choice and is a very useful lens to add to your gear list. I like to zoom in as much as I can for how much room I have to scoot back from my subjects while also keeping the background scenery details if desired.

110mm f2.8 1/400

To take a photo and also be in the photo, you can use the self timer feature found on most DSLRs. By default most self timers are set to 10 seconds but you can tweak these settings in the menu. You can also set it to take up to 9 photos at a time so you can be sure to catch all those smiles and not so many blinking eyes.

Another option is to purchase an inexpensive remote for your camera.  The drawback to this method is the distance it can reach and still work is too short to use with a telephoto lens (16ft max). This type of trigger uses infrared and so needs to be in direct line of sight with your camera, like a basic TV remote. So you’ll have to break pose to point it at the camera.

A third option is to use your off camera flash triggers if you got ’em. I had these Yongnuo triggers to use my off camera flash and had no idea I could also use them to trigger my camera’s shutter. These remote triggers use radio waves and so do not need to have direct line of sight to the camera like the basic remote does. Also they reach a much greater distance, up to 100 meters! Use and setup will be subject of another blog post coming soon.

Finally, get everyone dressed up and where you want them, set up your tripod and camera, check the view finder and get everyone in focus, then run on over to join them before pressing the trigger. This may take many trials and errors, as children don’t always cooperate to look at a camera with no photographer behind it. In my case, I ended up just photoshopping two photos together, one with me in it and one taken with me behind the camera. Daughter was upset because I had handed her off to her father and ran away to get behind the camera.

My family photo, a composite

When taking your family photos at Kusel Castle, make sure to shoot 1-2 hours before sunset so the sun is in a good position for the shoot and the light is nice and soft. Get a good shot right in the middle of the castle area near the restaurant on the nice cobblestone road. Then go back out front to get one off to the right of the castle near the parking lot where there is a nice tree and a cool castle wall covered in moss. To finish off I get everyone in the car and drive up the hill to find a good spot with a view to the castle, just as the sun is setting.

So good luck with your DIY family photoshoot. Of course it would be much easier if you just hire a professional to help you out (wink, wink).

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Andrea Marie Photography is a family photographer located in Haymarket Virginia, Prince William County, Northern Virginia. Email: