Large groups are definitely the hardest to take pictures of... Reminder from the first post in this session, we're working with a 6 month old and a sick kindergartner! Plus, we are just using a camera on a tripod.
The main problem in this first shot is that the camera was too far away - there is too much backdrop showing (plus a distracting opening in the door to the left).
Don't be afraid to crop! This is the same picture as the first - I cropped the open part of the door on the left side and the odd-looking unused seating on the right side. Remember, however, when you crop family photos, you still want to be able to put them into normal sized picture frames. Often times when you crop on any photo editor, you can constrain the cropping to a specific ratio so that it either works for a 5x7 or a 8x10 or whatever size you plan on printing.
I like this set-up because the grandparents are in the middle, and the kids have a place to sit (I find that they are more cooperative if they have actual places to sit). Of course, all I can do is focus on how "awkward" that I think I look... that is common - most of the time, when you show the resulting pictures to a large group, each individual will focus on themselves and like a picture depending on how they look (or how their kids look).
Thankfully, we had a graphic designer in the family (far left in the back row!) who can do a little head swapping... meaning, to a small degree, goofy smiles and closed eyes can be swapped from a different picture of the same pose. I don't have these fixed pictures to show, but it is sure helpful when you don't have a true photographer behind the camera who can help dictate your head angles or who can just keep taking pictures until everyone is looking reasonably well.
Although I liked these arrangements because the grandparents were in the middle (the place of honor), it is always important to make sure that everyone is comfortable. If someone is not comfortable, they won't like the picture afterwards. My mother-in-law didn't like being in the middle. She would have preferred to have a grandchild on her lap or to be standing up. Therefore, she wasn't as fond of these indoor pictures... that turned out to be helpful as we moved outdoors and took our favorite pictures there...
We never tested this shot during the location try-out, but it turned out to be the best place! There was still two textures in the backdrop, but we had a little more room to play with heights. Again, notice that the kids had a place to sit. However, we needed a little extra editing to get rid of those sunspots (this is not as easy as it sounds... my brother-in-law put in a lot of extra time to color correct that spot!).
All-in-all, as the "photographer" but also needing to be in the picture, it was difficult to keep track of how many pictures you should be taking to make sure eyes are open or head angles looked good (I didn't have very much time to review pictures between shots as I was busy getting the timer set an then running back to my spot). Many thanks to our graphic designer who helped with the finishing edits (again, I don't have copies of those, but hopefully you can imagine what a little post-doctoring could have done!).