An Essential Guide to Crazy-Free Family Pictures


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Feeling stressed about taking family pictures this year? You’re not alone; most of us want magazine-worthy pictures but don’t want the nightmare of color coordinating and getting kids to smile! Read on for our tried and true steps for getting amazing family pictures without the stress.

Pretty sure this kid was mesmerized by some rock or something.

With one kid, taking family pictures is hardly a national crisis.  You get dressed in nice-ish clothes, do your hair and maybe have grandma hopping around somewhere behind the camera trying to get the kid to look.

Add a couple more kids to the mix (or 5 more, whatever) and all of a sudden your mental state has deteriorated to DEFCON 5.  (That’s the worst, right?  Or is it DEFCON 1?)  Seeing how we’re in the thick of family picture taking season (all you overachievers who had them done at the beach back in June can just tune me out), here are some tips on avoiding Post-Family-Picture Stress Syndrome (that’s a thing).

1.  Use an experienced photographer

This doesn’t mean that you have to spend oodles of money, but it pays to ask about experience, especially if you have a large(r) family.  If you really only want a snapshot, then your brother-in-law with the nice camera is fine.  But if you’re putting effort into outfits and spending money, make sure you’ll get what you paid for!

2.  Dress for the weather, if shooting outdoors

We live in Phoenix, which means that every time we take holiday pictures it’s October and still 95 degrees outside.  Would I love to dress everyone in matchy-matchy reindeer sweaters?  Maybe.  But the subsequent heat stroke would make for some pretty crappy pictures.  Instead, we put on light pants, short sleeved shirts and find shade.  If November is already too cold for little girls in dresses, embrace it and take some cute shots all bundled up.  The outfit isn’t worth being miserable!

3.  Pay attention to the best time of  day for your kids

For mine, it’s usually right after naps but before they get hungry for dinner.  If this time works out with the sun for outdoor shots, then you’re in luck.  If not, you may need to get more creative.  Be sure to give everyone plenty of  snacks and water beforehand and BEFORE getting dressed, obviously.  Also be sure to bring water with you, as well as some non-messy snacks (i.e. apple slices or cheese sticks)

4.  Be aware of the location where you’ll be shooting and prepare for it

For example, if you’ll be around water, make sure someone is the designated baby-watcher.  If it’s out in the open, you might want to bring an umbrella for portable shade.  If there will be snow or sand, bring sunglasses.  We neglected to bring bug spray this year and Arizona has had some terrible flooding and unusual mosquito problems recently.  It’s strangely difficult to get kids to smile when they’re scratching umpteen mosquito bites.

5.  Prepare kids ahead of time for what to expect and plan a bribe

Something like… “Mom paid money for these pictures.  They will last an hour.  You must wear what I say and do your hair how I say and smile.  If you do, you will get french fries and ice cream afterwards.  That is all.”  It works pretty well for us.

6.  Stick (mostly) with clothes you own and love

If you go out and buy new stuff for everyone, chances are, not only will you be broke, but everyone will end up itchy and uncomfortable.  I like to pick a few of our favorite things and coordinate them rather than match everyone exactly.  Pinterest has some great color schemes for reference, or pick a favorite fabric pattern for inspiration.  Beware of too much white or too many patterns (especially tiny stripes).  Your photographer can also tell you anything else you should avoid.

If you need more tips for dressing your crew without going broke or crazy, check out this post here!

Lastly, be realistic and relax!  It’d be nice to get several great, quality shots of every kid but that’s not always likely.  Instead, focus on recording this time of your family’s life with all it’s quirks and imperfections (note my vice grip on baby Toby’s hand in above picture).  Life is messy, roll with it!

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  • Reply
    November 7, 2014 at 7:37 pm

    Great advice, Bonnie! One thing that I would add is this… Make it fun for the kids. That is why it is so important which photographer you choose. Parents can help by talking it up as an adventure instead of something to be endured. Also, I always tell the parents that they are not allowed to discipline during picture time. This helps create a more carefree mood.

  • Reply
    Tiffany feger
    November 27, 2014 at 7:16 pm

    I agree. I especially like your bribe. Just give expectations with no exceptions. Done. It is a good priority.

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