family pictures

It's that time of year again, the time that strikes fear in the heart of brave men moms everywhere... family picture time. If you're the type who takes annual family pictures for either your Christmas cards, or just your own personal use, you've probably already suffered through taken yours, or you're about to. My family took them this past weekend and I'm pleased to report they they turned out surprisingly well. I know, I know, I sound so negative about it, but when you have a child of a certain age (toddlerhood, ahem, ahem), it can be a challenge. And so, with visions of tantrums and rebellions dancing in my head  I set out with what could either be a simple, or far-reaching goal-just getting one good picture.

Why so much stress and anxiety? I had decided to take them myself.
There were a lot of reasons that I made that decision, so if you lose your mind and decide that's the right choice for your family as well, here are some thoughts to keep in mind that helped me:

1. Prepare a Plan of Attack

I am the type of person that likes to be prepared-overly prepared if possible. :) You can never guarantee that everything will be perfect, but you can ensure that you've done everything in your power to help things run smoothly.
So first of all, is it even possible for you to take your own family portraits? Do you have a camera with enough megapixels to blow up to whatever size you're going to want? Do you have a tripod or a family friend who will stand exactly where you tell them and take the photos? Do you have a self-timer and the ability to take multiple shots with one push of the shutter button? Or, ideally, do you have a remote shutter trigger (not all cameras are compatible with one, mine wasn't so I had to go the tripod, self-timer route)? You don't need a fancy-schmancy DSLR, you just have to know how to use the camera you've got. My favorite photography book is "Your Camera Loves You: Learn to Love It Back" by Khara Plicanic, I got it at Costco about a year ago and it rocks. You can also check out
Also, know your priorities; when planning out my family's session, I decided (and made sure my husband knew too!) that my priority was the family picture. I would take those first, pictures of my daughter next, while my husband was playing with my son getting some of the wiggles out, and take pictures of my son last. I also brought snacks, bribes (Halloween candy), and a nursing cover-just in case.

2. Location, Location, Location

Ok, well, whether or not you're taking them yourself, location is a pretty important factor of family photos. What do you and your spouse like? Inside, studio portraits? Using natural light outdoors? If so, do you like a natural look out in a field, a park, at the beach, etc; or do you want an urban scene in the background, brick walls, a cityscape, etc.? Or would you prefer a lifestyle approach and have your own home as the the backdrop in your photos? There is a lot to think about!
I knew I definitely wanted our pictures taken outside, where the light would be the best and-in my case-the background would be gorgeous with all the Fall-ness (that's a word, right?) around where we live. I wanted the location to have meaning for my family so that even if we move away, we'll be able to look back and have fond memories of our stay here in Nevada County. I picked a park that is in our neighborhood.
Lastly, scope out the location ahead of time if possible, bonus points if you can do this at the same time of day as you'll be taking the photos, so you can see how/where the light is. This actually helped me a lot, I first went to the park where I thought I wanted to take our family portrait, then realized there was really only one spot there that had a background I liked. I then drove to my second choice park, and discovered that there were tons of different, interesting angles at this location that would include a pretty background. I took lots of pictures to help me remember what angles I liked.

3. Clothing is Key

There are a lot of different ways you could go with this. There is the "3 colors and a pop" rule, as found from Meghan Owens Photography. Of course,  you can also just pick 2 or 3 colors and stick with those (similar to the above-mentioned "pop" rule), which is what we did for our family pictures  two years ago (blue and brown).

You could also decide on a color "family", such a Fall colors or pastels. Here is a beautiful example of jewel tones taken by my favorite photographer, Alicia Marie Photography.
Or you can do what we did this time, and plan your outfit around one piece that you love, in our case, this shirt of my son's.
Just remember, coordinate, don't match!

4. Become a Master Poser

You probably have some ideas in mind, but take a quick browse on the Internet too. Search for "family photo ideas", "family photo poses", etc and you'll some up with so many ideas for family photos that it will be hard to narrow it down! Pinterest is a great place to search and collect your ideas! With that in mind, remember that you probably won't be able to do everything you'd ideally like to in one session. Even with the most patient and obedient children, everyone will get whiny, hungry and antsy. I found 5 family poses that I wanted to try and printed up a sheet that had them as thumbnails. that way I would not only be able to remember, but also show my husband what I wanted, which makes it easier than trying to explain what you want.
Remember that some poses might require props so don't forget to bring them! I recommend gathering them all together the night before so you're not runing around the morning of the shoot all stressed out. Here is a great article with 50 ideas for family posing.

5. Have Low Realistic Expectations

Like I mentioned at the beginning of the post, I just repeated the following mantra to myself  "all I need is one good picture". As pessimistic as it may sound, go into this with low expectations, and you'll be pleasantly surprised. And remember, you're taking them yourself, so if the kids aren't having a good day or you just don't love anything you got, try again another day!

Here is a great article form the Dating Divas with 101 tips for taking a great family photo. :)