5 ways to take the “perfect” out of family photos and make them “real”

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It has been three years since we have taken family photos. Olivia was a few months old the last time we had photos taken together. How sad is that! So, I decided it was time. There are two big reasons why it has been so long. First, taking family photos in the past has been so overwhelming. I always wanted that “perfect” shot and it caused a lot of frustration and stress in trying to get it. Second, it was overwhelming to try and get the “perfect” outfit. So, once I took perfection out of the picture, it was not only easy, it was fun! Taking the “perfect” out of our family photos created a photo that showed the “real” us.

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Notice half of a dog in the background?

Here are five tips that we do when preparing for family photos:

1. Decide what everyone is going to wear. This is something that is NOT necessary. The point is getting the family picture.  Don’t let the often daunting task of choosing outfits stop you from taking your family photo. If you are up to dressing everyone, here are my five guidelines when choosing our family outfits:

  • I prefer coordinating outfits over matching for our family so it makes it a little easier. I typically don’t have to go out and buy anything; I just find what we have in our closets and go with that.
  • I try to dress them in outfits that fit their personality. For example, our No. 3, Andrew, already cares about what he wears and likes to look nice. So I dressed him in a dress shirt with jeans. Caleb, our No. 1, likes to be comfortable, so I dressed him in a soft, cozy, yet stylish shirt with jeans. Our girls, Sophia, (No. 2) and Olivia, (No. 4) both like to dress up, so I put dresses on them.
  • I try to pick clothes that are not too trendy but have a more classic, timeless look.
  • I pick outfits that match the season. I love outdoor photos so to me it would look a little funny if the leaves were all colorful and we were dressed in spring outfits.
  • I tend to keep my outfits neutral so I like to add a pop of color. Often times I add the color in accessories, scarves, hair accessories, vests, etc. In these pictures, I chose to add orange flowers to the girls hair.

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2. Let go of the idea of the  “perfect” photo and have fun with it.  I believe this is the key to fun family photos. It allows the true family personalities to shine through the pictures. Our last family photo (ahem, three years ago), I remember yelling at the kids about silly stuff. I wanted a perfect photo of our family. How in the world were we supposed to get 2 adults, 4 kids and a dog to all be doing the right thing at exactly the right time? I know, I was crazy right? Thinking back, it’s really funny. I would go from frustrated and grumpy to smiling and happy while the camera was clicking. I look at those photos now and truly, I don’t see a “perfect” family. What I remember when I look at those pictures is the stress and frustration. I didn’t want to do that this year. I wanted them to be excited to take family photos again next year, so I let the idea of the “perfect family picture” go and we just had fun. I can’t tell what a difference it made. The smiles were all real and not fake and forced. We were all having a great time. And odds are, you will get a few photos you will love.

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3. Have a reward. I know all the parenting books say not to reward with food, but we did. We have been guilty of this at every family photo shoot (and I wouldn’t change a thing). It worked so well for us when the kids were younger. I would bring fishy crackers, something they didn’t often get and that wouldn’t get them too dirty. (I tried chocolate chips once, but I wouldn’t recommend that. We had chocolate EVERYwhere.) Now that they are getting a little older, we don’t have to reward to get them to pose for the photos. We did celebrate this family photo session though by having a special “family night”. We had a bonfire and roasted marshmallows.

4. Have poses in mind. I scoured Pinterest looking for great photo poses and had those ready for our photographer. One thing that helped was not having every shot be a “posed” picture but taking more action shots of us, walking, running or making a silly face. Having ideas of pictures ahead of time made taking the pictures so much easier. We didn’t have to think about what to do and we had the props ready to go. Another thing I did this year was talk to my kids as we took the pictures. I would say things to try and get them to laugh so we would have really happy smiles. You as parents, know your kids better than anybody. You will know how to make them laugh.

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5. Choose a photographer. Select a photographer that not only takes great photos, but also works well with your family. We chose my brother-in-law, Jason. He works great with the lighting and has an eye for photography AND the kids are comfortable with him (plus he was free since I watch his two kids once a week, which was a bonus).

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So how long has it been since your last family photo? Is it time to take a “real” family picture?




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