8 Tips for Taking Family Photos

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We have our family photos coming up this week and to be honest, it’s not my favorite thing to do. Maybe in later seasons it will be, but the mix of a 8, 6, and 2 year old can be tricky! Not so much with Henry, but the youngest two can need some bribing (more on this later!). We take new photos every year- sometimes twice a year (sorry, Hank)- and over the past 9 years I’ve gathered a few tips and tricks along the way. Here we go-

Plan your outfits 2-3 weeks prior

There is nothing worse than it being the night before photos and suddenly realizing you don’t have everyone’s outfits together. The key- get organized! I lay everything out flat on our bed a couple weeks before and see what looks good, what I need to swap out, what I need to still get. Have everyone try on everything- what fits? What doesn’t? And go from there. Stay tuned for a round up of favorite family photo outfits coming later this week! Also, I always get questions about the dress in the first photo- it’s from Misa. Love that line for pretty dresses and jumpsuits.

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Choose one focal outfit and plan the rest around it

As far as planning what everyone will wear, keep it simple. I will often start with my outfit first. I’ll get that set, then choose something complimentary for Olive. For the boys I’ll typically do pants in the same color family, and then one soild button down, one flannel or print, and a sweater or crew neck sweatshirt. Sounds kind of formulaic, but it works for us. When you’re doing kids clothes you don’t want everyone in plaid, or everyone in the same color. I like for everything to kind of flow but to keep each person’s own look their own look. I will let the boys wear their fave sneakers too, which they love.

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Keep it short

We used to do intense family photo sessions that would sometimes go over an hour. YOU GUYS. Don’t do that. I remember thinking that’s just how long they have to be to get good ones! But they’re don’t! Now we just do 30-minute mini sessions when our photographer offers them. 30 minutes is all you need. I always say- if we’re not getting good ones in 30 minutes we’re certainly not getting good ones in an hour. Sometimes we’ll be taking them and I wonder how on Earth we’ll get ANY good ones but then we get them back and I’m always happy! Short and sweet is best.

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Let the photographer do their job

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned when working with our beloved Lauren Ristow is to just let her do her thing. My job is to smile and (pretend to, haha) enjoy the moment, not glancing down at the kids and saying “stop it now and smile if you want ice cream later” out of the side of my mouth. This will ruin any cool candids your photographer may be trying to grab! Let them get the kids’ attention, and you worry about smiling and doing your thing. It will almost always come together. Keep your cool if no one is cooperating. Take a snack break, don’t freak out, and try again in a moment. The worst thing to do is get angry and yell at your child- you want everyone to try your best remain happy and calm, so just push through and try once more! You’ve got this! Self, I’m talking to you!

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Bring treats

Treats work- bribe those kids! But really, little surprises are awesome. A couple things to keep in mind- nothing that will stain- and nothing they will be chomping on as you’re trying to take pictures. I love the Annie’s Fruit snack pouches. I will give one little bunny at a time when needed and it works well with Olive and sometimes Charlie. Another treat we’ve been loving are the SmartSweets candies. Have you seen these amazing creations? Go here, look at the ingredients/nutrition facts and order yourself one of everything. I am legitimately excited to hear what you think so please keep me posted. We are obsessed and I’ll talk more about these soon. For the older kids I love to have a treat set for afterward. We will typically run by the ice cream shop afterward and the kids know they have that to look forward to! Also works well for unenthusiastic partners.

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Get your partner on board

Hank will take photos no problem (even though he really doesn’t enjoy it), but he’s had years of practice and really having to say yes. I know it can be hard to convince your partner to get on board. What I would tell them is that is a gift for you- it’s hard to get Mom in the photos all the time. In fact you’re probably the one taking most of them! Annual family photos are a great way to capture the season of life you’re in, and get MOM in the pics. Tell your partner this is a GIFT for you, and it’s really important. I bet they’re willing to come around when it’s framed like that.

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Don’t expect perfection

All these photos are, are a moment in time, capturing a season of your life. The candid ones are almost always my favorite. Remember this photo session is what it is, and it will absolutely not go as planned or produce the 50 perfect images you have been dreaming of! But if you’re lucky you’ll get a few good gems…and really, that’s all you need.

Finally, tell your photographer what you’re hoping for

Our photographer Lauren knows I love to grab a Christmas card photo in the beginning- one with all of us facing forward and looking at the camera. I also like to have individuals of each person, a kids photo, a Mom and kids photo, and a Dad and kids photo. And the rest, whatever. But be direct with your photographer and let them know if you have something in mind. If you don’t tell them, they won’t know!

Happy picture day! xoxo

All photos by Lauren Ristow