Last weekend we took some family pictures. With a 3 year old and 1 year old, there was a pretty high probability things would be crazy… and they were. Isn’t it amazing how family pictures seem to bring stress and tension right to the surface? Here are some simple things you can do to make taking family pictures a more positive experience.
1. Completely choose the family clothes a week or two early!
I’m totally guilty of this. The day of the family pictures I still hadn’t chosen between the two sets of clothes I had put together. Then the shirt I bought for my son was too big and I had to scramble just hours before to figure out a different option. Don’t be shopping for the perfect collared shirt the morning of your family pictures! My indecisiveness caused me and everyone else stress. Choose or buy those clothes with plenty of time to spare (aka days).
2. Get those clothes, accessories, and shoes ready at least 4 days in advance.
No more doing laundry the morning of: wash, dry, and press those clothes a few days in advance. The pants I needed my son to wear came out of the dryer just minutes before we needed to leave, and it was not good. It’s no fun to realize that all the white undershirt are dirty or there are no dark socks to wear with dark pants. All this causes stress, and if Mom is stressed, you better believe that will rub off on everyone involved. Clean everything, and then hang it all in the closet all together so there is no running around like crazy right before. It’s fairly likely you have enough clothes that these don’t need to be in your regular rotation for a few days. If you can, find all those shoes and their mates and store those together as well. Don’t forget your accessories or jewelry!
3. Feed everyone beforehand.
I know that it’s the time of year when family pictures happen around dinner time because that’s when the sun is setting. There is the temptation to just say “let’s get these done and then we’ll eat!” but don’t do it. Feed everyone, including yourself, before you attempt to take family pictures. A hefty snack will do if you truly have dinner plans afterward, but make it something substantial and not full of sugar. It will make a world of difference. (And not with your cute clean clothes if you have messy eaters!)
4. Give yourself some padding to get ready.
Sure you can usually get ready in 30 minutes flat, but you’re going to be extra careful on picture day and it will probably take you longer to do hair and makeup. As a Mom, give yourself time to feel good about how you look, because if you don’t feel good you will never be happy with the overall picture. Plan in that time, preferably not at the same time everyone else is getting ready.
5. And give yourself some more padding for getting out the door.
Hopefully everything is prepared if you followed the steps above, but things always seem to happen when it’s important for you to get out the door. Know where you’re going and how long it will take to get there, and then set your departure time even earlier. Being late will frustrate you as well as your photographer, who probably planned things according to the available light. Pad in enough time that you don’t feel the need to drive aggressively to get there.
6. Be patient. Your mood matters.
I don’t know why the tension is so high during family pictures, but I am well aware of the phenomenon. My family is no exception! So, make a conscious effort to be positive and upbeat. Your kids will pick up on your mode, whether is be happy and upbeat or negative and grudging. If you’re having fun, it will show in your pictures. So whatever happens, try to remember that your mood matters, and will absolutely influence your family.
7. Manage Expectations.
In an ideal picture taking world, the kids would be angels to each other and follow every instruction. And even though we know this isn’t the case, we somehow still expect them to be magically perfect for 90 minutes, stare down the camera with a grin on their face, and keep their outfit pristine. Why do we do this to ourselves? I know my children and their short attention spans, but for some reason I ignore that knowledge and think that this time they’ll be nice to each other for a whole 90 minutes.
Um, hello? Setting the expectation bar so high means I’m going to be so let down when inevitably, things aren’t perfect. So, manage your expectations. Consider the ages and stages of your kids, and recognize that they are going to get dirty, be silly, and be stubborn about giving that sweet smile. Of course you might be pleasantly surprised, but be reasonable as the parent. There will be ups and dowsn within that 90 minutes of a session. Kids will be kids, and that’s what you’re trying to capture here! Your photographer will do their best to get that one Christmas card shot to hang over the mantle, but some of the sweetest pictures show what life is really like in your family right now. Keep your expectations reasonable, and trust your photographer.
This list is essentially a list of the things I wish I did last week, but didn’t. I hope you can learn from my experience, and set yourself up for a better experience!