Phototaking without Tears

Look at the wall. Locate a photo. Evaluate the frame. Do I like it? Does the frame match the photo and vice versa? Would this photo look better in the living room? Take the frame of the wall. Switch out the photo. Insert the photo in a different frame. Hang on wall. Admire. Shampoo. Rinse. Repeat.

Photos. Portraits. Frames. Mattes. This past month all I have done is frame, reframe, and rearrange all the family portraits on my walls. My goal was to place a framed photo on the wall of every family portrait session, every school photo, and every significant family event.

Over the years we have taken many family portraits. Whether the grouping was one adult and one child, or two adults and two children, or two adults and three children. In a studio. In a fire station. In a church basement. At home. At Grandma’s house. At Williamsburg. At LegoLand. At a First Holy Communion. All family photos have one thing in common — all are completely precious and priceless to me.

Yes, the focus is offcenter. And yes, I look like I am photobombing this adorable family. But, it's a photo of all us at this summer's Manchester United v. Barcelona game. Good times!

With a kid, a preteen, and a teen, I have gleaned knowledge through trial and error, smiles and tears on how to stage a family portrait. I may not always “get” the best pic, but I never give up.

I’d like to share my knowledge with you. Let’s call it the Musings from Me Guide to Family Portaits:

  • Make a commitment to take the family photo. I know this sounds silly. How could you not take the pic of you, dad, and the newborn? Or you and the kids at the preschool Mother’s Day Tea? But, as your children move from the toddler years to the elementary school years, your lives will get exponentially busy. Trust me, I know of what I speak. Take time to take that photo. Are all of you — mom, dad, big sister, little brother, and the baby gathered at soccer? Toss your camera to a friend and capture the grins, the mud-stained knees, and yes the baby covered in goldfish, cheerios, and juice!
  • Choose outfits…wisely. For my son’s first 3 photos at elementary school and even one of his preschool pics, he was wearing a blue shirt…with a blue photo background. On one of the pics he almost fades in to the background. Whether you go matchy matchy with all of you in denim shirts and jeans or try your hand at the complementary style with mom and dad in black and the kids in red, choose outfits that c0ntrast, but in a good way! If you are all at church for a Baptism, ask a friend to take your family photo. Chances are good that both you and your spouse are wearing formal attire and the kids are wearing dresses or skirts for girls, and polo shirts or buttoned down shirts for boys. Just stepped out of the Shamu Show at Sea World drenched, bedraggled, and oh so wet? Grab a camera to take a memorable family pic!
  • Be prepared…for everything! The saying goes that you can never predict the behavior of kids, animals, and of course the same is true of tweens and teens. So be ready. Arrive at the portrait studio with a change of clothes for the baby and to be safe have a change of clothes for any child under the age of 5. Don’t eat or drink anything before the family photo. Make sure the babies/toddlers in your group have napped. Bring a favorite stuffed toy for the toddler to hold. Grab a crazy toy from the photographers’s bag of toys and ask him to wave it to get the best smile.

Did you know about Family Photo Days? Check out Shutterfly’s new site for tips on taking the best pic or download the digital toolkit. Shutterfly wants to make it easy for you to take that amazing family photo to share with family and friends this holiday season.

I was compensated for this post. I will be receiving a 50 free Shutterfly cards. The views expressed in this post are my own. I follow the tenets of Blog With Integrity.

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