If you are a mom of boys who does family pictures regularly, I feel like you should get some type of award. No one in my family looks forward to family photos, except me, but those pictures each year are absolutely priceless and worth the effort so we keep doing them. I have learned a few tips and tricks that have made the process less painful and the outcome almost always better than I hoped. I’m sharing all my tips below, but I put the BEST one first:
- Ask for family pictures for your birthday! You guys, this was a GAME CHANGER. I told my husband and my kids the only thing I wanted for my birthday was a happy, cooperative family who would give me one hour of their time to do something that was important to me. They happily wore the clothes I chose for them and smiled the whole time. When anyone started throwing attitude, there were gentle reminders that, “This is for mom’s birthday.” It was magic. Now that they realize how important it is to me, everyone is on board. It isn’t guilt but just a reminder of how many things I do to support what they love, and I ask for that same support once a year for one hour for what I love. They have all been champs ever since.
- Stay in a time frame. Tell your family how long you need them to be “on” and stick with it. For us, it is usually one hour and they watch the time and so do I. It feels a little more doable when there is an end in sight.
- Create a reward. If it works, we love to go get dinner or dessert after or have something to look forward to. When they were younger, we had gummy bear bribes after every picture. Totally worth the sugar.
CLOTHES AND LOCATION
- Choose your outfit first. It sounds selfish, but do it anyway. No one will scrutinize the pictures like you will, so you might as well like what you are wearing. Choose something you feel great in, maybe even something you have seen yourself dressed in in a photo that is flattering and comfortable. If you feel good, you will like the pictures even more.
- From there, find clothes for the hardest to fit next. We use a lot of things we already own and sometimes borrow so I am not spending a bunch of extra money. When I buy something, I like it to be useful even after the pictures. I feel like taking time to decide on clothes is worth it.
- Make sure you and your husband coordinate well, since you will be next to each other in most of the pictures, and make sure the kids coordinate well too since there are always sibling photos.
- When I am choosing a color scheme, they are always colors we look good in. I usually have about 3 main ones and plenty of neutrals to balance it out. Neutrals are so important! I always make sure there is enough lightness too.
- I like having patterns and a variety of styles which is HARD with 4 boys!! There is almost always a stripe, a plaid, and a pattern to mix things up. Summer photos are tough for mixing styles, but if I can, I do! In the cooler months we layer, do a sweater, button down, etc.
- It doesn’t have to be as stressful as it sounds. Not everything needs to be new or perfect. If clothes are stressful, just do your best or ask a friend for help.
- Don’t do something new or crazy with your hair right before. I promise you will like photos the best that you feel yourself in. Don’t get your hair done the day before, unless you are sure you always like it. Get boys haircuts close to the day. It seems like a pain, but it’s worth it.
- If you have teens who have hair you don’t love, relax. You are capturing a moment in time, not auditioning for the most beautiful family award. You will want to remember these stages.
- When it comes to choosing a location, we have often found the most success close by, so we aren’t using up precious “happy” time with a long drive. There are often beautiful spots and hidden gems right where you are. Remember, you are not taking photos of places but of PEOPLE. So, if you have to choose a long drive to a beautiful spot with a mad or sleepy family or neighborhood pictures with a happy family, that one wins every time.
- If you can find a location that offers a variety of backdrops in one place, that can be a great choice and afford lots of options. I often like less going on in the background so the people really stand out.
- Bring a blanket or a few stools to sit on so you have options if your location doesn’t offer any.
- Good light is more important than ANYTHING. Double check with your photographer that the spot you want to go offers great light at the time you are scheduled. You can be in front of a cement wall with the people you love and awesome lighting and have a very successful shoot.
- We have had the most luck choosing a photographer who we know and who knows us! Her familiarity with my kids and our life makes photos a lot more fun and less awkward. We currently use Jodi Fulks, who is a neighbor, friend and fabulous photographer. So good with teens too. I have also absolutely loved Rachel Marie who was fantastic and Papermoon Photography who was magic for us. Sometimes it can be fun to switch things up so you get a new eye and perspective.
- Don’t pay more than you feel good about. This is different for everyone but important. No matter how much I pay, I won’t look like Heidi Klum when the pictures come back. 🙂 Some of my favorite photos are from a friend who was just starting out years ago in Michigan and was practicing on us. On the flip side, sometimes a photographer is so good she is worth the cash. Just make sure you strike the right balance when it comes to your budget. Even asking a good friend to come snap with her iphone can sometimes be good enough for the stage you are in.
- Make sure you like what your photographer has done in the past. Do you like her style? Her editing? Before you book, be sure she is a fit!
- Look at your photographer’s website or Instagram and send her some screen shots of photos she has taken that you really love. The less guessing that has to be done on her part, the better. Don’t be afraid to be specific if you know there is a look, location or feel you want. She may be able to make suggestions and plan the shoot so that it looks more like what you have in mind and you will both be happier because of it.
- You can also send her previous photos of your family that you want to make sure you capture again. You can both plan to make sure these happen.
- If we only have 1 hour, I like to use it wisely. When I am really organized, I will make a list on my phone of the pictures we have to get and share that with the photographer. We take care of the most important ones first and if there is time left, we do filler ones. It’s the worst to get home and realize that you didn’t get a couples photo or one of just the boys. The more specific you can be with yourself the better. List them from most important to “would be nice to have.”
- I like to ask my photographer to snap some of our in between moments, not just the posed picture or when everyone is ready. Those have turned out to be some of my favorites through the years. The stuff that is happening in between can be so beautiful but oftentimes photographers wait until everyone is in position. Let her know you are interested in the less than perfect stuff too or she may just be waiting for you to be ready.
- If a great, smiling family photo is what is most important to you, take one in every location you move to. If you are doing singles somewhere different, at the end, have everyone jump in really quick to get a family one there too. Sometimes the lighting or backdrop will surprise you when you get the final results and you will be glad you have options.
- Make sure the angle you are posed in is flattering. We take enough pictures these days that you most likely know what doesn’t work for you. It’s okay to be a little insistent about it.
- A trick I use with my boys to get more natural smiles is to tell everyone to “fake laugh.” It’s a family joke now, but it does the trick.
- Most of those “candid” pictures you love from other people, aren’t really candid at all, especially with older kids. It feels awkward to act, but some great things come out of it. Your photographer can help with this, but a few things that work for us are having the boys kiss me, pretending to all laugh or like someone was funny (make sure your photographer is snapping through these), looking at each other, walking together, tickling one of the littles, etc. Go ahead and pretend…because those sweet moments rarely happen naturally at a photo shoot.
- After the cute posed family photos, I always make everyone “squish in” for a couple more. They usually turn out to be my favorite.
- Every picture doesn’t have to be a smiling one. I love the singles where my boys have straight faces, goofy faces, etc.
- You also don’t always have to be looking at the camera. Mixing it up is fun.
- Make sure you get a single of you and your husband. You never know when it will come in handy. We rarely take good pictures together so these over the years are some of my very favorites. I also like to have some with individual kids, where we are hugging or laughing or just smiling together.
- Let your kids be goofy in some, especially individuals. You will love capturing who they really are.
- I like to leave a few minutes at the end of an outdoor photo shoot for some completely candid moments. We bring a football or you can bring other toys that work for your kids, or just let them explore and I like the photographer to snap away. It can show them in really natural ways that are more them, and I just and love it.
- Little kids are pretty much darling no matter what. If they aren’t cooperating, don’t stress too much…they look good all the time.
- Every mom’s goal is to get that perfect picture where nothing is out of place, but those don’t exist. See the good, the fun stages, and who all your people are in the moment. Reality is better than perfection.
- Choose the good ones, but also choose the ones that show personality. You won’t be immediately attracted to these, but a year later, they are always some of my favorites.
- Cropping is magic. Don’t rule out a picture just because feet or legs or hands look weird. Zoom in on the faces and focus on them if you love them.
- Get in the photos. It doesn’t matter if you love the way you look, get in them anyway. Years later you will be so glad you did. And give yourself and your kids a lot of grace.
- I love to print out our photos when I get them back, then I have a hard copy whenever we need one. Another fun way is to put the whole shoot in a Chatbook or Shutterfly book!
- And finally, relax. Enjoy making another memory.
Hopefully these tips help you have that super successful fall photoshoot! Lots of trial and error, but the final product is always worth it! Let me know if I missed your favorite tip!!
We’re getting family pictures in a few days so thanks for sharing these tips! I have 3 boys and it is hard to make sure they match, but not too much. ?
I hope they help! Let me know if anything worked!!
Yes love this #1 tip! It works – You can ask for Mother’s Day too instead of birthday!!
Oh! Great idea on Mother’s Day too! Just in time for spring and summer pictures!
Great tips! Thank you! Gorgeous photos!
Thank you so much!!
I love all this helpful advice, Brooke! Your family photos are always some of my favorites & I loved getting the inside scoop in how you pull them off year after year! (And I love all those beautiful people in those photos, too!) ❤️
Thanks Jolene! So glad a few tricks worked for you!!