What I’ve Learned About Taking Our Own Family Photos From Years Past

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Family photos can be two things – expensive and uncomfortable – but having a yearly photo of my family is something I know I’ll regret not having if we don’t take them. We don’t always have room in the budget around the holidays to pay a photographer so the last few years I’ve attempted to take photos of my family myself. While I’m not a seasoned photographer, I know my way enough around a camera to snap a decent enough photo year after year. The photos some years have been better than others, but during this time of year when times and finances are tight for so many, I thought maybe a few tips would help those who may be attempting their own DIY photo session at home this holiday season. If you take anything away from today’s post – I hope it’s a beautiful photo you’ll cherish for years to come!

Lessons from Our Family Photos in 2017

2017 was the first year we took family Christmas card photos and there was such a learning curve going into it. I didn’t know what to expect but here’s what I learned that year:

  1. Layout your expectations: since we had an 9 month old this year, I discussed my expectations with both my husband and our older daughter before we got started. I knew that it would be challenging to get the baby to sit still so I asked each of them to be ready and keep a smile on their face the whole time. That way I only had to worry about getting one good shot of the baby – and hopefully everyone else would be smiling too.
  2. Make it short + simple: especially with little ones, do as much “prep” before hand and keep the session short. We took 300+ photos this year and that was way overboard. The baby wouldn’t sit still, was constantly squirming or trying to crawl out of frame, and I was getting up every shot to re-set the camera which leads to my next tip…
  3. Use a tripod and a remote: invest in a good tripod and do yourself a favor and buy the darn remote – it’ll save you from having to run back and forth to the camera every shot. Here’s the tripod and the remote that I use. Nothing fancy but does the job!

Lessons from Our Family Photos in 2018

After our mostly successful attempt at family photos the year before, we tried taking it outdoors at a nearby park for 2018’s photos and it wasn’t nearly as successful as 2017:

  1. Keep it casual: dressing up might not be your family’s style (it’s certainly not ours) and we definitely learned that in 2018. Our older daughter didn’t like her dress and I was a sweaty mess in my heavy coat trying to wrangle our youngest who just wanted to chase after the geese.
  2. Stay home: if that’s where your family is most comfortable, don’t make an already uncomfortable situation even more uncomfortable! Everyone was complaining about having to walk in the wet grass and complaining about goose poop the entire time and it made me wish we had just stayed home.

Although we ended up with a good photo, the entire experience was kinda miserable for everyone. I had to bribe Emie with marshmallows just to stay put (that’s what she’s eating in this photo) and even still…this is the best shot we got!

Lessons from Our Family Photos in 2019

I really have to laugh at the photo from 2019 because honestly, I was so mad this year and all I wanted to do was scream and cry at the time. This was the year that no one got a Christmas card – here’s why:

  1. Plan ahead: this year I didn’t pre-plan outfits, it was already two weeks into December when I decided that morning that we were going to take photos in an effort to throw something together last minute to get cards out the door in time for Christmas – I was actually considering sending out New Years cards, that’s how late we were. My family was annoyed at me, I hodge-podged outfits together the best I could, and I basically disregarded everything I had learned years prior and threw it all out the window which resulted in a total failure of a day. Don’t do what I did in 2019. Be sure to pick a date well in advance, let your family know, decide what you’ll wear and where you’ll take photos well in advance to avoid any day-of snafus or attitudes from cranky family members.
  2. Be prepared: the reason I’m not in the photo? I’m the one behind the camera, I snapped two photos (this one and one other) while trying to adjust the settings to get the lighting just right and then the BATTERY DIED on me! At that point my family was over it and so was I. No one got a Christmas card last year needless to say.

Lessons from Our Family Photos in 2020

Honestly…there were no lessons learned from this year’s photos – I took everything I learned from years past and the shoot went great. I planned ahead, I prepared ahead of time with my camera equipment and photoshoot props, we stayed home, and we kept it comfortable. The kids had fun, I didn’t stress, and I let them do their thing, and in the end, we got some great photos.

If you attempt to take your own family photos, whether its for holiday cards or just because, I hope you can take away a few tips to make your photo session a successful one!

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