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Monday, February 25, 2013

8 Tips to a Better Family Photo

We had family photos taken this weekend, yay!  I love actually being in some of our family pictures.  Since I take most of them, I'm rarely in them.  Handing my husband my DSLR is like handing my 7-month old a cell phone.  He'll take it, look at it curiously, and most likely smash it.  Ha, ha.  You only think I'm kidding...

So the perfect photo is hard to get.  You've likely sorted through hundreds of Pinterest boards trying to find that magazine shot, the one where everybody is smiling and beautiful and natural, like Gap models with coordinating outfits.  And the reality is a husband who is bored, a baby who is tired, and 80% humidity that destroys the hair you worked on for an hour in about 5 minutes.  Frustrating, isn't it?  Well, there are a few things you can do to help you get a great shot, although you most likely will not be on the cover of Family magazine any time soon.

1.  The Photographer.  Ladies, I like to save money just like the next couponer, but here's one of my exceptions.  You get what you pay for when it comes to a photographer.  If you think it's just a photoshop savvy person holding an expensive camera, you are not just wrong but WRONG in capital letters.  I learned this the hard way by hiring a discount photographer for my wedding.  Don't make my mistake.  Ask around, find a professional.  Usually that means they have a studio.  Not a drop cloth in their garage.  And if you like what they do, continue to develop that relationship.  And spread the wealth, recommend them to your friends!  (I use Gretchen B in Helena, Alabama.  She's wonderful, and the baby loves her!  She also helps me with great tips for getting better pictures at home.)   Since we've established that you must spend some money to get quality photos, how do the budgeters deal?  Choose one or two special occasions a year, and make them count.  How to make them count?  Keep reading.

2. Plan ahead.  If you want outdoor photos, make sure it's not going to rain.  Ask your photographer if there are any great parks around.  Odds are they will know some great spots.

3. New clothes.  If you're already spending the money to get some great shots, make sure everyone looks their best.  This doesn't have to mean getting entirely new outfits, but plan each member of the family's outfit and fill in the blanks with new pieces.  I pick 3 colors, two neutrals and a color pop, and make sure everyone is coordinated but NOT matching.  Everyone in a white or black collared shirt is a very outdated look.  For women and girls, don't wear a ton of jewelery, moderation!!!  You want to see you, not the bling.  Jackets, belts, and a cute necklace can make you look put together.  For men and boys, don't go to fancy (ties/bowties) or they will be uncomfortable.  I did blue, white, and jeans.  Other great combinations are yellow, gray and khaki, or blue, coral, and jeans, or mint, khaki and white.

4. Makeup.  Stick with matte.  Sparkly makeup does strange things with the flash.  Go for a natural look.  Again, you want to look like you, only better!  Apply it in natural light instead of the bathroom incandescent light.  Put on a little more in the eye area than you normally do so you don't look washed out, and make sure you do your brows.  It makes a big difference.

5. Props.  If you found a picture you like of a family on a quilt, bring a quilt!  Don't expect your photographer to read your mind. 

6. Be prepared for meltdowns.  Bring everything you can to fend them off.  Snacks, a baby bottle, jackets for everyone in case the weather doesn't cooperate, toys, etc.  Make sure you include that favorite toy that always brings a smile.  You'll need it!

7. List of photos you want.  Again, your photographer is not a mind reader.  She does the best with what she's got.  So if you have specific shots you want, make a list and give it to her in advance.  Keep in mind that photography is an art form, and her point of view might be different from yours.  Some photographers are really in to props and some are not.  If your point of view is very different from your photographer's, find a new one.  To avoid finding this out the hard way, a smart idea is to create a Pinterest board or a file of photos you like and compare them to her website, or even send her an email to see what she thinks.

8. Know when you're done.  Most likely, your kids will dictate this.  When they're done, you're probably not going to get any more good shots.  You may get one or two cute ones of grouchy faces, but that's it.  When nobody's smile looks real anymore, call it!  You know your family well, and you'll know, when they're done, they're done!

Above all, have fun.  The really great shots are usually candids taken when everyone is relaxed and isn't  really focused on the camera, but on each other.  What do you think of ours?

Again, props to my favorite photographer, Gretchen Birdwell!  Like her on Facebook at

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