5 tips for a painless family photo sesh


With the viral popularity of Awkward Family Photos, the prospect of taking a particularly tragic family portrait has never been more terrifying. Dropping a few hundred dollars and trying to get the kids to cooperate for the photo session is nerve-racking enough without worrying that your practical joker Uncle Sal will get his hands on a copy of your digital files and turn your family into unwitting celebrities.

You may not be able to take away the natural rambunctiousness of your brood, but you can make your photo session low-key and spare yourself some of the stress so your photos come out great and not blackmail material.

Dress for style and comfort

You want your family to look nice, but make sure the kids are comfortable so they don’t spend the entire time squirming. There’s nothing wrong with a family portrait where everyone’s dressed in jeans, and, if you keep it casual, the kids will believe you when you say you’ll go play once the photos are finished.

Colors don’t need to match, but complementary colors promote good photos and keep your family from looking like a mismatched troupe. Beware of matching outfits that may end up looking like costumes. If you dress the entire family in black, it might look like you stopped in for photos after a funeral, and similar patterns can end up laughable.

Prepare for the inevitable mishap

If you have small children, I have three pieces of advice for you:

  1. Bring extra clothes.
  2. Bring extra clothes.
  3. Bring extra clothes.

If there’s something to spill, one of your young ones will spill it—guaranteed. Better yet, wait until you’re at the photo session to change into your portrait-wear.

Plan ahead with accessories

Accessories can be a life-saver when it comes to a photo shoot. Borrow frames without lenses if you wear glasses and want to keep them on for your photos to avoid extra fees to remove glare or distortion. On the flip-side, having a hair accessory like a sparkly barrette or clip on hand can prove essential if you end up at an outdoor photo shoot on a windy day.

Be aggressive. Be, be aggressive

If it feels awkward when the photographer poses you, say so, and don’t let him snap that picture. When it feels awkward, it will likely look that way in the finished photo, even if it’s just due to the irritated look on your face. You might come across the occasional artist who takes offense at the rebuffing of his or her suggestions. Most family photographers want happy customers, though, so don’t be afraid to make your objections known.

Promise fun and mean it

Make photo day a fun day out. Schedule the session early and plan something the kids want to do for when the session’s done. Use a code word to remind your kids of the reward to come. If an afternoon at the arcade is their prize for a well-behaved photo session, say “arcade” when they get restless.

Avoid going the other way, though. Don’t use threats of taking away the fun activity at the end of the day to try to keep the kids in line. If photo sessions become something they have to do and they end up punished for misbehaving, they’ll dread the ones to come. By scheduling each photo session before a fun activity, the next time you are ready to pose as a family, the kids may be excited about the prospect of the reward and eager to put their smiles on.

A family photo session might never be as heavenly as you hoped, but they don’t have to be painful. By keeping things fun, simple and being ready for anything, you can prevent the biggest photo disasters and come away with family pictures that’ll make Grandma proud.


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