Now smile for the camera!

Mom and freelance photographer says to lighten up when it comes to family photos

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If you’re like me you enjoy getting a nice family photo with everyone dressed in cute outfits, all looking at the camera, and smiling pleasantly. Maybe it’s for a Christmas card, grandparent gift, or just a nice new family photo.

And, if you’re like me and my family—this scene rarely works out. I’ve tried 1) taking these myself, 2) going to a big chain studio, and 3) hiring a professional photographer. Here are a few things that I have learned about photo shoots since having twins (yup, twins!) three and a half years ago.

First, forget that scene in the first paragraph. Maybe that happens as your children get older, but at this stage—it ain’t gonna happen. Not without a lot of frustration for everyone involved. Instead, if you are determined to do it yourself (like me), try a funny photo, an action shot—a “normal” activity or setting for your family. These usually turn out better.

Photo shoot, 2013.
Photo shoot, 2013.

Can’t get everyone to look at the camera and smile? Don’t worry about it! Instead, employ photo props or let the kids engage in an activity (jumping, hugging, waving, anything that involves NOT sitting still). Better yet, engage with them!

Select an outdoor location. A walking trail, cute bridge, botanical garden, park—you name it. Outdoors are always better (and lighting isn’t usually as much of an issue), in my opinion, and there are so many beautiful spots in Tyler, like the Tyler Rose Garden (which is also free!).

And, of course, if you don’t want to bother with all of that—hire a professional! At first, this irked me quite a bit, I must say. As someone with a photography degree, I kept thinking, “I can do this myself. I know what I’m doing. I can get two 3-year-olds to smile and look at the camera the same time, while running back and forth to set the camera, take the photo, and be IN photo.” (Insert laughter here.)

No, I couldn’t. So, I hired someone. We found a local photographer who offered great deals and also kid “mini packages” for cute settings around holidays and birthdays. And, surprise, surprise, the twins will look at the photographer, laugh, and smile—and we get some great family photos.

So for this year’s Christmas card/family photo, I incorporated some of the other ideas mentioned above—and this ended up being one of my favorite yet! It is silly and fun, but a good family photo that encompasses our true, happy, crazy selves.

Christmas Card, 2015.
Christmas Card, 2015.

What tips do you have for getting that perfect (or not so perfect) shot?