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Monday, October 13, 2014

Mother Matters: How to Get a Great Family Portrait

In-Studio (Sears),
Colors: Grey, Red & Denim.
Single moms, don't bypass
a family portrait!
It's that time of year where I'm looking ahead to Christmas cards and wondering which photo we'll use to include everyone and convey a message of warmth, peace and family fun.  Yeah, one photo is supposed to say all that!  I know, it's not necessary to send a physical card in this era of digital communication, but I'm a traditionalist.  I still love to give and receive the traditional holiday remembrance.

The Photographer - Who is going to take that shot?  Will you ask a family friend? Hire someone?  Set up the tripod?  This decision will impact all the other choices. I recommend the family friend route.  We all know someone who has photography as a major hobby with the equipment to provide a quality result.  It's even better is you have a family friend who is also a pro, just don't expect a discount on services.  When it's someone you and your family know, there will be a more relaxed and comfortable vibe.  Hopefully your photographer will capture the unique personality that marks your family.  Most likely, someone you know will be patient and understanding when inevitable glitches get in the way.

The Wardrobe - Coordinating colors make any group of individuals look like a unit, so working together to get a "look" is important.  No, you do not want to be too matchy-matchy and each person needs room to keep his or her own style.  The way I do it is to select a color palette and let each person choose from their own wardrobe.  I love neutrals, because they will always match your home decor.  But my favorite are rich, colorful looks with limited patterns. Still, don't be a style-nazi and if someone doesn't quite follow the guidelines, let it go.  You can always select a black and white or muted finish to help every better blend.
Taken on our Front Steps
Colors: Black, White, Khaki
The Setting - I love pictures in unique locations, downtown, industrial, gorgeous natural, etc.  But the reality for us is that to get all of us dressed and scheduled on site is tough.  Also, there is something about our own space that keeps us all more relaxed, able to grab and extra layer or adjust some erring makeup.  Gathering at home is the go-to spot for our family portraits, although someday I'd love to have a downtown photo shoot.

The Schedule - It's never easy to get everyone together!  Plan ahead, and just go for it.  Yes, somebody will likely have to miss some time with friends or get to a party late, but the photo needs to be a priority.  I'll admit, this is when I remind others of all I do for them on a daily/weekly basis and share how important this is to me.  Be considerate, but be firm and let your family know this is a big deal to you.  It's okay to care about a photo.

The Tone - Casual and Comfy?  Adventurous and Cool?  Classy and Sophisticated? Formal or Relaxed?  Let the personality of each member come through.  Even the smallest members may have a preference for what they wear.  My youngest is still in the goofy smile phase.  I don't sweat it, that's just how he is during this season (and the for the past year now).  Does your teen have wild hair? Let that shine through.  Is your middle schooler in a awkward phase?  That's okay, you will love the memory.  While your wardrobe draws you together, the tone of the photo will convey its own message.

Taken in our living room:
Colors: Maroon, Cream, Black & Denim

Recently I was talking with a friend about expectations and she shared about her last family Thanksgiving where expectations were impossibly high.  There was a large family gathering, including step parents and step siblings and a family portrait was on the schedule.  She said the photo turned out great but that she can't look at it without remembering the chaos of that day.  Don't let this be your photo story.  Plan a little, but go with the flow and strive to make even the photography experience a pleasant memory.  

Do you have a great family portrait? any horror stories? What are your thoughts when you view past pictures?  Do you send out a holiday card?  None of these are the ones we will use on our card this year, but I promise to share once I send them out!