As the last remnants of summer slip away and fall approaches, families are whipping out their cameras with high hopes of capturing that perfect family photo— you know, the one that’ll win the esteemed distinction of gracing this year’s Christmas card and perhaps ordered on canvas, too. But if your kids are anything like mine, the perfect family photo isn’t always in the cards.
With three boys who are equally playful and stubborn, getting a usable family photo can take some serious cajoling, and sometimes bribery. Mostly both, if I’m being brutally honest.
If you’ve got kids under the age of 5 and need to get this year’s perfect family photo, these tips apply to you!
Family Photo Tips
Make sure you’re all well-rested
This does not mean letting them briefly nap in the car only to dive right into a photo session. Do that, and you’ll end up with a downright cantankerous little hellion, resulting in many more face-in-hands, flailing-on-the-floor, butt-in-the-air shots than you have the patience for.
And don’t neglect yourself! You’ll be much happier during the session (and with the final result) if you don’t have to deal with puffy eyes and dark circles.
When the weather permits it, opt outside!
This gives your children a chance to run around, and it’ll make a good background, too. Natural, filtered sunlight is beautiful for family portraits! Just avoid high, hot sun unless you’re under the shade because otherwise, you’ll get harsh, unflattering shadows. For portraits, I like partly-cloudy days, and I absolutely LOVE the hour or so just before twilight.
Bring along a bribe.
Yes, that’s right. I said bribe. You will be very, very sad that you didn’t heed my advice if you’ve got the perfect light, the perfect weather at the perfect time, and one of your kids would prefer to maybe not cooperate.
I would go with a favorite toy or another super portable novelty— stickers, pennies for the piggy bank, or balloons. Offer it before your kid is so upset they’re hiccoughing.
Make sure bellies are full.
Or have a snack on hand. A hungry toddler does not a good model make.
Be free to be silly.
Don’t forget the funny faces shot! You know your kids love it! Even if that’s not exactly the photo you’ll be including on your Christmas photo card, to little kids funny faces always mean a good time.
Let them take a few photos, too!
My kids always get a kick out of taking photos with my camera. (That is, until they hit the early-teenage angst years— one down, two more to go! Oy!)
They loved examining their work, giggling gleefully at shots of people’s feet, the fence, unfocused faces, etc. Plus when they’re still toddlers or preschool-aged, it totally distracted them from whatever was causing him to whine and fake-cry.
Bonus family photo tip
And finally, the most important tip for getting your best family photo: RELAX, and go with it!
It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be yours.
I’ve found that the most moving and memorable of family portraits are candid, and easily exude genuine emotion. Don’t sweat it if the kids refuse to look at the camera, or if you can’t get a single shot of everyone looking at the same time. I urge you to think about your family photos in a way that might be different from how you currently think: your objective isn’t to get the perfect photo— your objective is to immortalize your very real memories of your very unique family.