Six Ways to Take the Stress Out of Family Pictures

Family Pictures
Little do you know the blood, sweat and tears that went into this fairy-tale moment which ended up lasting for just that long. A moment. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Jean Photography)

As a new mom several years ago, I remember my first experience with family pictures well.

Although like most traumatic events in one’s life, I’ve tried my best to block it out of my memory.

Here’s the gist of what I do remember:

Sweat. Anxiety. Crying babies (two, to be exact). Pit stains. Complaining husband. More anxiety over how obvious my post-twin pregnancy double chin would be in these ridiculously expensive pictures. You know, all of the ingredients that go into making a beautiful picture worthy of gracing the front of our first family Christmas card. Magical.

An anxiety-ridden, hormonal blur. (Photo courtesy of Angel Porch Photography)

Although I’m fairly certain “stress” is always a word I will associate with family pictures, I’ve since then had four annual family photo sessions to help me come up with a short list of what I would call “stress reducers” when it comes to capturing your family portraits.

Plan ahead 

The early bird gets the worm here! The sooner you contact your photographer, the better your odds are of securing the perfect date for whatever season you choose (although in Oklahoma that can be a bit unpredictable!). I learned fairly quick that spring and fall tend to be the most sought after times of year for pictures. The earlier you are able to choose and book a photographer, the better. We have had excellent luck taking pictures around the first of November for fall (turning leaves) and mid-May for spring ones (lush, beautiful greenery). Contacting our photographer at least three months before has always ensured we get those coveted good days.

Timing is Everything

As a mom, you know the time of day your kid(s) are at their best. Most photographers prefer morning or late afternoon lighting. Again, planning ahead allows you to pick the time of day your little darlings are more likely to be grinning instead of throwing themselves on the ground in a raging tantrum (although mine somehow always manage to identify a camera lens as their cue to turn into miniature demons).

Don’t overthink the outfits

Aaaah finding the perfect outfits. As a child of the eighties and nineties, there are many a photo in my parents’ home that feature a sea of denim or everyone in crisp, white collared shirts with maybe a colored pleather jacket thrown in here and there (and don’t even get me started on the bangs and choker necklaces). So in order to keep my kids from someday having these cringe-worthy moments, our general rule of thumb is to attempt to coordinate but not match. And if I’m being completely honest, I use myself as a starting point with outfits. Before you go scoffing, here is my reasoning: my kids will look cute no matter what, my husband could care less what he’s wearing, and the good Lord knows I’m not going to pay for a 16 X 20 canvas to grace my mantle if I’m not wearing my best color or my legs look big. As with most other things in life, “happy wife, happy life” definitely applies to family photo sessions.

Speaking of outfits, you don’t always have to follow the rules

Solid, bright colors seem to be the mantra when it comes to picture clothing. But I say throw it out the window. While you certainly can’t go wrong with that, a few years ago I realized I was the most drawn to my friends’ family pictures that weren’t so perfectly color coordinated. Mixed prints, colors, scarves, neutrals, bold accessories. You want your photo to showcase your family at their best. And that doesn’t always involve following the color crowd. 

Be a copy cat

Think of your friends’ Christmas cards or profile pictures that stand out. Which was your favorite? Follow their lead when it comes to picking out outfits, location or editorial style. 

Remember they are just pictures

While I’ve almost always never been known to make far too big of a deal out of our annual family photo session, remember the real reason why you are taking them: to look back on. Thirty years from now when I’m showing my grandkids pictures of their parents, will it really matter that my son’s hair didn’t look perfect or my face looked a little fuller than I would like? No. Our family is beautiful, flaws and all. And I say the picture is all the better for it.

I was so flustered at the time that she got into my lipstick stash. Now it’s a photo I’ll treasure forever. Perfection is rarely memorable. (Photo courtesy of Kat Adams Photography)


What has helped you hit a home run when it comes to family pictures?


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Stephanie Nevels
Stephanie is a born and raised Oklahoman. Growing up in Edmond, she went on to attend college at UCO and played volleyball while studying psychology and falling in love with her now husband, Kyle. After teaching sixth grade English in Edmond for several years, she became a stay-at-home mom to her twin daughters (Sophie and Campbell) and little boy (Burke) who are now 5 and 3. Having 3 kids in less than two years makes everyday an adventure in her house! When she's not playing referee to her hooligans, Stephanie enjoys peace and quiet, all things home decor, working out, and writing.


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