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How to Make Family Pictures Less Stressful

I love fall. The outfits are better, the coffee is better, everyone starts thinking about the holidays and the highly anticipated cool weather starts to arrive—wait, who am I kidding as I sit here and sweat in my boots, willing it to be fall in Texas? But with the change of the seasons comes the pressure to take family pictures, and this year I decided to tackle ours early. So we put on our fall best and headed out to the field for our obligatory stress session of sweating smiling.

This is the only time of year I can muster up enough energy to make sure everyone is dressed in coordinating outfits, in one place all at the same time and hopefully looking in the same direction (with a smile). But can I be real for a second? Why is it SO HARD to plan for family pictures? Why does every store have the perfect picture outfit but not in the size I NEED? Why does it have to be 95 degrees outside when we are wearing fur vests and boots in our attempt for it to look like winter? And WHY OH WHY do our children have to completely melt seconds before loading up the car to head to the photo shoot? Because family pictures, that’s why.

So here we are, DONE (thank goodness), and in our attempt to get just ONE perfect picture, we took about a hundred bazillion of these beauties. Maybe I should keep the thought bubbles for our holiday cards, ya know, just to keep it real.

Family Holiday Photo Shoot Outtake

So looking back on the process, I thought I’d share the things I probably would have done differently along with the things that worked out well for my family. Here are my tips for planning for family pictures.

Coordinate your outfits. And I’m not talking all white shirts and jeans like we did in the 90s! When I was a photographer, my best advice was always to start with the kids’ outfits, and I still follow that advice in our store today. Let them set the tone in color, style and pattern. If color isn’t your thing, then let the neutrals work for you! This year we went with a gold, denim and ivory color palette, because GOLD, right?

Kids Holiday Photo Outfit Inspiration

Texture is always a good thing. I had chosen this gorgeous fur vest for my older daughter that photographed beautifully, and layers almost always look good in pictures (for moms too!). But as the picture above with the missing vest will attest, it was itchy. And itchy breeds meltdowns, so pick your battles, ladies.

Kids Holiday Photo Outfit Inspiration

Have low expectations. I’m kidding—sort of. Here’s the deal. I think our kiddos react to our stress levels. I’m 99% sure that if we approached family pictures like a kids birthday party, we’d have big smiles and no tears. Of course, they would also be in princess dresses and exercise clothes, but like I said before, pick your battles, right? I think I screamed, “HURRY!” and “BRUSH YOUR TEETH!” and “TURN OFF THE TV!” and “STOP FIGHTING!” and “PUT ON YOUR OUTFIT NOOOOOWWWWWW!” about a hundred times the morning of our photo shoot. And when I’m stressed, my kids stress, and it never ends good. So do yourself a favor, and schedule your photo session later in the day if you know your family requires a little extra time. 8:00am sounded like a good idea…Until it wasn’t.

When in doubt, go black and white. If color coordinating gives you anxiety, just let it go. Because you know what? Everyone looks good in black and white! I’m gonna go out on a limb here and blame social media on the decline of black and white images. I totally agree that color looks best when scrolling through my Instagram feed, but my skin tone has always rocked it in gray scale. Plus, my son’s shirt could be purple in this picture and you’d never know!

Katy Mimari's Family Holiday Card

Get creative. If you don’t have time to schedule a professional photographer, get creative like the time I made DIY Santa Claus photo props for my kids for a impromptu photobooth in my front hall. They had a blast with the crafts, and this is one of my all-time favorite Christmas cards because I think it showcases their little personalities so well. Plus, I had a newborn, and I was going NOWHERE near a camera lens that year!

Photo Booth Holiday Card

Pre-shop card designs. Do yourself a favor and take a few minutes to head on over to your favorite card printing website and check out this year’s designs BEFORE your family photos. Nothing is worse than when your favorite card design only work for vertical pictures and your family only smiled in the horizontal ones, or vice versa. Plus, some card designs look best with plain backgrounds or shot with extra head or foot space! So for maximum choices, screen shot a few of the cards you love so you and your photographer can work together to create that perfect (or seemingly perfect) family picture.

And remember—nothing goes better with “SAY CHEESE!” than wine! So good luck to all my fellow mamas! May the weather be perfect, may your children not shed a tear, and if all else fails, go with the timeless crying Santa pictures. Remember, keep it real! Happy almost holidays, friends!

Family Holiday Card with Santa

Alison Timms

Sunday 29th of March 2020

Impressive! Thanks for the article. King regards, Balle Henneberg