Wordful Wednesday. How to Take an Awesome Family Photo.

As we are in the throes of holiday photography season, I thought I’d write something for photographers (including everyday mamas trying really hard to snag a decent pic for those holiday cards) to help you up your awesome this season.

After spending an insane amount of time discussing this post featuring the worst family photos of all time with pretty much every human being I know, I determined that we can use this as a learning tool.

Here goes…

how to take great photos of kids

10 Tips for How to Take an Awesome Family Photo

1.  Avoid creepy posing.  For example, the naked family sandwich.  Technically, this should be numbers one through ten on this list, for emphasis, but I think if you take a moment to look at this poor example (scroll down, it’s #6), you will know why this is wrong.  Wrong.  Wrong.  Like scar your 12 year old son for life type of wrong.  Go instead with natural posing and remind your subject to remain fully clothed at all times.

holiday photos 2

2.  Don’t encourage people to pose with reluctant animals.  This most definitely includes monkeys wearing overalls and rabid opossum dogs.  Regular happy dogs who want to be there and who are only just pretending to try to eat your face off are a-ok.

dudes xmas 3

3.  Naked fur suits should not be worn.  Specifically if the fake junk on said fur suit is distracting to the children in the photo (scroll down in the aforementioned bad example, you’ll s it).

4.  Be mindful of attire.  I constantly get questions from my clients about what they should wear in our shoots.  I have an awesome Pinterest board featuring great suggestions for what you should wear to your family photo.  Nowhere on the list will you see super dark glasses, family Winnie the Pooh costumes, or centaur suits.  Incidentally, I also discourage people from wearing the all white shirt and jeans or khakis look.  It’s boring and it does nothing for your skin.  You want color in your photos.  Deep purples, greens, and reds are perfect for fall photos.

best holiday photos

5.  Weapons are NOT a good prop.  If you want to include props make them something meaningful and non-dangerous.  Kids yielding pistols in their photos is pretty much never a good idea no matter how attached they are to their firearm.  A ball or a bike or even a fake moustache is a much better option.


6.  Cheat a little.  There are tons of photography products on the market to make your job easier and I’m not talking about lasers.  My all time favorite photography accessory is the Light Scoop.  Every amateur photographer and mom with a DSLR and a cute kid to point it at should have one.  It does magical things to your lighting possibilities by allowing you to NOT spend a grip on a Speedlight you probably won’t know how to truly use while also giving you the ability to soften your on camera flash so your family and friends don’t look like they’re in a police lineup.


7.  Avoid harsh lighting.  This would include lasers, starbursts, on camera flash, and direct sunlight too.  If the people are squinting in their photos they are probably not having a super awesome time, and also, they look funny.

8.  Make your sessions fun.  Something is wrong if no one is smiling, ever.  But, remember not to force the smile either.  Nothing bugged me more when my oldest was little than when photographers would spend half the session trying to get him to smile.  He didn’t smile a lot when he was a baby.  He rarely smiled in the presence of strangers.  I was happy if he was just NOT crying!  Usually photographers would push him to tears with their constant say-cheese-can-you-smile-buddy-come-on-how-about-if-I-put-this-itchy-feather-duster-in-your-face shenanigans.  Also, if you’re photographing your own children, try not to scream at them.  They’re more likely to smile if you turn off your crazy for a bit.


9.  If you’re doing your own photos, start by getting your mind right.  Look at some of the photos of your kids that you’ve taken in the past.  Which ones are your favorites?  Probably the ones where you caught them having a genuinely good time with a real smile on their faces.  Great photos aren’t always the perfectly posed ones.  Our best pictures have been the ones where I just stopped screaming at everyone to look at me and let the magic happen.  Keep it real in your photos, you’ll like looking back on them a lot more then!


10.  Remember, photos are about memories.  And, generally, you want those memories to be good ones for everyone being photographed, not just the one guy showing off his muscles and orange tan while his family stands by in horror.




  1. jessica says

    Love these tips! Need to check out the light scope thing too. I have been following your blog for a couple years now and geez your boys are suddenly grown up! #3 definitely has changed since I first started reading..the other two look like little adults too… *sigh* where has the time gone? Can’t believe my little is 2 and 1/2!!
    Also- totally agree with not trying to force a smile. My husband does it to the kid sometimes, that’s when I really get blurred pictures!!

  2. says

    Hahaha I just tried taking family photos with the kittens…A hundred takes later and I’m like whatever man!

    So these are just hilarious because we do all of them. :)

    I have to agree with the no firearm in photos. Which is sad, but later in college, they are going to try to find that weapon to see if it really was a toy or no.

    You don’t ever want to force my kids to smile. It’s creepy. Hahaha I swear. I’ve learned.

    And thank you for featuring me. That is quite fun actually. Kinda sunny up my day.
    Aloha :)

  3. says

    Oh yeah – those photos were super creepy! Just wrong, wrong, wrong! :-)

    I have to figure out that light scope thing. My husband hates flash and so a lot of our indoor shots are just blurry and poor quality, even though we have a really good camera.

  4. says

    Ummm first of all when did we give your oldest permission to grow up that tall?? When did we say to any of them they could grow up. OH momma you are gonna be beating off the girls with a stick I am warning you now. I could have gone all day without image 6 on that page.. without a lot of them let’s be honest. Hence why our Christmas cards are a snowball fight in the front yard..

  5. says

    Great tips! You always take such good pics. I’ll have to check out Light Scoop. My mother, bless her soul, always expects a perfectly posed pic. Drives me batty. I like the ones that are more natural and unposed.