Do It Yourself Family Photo Shoot

I love this time of year for several reasons. One of those reasons is receiving the photos and Christmas/Holiday greetings from my friends and family. I really like to respond in kind by creating a photo card with a picture of our little brood. Above is the one I did up last year using a card template by Holly Brook Jones over at Two Peas.

The difficult part comes when we go to take our family picture. The first year we had the kids, we did the smart thing and had a photographer take photos.

Honestly, though, the last couple of years have been very challenging, and booking a sitting with a photographer didn't happen. Time, money, and sheer exhaustion got in the way, so we chose to do it ourselves.

I don't think this way is the most optimal. I would always recommend having someone else take your pictures, but this can work in a pinch. And sometimes, around the holidays, we may need a quick, no-fuss method for getting things done.

Here are some tips that worked for us in our makeshift photo shoot:

1. Choose coordinating outfits for family members.
We always choose colors that go together well instead of trying to have everyone wear something that's identical. Last year, as you can see from the card above, everyone wore jean jackets with white tees underneath. The other two years, I've gone down to Old Navy and got everyone cute holiday shirts that had similar colors.

2. Do a practice run with some of the poses.
This worked especially well for us since we have young kids. Here is a picture of my hubby showing our youngest boy how he wanted him to pose:

3. Decide where you will take the pictures.
We have taken ours in or around our house because we are generally pressed for time. Outdoor photos are my preference, but this year, the weather didn't cooperate on the day we planned to take them. Instead, we used the place in our house with the best light. We chose our staircase because of the light, it kept the kids fairly contained and they couldn't get too rowdy. The previous year, we took them outside on our patio.

4. Use a tripod.
This idea is probably an obvious one, but it bears repeating.

My hubby set ours up and tweaked the camera settings so that it would take pictures automatically on continual burst (where the camera takes several pictures in a row until you tell it not to). This allowed him to hit the button on the camera, then run over really fast and jump in with the rest of us.

5. Take a lot of pictures!
If you have squirmy kids or family members that have trouble keeping eyes opened, tongues in mouths, and so on, a lot of pictures to choose from will save your bacon. Using digital cameras makes it easy to decide what pictures to keep or delete. It's perfectly OK to delete the ones you don't like or need.

And let me be perfectly honest here --- there were many, many shots that looked like this or some variation of it:

It makes me laugh now to look at it now, but at the time I was pretty frustrated. As we looked through the hot mess of crazy pictures, we did find some in the set that were good. Here is the one we chose for our holiday card:

6. Use photo editing software to hide any flaws in your picture.
My husband and I laugh when we see this picture, because our oldest son (in the light blue shirt) is leaning forward slightly. Trace says Elijah is doing his "on the potty" stance in this picture. If we had someone else take the picture, then they could've told Elijah to sit up straight, but that's how it goes. We did the best with the time we had. So instead, I will use Photoshop Elements and some cute digital goodies to hide our picture taking sins. I found a fun holiday card template made by Michelle Coleman to plop the photo into.

With a little photo editing magic and Michelle's template, here is the finished card:

The cute white paper strips, the red patterned paper on the left, and tinting the photo to a sephia tone all make the things that bugged me about this photo less noticeable (of course, now all of you will see my son doing that goofy sitting stance forever more). I'm actually quite happy with how this turned out, even if this wasn't our first choice for taking the photos. My husband and I agreed that even though our youngest has a cheesy grin, it's pretty cute and shows his personality at his age.

7. Once the group family pictures are done, take some of individual family members.
While you still have everyone there and dressed nice, take advantage of it and get some good shots of them. This is one of my favorite things about family picture taking time, because the kids really like the one on one picture taking. And, Trace and I also snapped pictures of each other, since we are always behind the camera. Here are some of my favorite individual photos:

I hope you find these ideas helpful. I don't claim to be an expert on the subject of photography or family pictures, but I do know how to make things works when I'm short on time and energy. :)

Enjoy taking your holiday pictures and enjoy the best of the season.


  1. Your photos turned out darling Lorell. You have such a beautiful family. :)

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. You are always so helpful and optimistic. Love seeing photos of your family. Congratulations! I'm nominating you for the Kreativ Bloggers Award because I think you are special. Please visit my blog for details.

  3. Thanks, Debi...I will head over there!

  4. And a great holiday card it was, too!!