I have to say I think I nailed family pictures this year. (All photos courtesy of Devan Rae Photography.)
And I think I nailed family pictures because I approached them differently than I had in years past.
First, I didn’t wait. I didn’t wait until I lost 20 pounds. I didn’t wait until Locke’s teeth were all in. I didn’t wait until Chad’s eye bags were gone from traveling coast to coast. I didn’t wait for Crew’s football bruises to go away. I realized that I am only going to get older; I am on the down hill slide and this is as good as its going to get. I also acknowledged that this beautiful family that I have right now won’t be the same next year. Teenage acne could be raging. Someone could be seriously sick or injured, or worse, someone could be gone all together. There was no better time than now to take our family picture.
Second, I just did it. As I looked at our Fall calendar with my husband’s travel schedule and my son’s and daughters’ activities, we had very few available dates – like three Mondays. So I called the photographer and booked a date first (two weeks out), before I had anything ready. This commitment sent me into action. We got haircuts; we decided on outfits, and I got my eyebrows waxed on a deadline. Booking the photographer before I was ready pushed me to make decisions and get going.
Third, I didn’t overthink it. The outfits. The location. The photographer. Now that does not mean I didn’t put any thought into it because I did, but sometimes we can suffer from “analysis paralysis” where we research and research but hesitate to pull the trigger. We spend too much time trying to create the perfect picture and then are disappointed when we look like ourselves. I didn’t look at Pinterest once for ideas. I had never seen any of our photographer’s work when I booked her. I took her off a recommendation. (She was wonderful!) Most of the clothes were from our closets and the location was just where our photographer happened to be that night. We tried different poses in the moment, with no prior plan. I didn’t need to remember a gorgeous location or coordinated outfits. I didn’t need perfection; I just needed record of these people, at this time, at this age, with these faces.
Fourth, I let everyone be themselves. I learned my lesson from the “yellow polo” incident a few years back. I forced my son to wear a yellow polo in our family picture. I wanted to tie in his sister’s shirt somehow. What was I thinking? Nothing about Crew says “yellow” or “polo.” While the pictures of everyone else are darling, Crew’s lifeless smile tells you how he felt about his shirt.
So this year I tried to honor everyone’s personality. I gave them some choice (gasp!) on what they wanted to wear. Croft got to be a bit funky with a geometric print; Crew got to be his casual, sporty self with an open button-up and Nike shirt. (We even considered a baseball cap, but he is way too proud of his hair right now to cover that up.) Chad got to be a little more formal and preppy, and Elle got to wear two of her favorite things: a scarf and a braid. And I got to be me too: the neutral one, in an earthy color, grounding it all, letting everyone else do their thing. Now it wasn’t a free for all, but I did run every option by them and gave some choices, and since most of their clothes were right from their closet I knew they were comfortable and happy with what they were going to wear.
Fifth, we had fun. We enjoyed being together that night. I wasn’t uptight trying to create a picture worthy to be blown up on a wall. I just let the kids be themselves and whatever happened happened.
There were photo bombs:
and hulk smashes:
and yoga poses:
and silly faces:
Again, I didn’t need record of a perfect family, perfectly placed, perfectly coiffed, and perfectly coordinated. Ironically, in the end, that is exactly what I got, but I was happier that I got a perfect record of us, just as we are now.
So I implore you: Take a family picture sooner than later, whether you are ready or not. You may still have baby weight. You may wish your hair was longer. Maybe your daughter has braces or your son has a scar. Maybe the landscape is ugly now or you don’t want to think about outfits. I promise ten years from now it won’t matter. Next year it won’t matter. You will just be happy to have some shots of your family as it was in that moment. If you wait around for the perfect time, you may never do it. Remember Voltaire’s advice: “Don’t let the perfect, be the enemy of the good.”
With a little bit of prior thought and a little bit of action, “nailing” a family picture really means just taking one.
(You can see more of our family photo shoot at Devan Rae Photography.)