Thursday, August 18, 2011

F-Bomb Family Photos

It's that time of the year. Wailing, whining, tears and recriminations. And that's just me and Kevin. At the end of our week at Family Vacation Centre  (FVC) in Santa Barbara I always hope for one family photo to treasure till the end of our days... Instead we earn the dubitable honour of being the F-bomb Family.

What to wear? Loads of complaining as I make everyone go through their  - mostly dirty -  clothes to find something grey. "Why? why? why? You're just sooo mean!" Cy, seven, yelled as if I was making him swim the Arctic in his underwear. FVC photographer Pierce advised us to wear similar shades, not mixing darks and lights. In the end, our greys looked a mess of dead-brown, sweet silver and just filthy dirty.

The "shoot" took no more than ten minutes and photographer Pierce said we can swap the heads out from different photos. So now we can be the F-bomb Addams Family.

Whether they look up, down, or away, kids are seldom self-conscious which makes for better photos. In contrast I feel really awkward. "You've got a really fake smile" Cy offered helpfully. "Mama, what's wrong with your eyes?" Tallulah said. Just that day my eyes had puffed up to bee-sting levels and not in a charming Angharad Rees way. My white jeans made my legs look stumpy and my long linen cardigan looked frumpy. Whenever a camera comes out, Kevin cannot be dissuaded from raising his eyebrows, giving him an air of shocked surprise as if he has found himself with the wrong family.

The truth is I don't I want to look natural or even like myself...I want to look like a 49-year-old Kate Hudson. Yes, I know... and I have yet to learn Photoshop. Even Tina Fey, who is critical of any injectable or surgical adjustments, confesses that she is always relieved when magazines - even feminist ones - do a Photoshop on her.  Cheating or just the way of the world?

Looking forward to family photo shoot, Pennslyvania
Our scariest family picture was taken nine years ago in Pennsylvania. Baby Tallulah had an attractive rash around her mouth from sucking down successive bottles of formula.  We took Harley for a haircut and he came out with a "whiteside special" where all the sideburns are razored away.

Just five minutes after the photographer started snapping, all three kids went catatonic; screaming and kicking and punching each other. Whack, wail, slap.

The photographer kept his calm. But then it turned even uglier. Both Kevin and I lost it. Amid the unceasing thrashing and din, the photographer put on a fixed, frightened smile and called out cheerily: "Final shot! Let's make this one a keeper!!!"

I'm clueless. What makes a good family photo - what do you wear and how do you pose?


  1. Jody- Love your photo - the kids look great, but I don't see you. Where are you, I know you have a whole family shot!

    I'm guilty of making all three of mine wear something white and telling them "just smush your faces close to one another." One shot out of twenty-five comes out decent.

    I had my Mom snap a few pics when were on vacation of the whole family and posted one on APPLESandRUBIES. It's a capture-the-moment shot and pretty funny. Rosie looks bored, Son H is wearing swim goggles and looking downward, Evie is doing s goofy smile, I have hair in my face and husband is tanned and grizzled!


  2. I think that's a good start on a pic. All it needed was mom and dad, and it would have been perfect.
    I prefer natural shots of people to ones that at too "made up." Those kids are just fine! And good-looking kids, er, um, young adults or. . . .

  3. i agree with rob-bear, that first picture is perfect -- it just needed mom and dad. :)

    it's actually been such a long time since my family took a family photo. i will tell my family that we should start doing that again. ;)

    <3, Mimi

  4. I am baffled by family photos.... we tried a shoot about 8 years ago with my parents and sisters and there really wasn't one that worked fantastic- and for the most part we were adults (my youngest sister was probably to or 11 and the next one was about 15, but the rest--- full fledged adults!). We all jut looked awkward!

  5. my .02 as a family photographer :-)
    - be yourselves, wear what you feel good in & is going to make you happy. A semi-cohesive look is great if you can pull it off, but great shots come from happy people
    - don't be afraid to get a little goofy & "play" during the shoot -- I'm a fan of shooting the natural looks, glances, & expressions. To me, those are poignant & what you'll end up wanting to look at down the road.
    - if you're shooting your own - go outside, outdoor light is always nicer than indoor light & don't forget to shoot from different perspectives (close up/far away, etc.) You might look fake close up & with forced smiles, but from a distance, with natural body language may be your best shot.

    Not to self-promote (hopefully Jody will forgive me), but if you're in the Bay Area & interested in a family photo shoot, I'm running a special "mini-session" day on October 8th in Golden Gate Park. Details on my blog (my name should hopefully link to it).

  6. The best pics are always the surreptitously (sp?) taken ones....and my mister pointed out the other day that I am never in family pics because I'm always taking them.
    I bet you in your skinny jeans and cardi looked amazing!

  7. Lovely photos!!! I love the sunset light! Probably I've said this before but your kids are so adorable!!

    For us is a real torture to take perfect family photos because our son, Leo is always making funny faces! But I think those pictures are the most beautiful ones!

    Have a lovely weekend!


  8. i think you just did a fab family shot - the top one that is - your post did make me smile - i think we have all been there in some form or another x

  9. We are the most unphotogenic family in the world and I envy those lovely family photos others have. Take no advice from me on photo shoots ever!

  10. Personally, I like family photos that are more natural and less posed. People laughing, and acting the way they would under normal circumstances. :)

  11. oh this is delightful. i can't imagine this type of undertaking.
    my wedding photographs weren't really that great, i doubt my family {if hunkiest and i ever get around to it} photographs will be any better.
    i'm starting to itch just thinking about it.

  12. As always, I want to hug you for making me feel like we're not the only family who...fill in the blank! We have avoided the dreaded family photo but have taken the kids and even the dog for professional photos. My daughter looks like an angel but the 13 year old son looks completely stiff and awkward because he's a 13 year old. Out of the 200 photos we couldn't find a single one we wanted to print.

  13. That is a great family shot -- everyone looks relaxed and happy! You can't ask for anything more than that!

    I have a great photographer that I've used every year since the kids were born. I adore her personally and the kids have grown up with her and are quite {almost too} comfortable around her. I think that helps. We've done all white on top, all black on top, and last year orange on top with my daughter in a fun orange / turquoise / pink print. It is a fun shot and she is the center of attention in the photo as she is in real life.

  14. My answer?? I DON'T! Which is a problem! We seriously seriously need to have them taken. And I always find some excuse... need to wait until Hailey's older (that was years ago), need to lose weight, ...

    I just have to GET IT DONE :).

  15. The photo of your kids as little ones is priceless! And I laughed out loud at the reference to a whiteside special. Family portraits can be tough, especially when the kids are young and you're working around feedings and naps. Nevertheless, they're also memorable!

  16. The photo of your kids is great--agree that I'd love to have seen one with all six of you. Impossible to imagine any part of you looking "stumpy" in a photo, Jody! I love your blog--I always laugh out loud at least once, and throughout the whole thing today as I can completely relate with trying to get four kids to simultaneously smile for a camera.

    Today was Connor's first day of school (Harley's too!) and I couldn't get him to even LOOK at me for a "first day of school" photo, much less smile. Alas, they are so much easier when they are young. I can always hold over him his very first photo shoot...Jimmy and I were cradling him in our arms...the photographer suggested that we take a "naked baby" shot, so off came the diaper. As she was snapping pictures, he started peeing in a perfect arc. The series of pictures with the looks on our faces was hysterical. Needless to say, it was our Christmas card that year--"Wishing you warm surprises this holiday season". :)

  17. I wish I could answer those questions, but I am clueless too! I suppose the best family photos would be ones that are taken off guard. That's a great picture of your kids on the beach!

  18. the best shots always seem to be right after the kids have been told to make a goofy face bc they are still laughing and happy from having made that silly face.

    i think the beach photo looks great and natural!!!!! good job!

  19. I love this post! You are hysterical. Family/group photos always seem to turn out that way! You are definitely not alone. I love the part about Kevin always looking surprised as though he's with the wrong family. Too funny! I am sure you guys will all look back on the funny photos and laugh! Happy weekend! :)

  20. looks like it turned out great, except you guys are missing. i always love your family stories. hilarious.

  21. Awh I think it turned out great! Family photos are always a challenge aren't they? Hope you enjoyed your vacay and are having a fab weekend :)

  22. Love that picture....but where are you!? Your posts always make me smile!

  23. I always love your post because all of them are sweet and you family looks amazing, hope have someone similar :)


  24. Honestly I'm mystified because that photo of your kids looks so Ralph Lauren/Tommy H - and I like that you got everyone in the same color range--so smart! I had to laugh when you wrote about Kevin's shocked surprise as if he's with the wrong family--always love your posts!

    xo Mary Jo

  25. I love the top photo of your turned out great. Ive always wanted to take a photo with matching colored shirts on the beach! When we were down the shore on vacation we actually saw a family wearing all white on the beach taking photos! I think it takes time and as the kids get older they will love to take more photos.

    My teen stepdaughters love taking photos, but now with Digital cameras they want to look at every photo I take and want to erase the bad ones so I wont put them on facebook! But I love all photos of them and want them for my scrapbooking or just to have I get a little annoyed when they want to erase them! Darn digital era!

  26. Hahaha, too funny. I don't have any kids yet so this hasn't become a problem for me YET! However, my husband and I sometimes try to get "family" pictures with our cat... haha, never works!


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