Thursday, September 20, 2012

how to take forced family fun photos

Dear Em,
Since you were born, my family has had the extreme dread pleasure of taking family portraits when we get together each summer. I am pretty sure everyone in our family wants to kill me in my sleep (except for probably Nonnie), but somehow they've just accepted our yearly forced family fun photos.

I'm cheap fiscally conservative & a control freak have an idea of what I want so I am the photographer...which isn't exactly easy because I'm also in the photos. Our family size & the fact that half of them ignore me can also be a challenge, but I love a good challenge.

If you're interested in taking your own family portraits, here are 15 nearly impossible easy steps.

1. Tell your family that you are planning to take family photos. While the girls will pretty much be OK with that, let the guys get really annoyed & complain that family photo shoots take too long.
2. Take weeks to discuss what everyone will be wearing. In the end it probably doesn't matter what color/clothing option everyone chooses, they will all be rushing at the last minute to buy new outfits for the photo shoot. Let them complain about it.
3. Choose a location. Beachy areas are best if you want your hair to fly all over the place in your photos. Everyone knows that bad hair days make for the best photos.
4. Try to plan a time for your photo shoot that is not around the same time as "cranky time." For those of you with children or husbands, you understand.
5. Plan out what poses/groups you want to take pictures of (i.e. whole family, just the girls, just the guys, individuals, etc), & make yourself an agenda of which order you're going to take the pictures. Plan to get any pictures with small children out of the way first. They tend to become tired & cranky easily (actually, they all tend to become tired & cranky easily). Forget your agenda once you get to your location & forget half of the group/poses you wanted to shoot.
6. Make sure your camera battery is charged. This is very important. Consider bringing a second (or third) camera for when you realize you forgot to charge your camera's battery.
7. Bring a tripod. Possibly have a backup in case your brother-in-law forgets to bring his or you accidentally break your Dad's (I'm still so sorry, Dad). Use a tall pile of books when you realize you have no tripod.
8. Cameras with ten second timers that take numerous photos continuously are best in this situation. This will give you ample time to run into the frame & wipe the sweat off your face before the camera starts shooting. Also, multiple continuous shots give you the best chance of finding one photo where everyone's eyes are actually open.
9. Once you get to your location, arrange everyone where you want them to be. The girls will mostly listen to you & stand in the right spot. The guys will pretend they don't even know you. Interestingly enough, the guys will take the most time to get set up for each shot even though they are the ones who complained about how much time forced family fun photo shoots take. Weird.
10. Make your family walk through mud, sit on fire ant mounds, hang from trees, & get bitten mercilessly by mosquitoes to get your perfect poses.
11. Bribe your child with candy, ice cream, & Disney World to get her to look at the camera & smile while the camera is shooting. Shake around a box of sweet tarts like an idiot & fill your child with so much sugar that she is ready to vomit. This is parenting at it's best.
12. Set up the tripod. Set up your shot. Tell everyone to get ready. Press the shutter release button & then sprint into the picture frame. Realize that you've forgotten to set-up the shutter timer & you've just taken a picture of your family & your bum. Tell everyone just kidding. Set-up the shutter timer, set-up your shot, tell everyone to get ready, & sprint like the sweaty mess you are into the picture frame. The more your run back & forth between the tripod & the poses, tell yourself that sweaty is a really great look for you.
13. Repeat for as many different poses you want or until your whole family is ready to strangle you/not even paying attention to you anymore/off doing things that have nothing to do with family photos. Make most of your family wish they were part of a non-portrait taking family. Imagine that your camera is shooting bullets & not pictures, & smile as half your family ignores you.
14. Look at your photos. Realize that at least one person has their eyes closed in every shot. Debate with your family which group photo each person looks good in. Have no one agree on one photo that they all look good in. Have the guys mostly not care as long as they don't have to do it again.
15. Have some really awesome family photographs that will last a lifetime.

Here are some of the special forced family fun photos that will last our lifetime:

In 2010 you were just 5 months old. We took the pictures at a beautiful park near my parents house. Guys wore collared shirts & girls wore whatever. We got some great photos. Unfortunately, I hadn't learned how to set my camera at the highest quality photo setting, & the pictures become grainy when enlarged. Whoops.

In 2011 you were almost a year in a half. I loved the idea of family beach portraits. While we got some really fun photos, it also made for some funky hair photos. Each sibling/part of the family wore a different color.

This Year: 2012
Jennie had the great idea to take our photos at the River Court, a basketball court where scenes of the TV series One Tree Hill was filmed. It was the perfect location. It's right on a river & we could get cool water shots without the wind. A basketball court is a less traditional spot for portraits, & I had all kinds of fun ideas for poses. Plus, we would be able to say we had our portraits taken where a TV show was filmed. 

When we got to our portrait location, I gave Jennie a weird look & said "um, so where is the River Court?" It was gone. Total bummer. Plus, it was still a little breezy right off the river. So, we didn't have the cool location we originally planned on, but I think we made the best of what was there.

I promised the girls that if we all wore red scarves, we wouldn't have to take family portraits in November to use as Christmas photos.

An old fashioned riverboat actually passed by while we took the girls photos, but of course happy faces weren't a priority for you then. Oh, well.

Here is a great example of the guys not paying attention to me. I still love it. It's a great classic guys shot.

Here's our fun, just the kids shot.

This pose was Gina's idea & ended up probably being my favorite of the whole shoot.

This one is my other favorite shot. I feel like this precious photograph captures 33 years of love.

Speaking of photographs, most of mine end up just being stored on my computer & facebook. Luckily, we have your aunt Gina to provide us with an incredible way to display our photos: photo montages. She is so incredibly talented, & we are so fortunate that she has gifted us with montages to commemorate our most precious moments. Your montage is your favorite thing to watch. It includes everyone you love & all your favorite songs. It was a lifesaver during our 12 hour drive from North Carolina to Rhode Island. It made me so happy to listen to your squeals of happiness & giggles while you watched the photos & videos of some of our most precious moments from your second year. 

You can follow Gina on Facebook via BixMontage or check out her Esty Site.

Here's a teaser of your second year montage. The actual one is an hour long (I know, we are so so so lucky to know Gina) which includes some of our 2011 forced family fun photos.

Aren't photographs the best?

I love you so,

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