The Dark & Ugly Side of the "Family Photoshoot"

[The views expressed in this post are my opinion.]

The “picture-perfect” family photo. How does it come to be? What is the real story behind the picture? Whether this photo ends up framed on a wall in your home, the feature of your holiday card, or just something to share across social media, more and more of these adorable, organized, and beautiful family photos are being displayed. ---- But there’s a dark side to these photos, an ugly truth to the coordinated outfits and smiling faces, AND I am going to share that with you today, all based on my own personal experience with the {insert scary music}: FAMILY PHOTOSHOOT!

Let’s set the scene. Your photographer is booked. The time and location have been chosen, preferably at a time where your kids are less likely to be acting psycho & some beautiful scenery may be at its peak in the background. The coordinated outfits have been purchased and untouched until picture day & you might even be ambitious and have some props planned out. All this for a truly magical vision in your head of how your family photoshoot is going to go and the Pinterest worthy pictures you are going to achieve. Now onto photoshoot day…

It’s the morning of and you have an estimated time of departure for which you have already passed by 10 minutes. You are sweating profusely as you try to get all the kids dressed in their planned outfits and not eat ANYTHING after the clothes are on. But of course, they are hungry immediately after breakfast, so now you are searching for the “cleanest” snack as your husband hands them a granola bar with chocolate chips in it – NOOOOO! Your cat-like reflexes knock those suckers out of little hands, which of course initiates the dramatic tears and cries. After a tense snack negotiation, and ensuring your husband is also in appropriate attire (begrudgingly), everyone is finally loaded in the car…20 minutes behind schedule. Now in the car, you are blasting the air to try to dry off the perspiration (ignoring your husband’s chattering teeth), and also attempting to put on makeup – all while forcing your now shivering husband to travel at light speed [but safely] because you are also freaking out for being late. The tensions are running high and in about 20 minutes everyone needs to be tear-free and smiling, because this mama-bear isn’t messing around for family photoshoot time.

You arrive at the location and breathe a slight sigh of relief because you made it, and so far everyone is in one piece. You fortunately are greeted with a very friendly, patient, and understanding photographer who seems to hold no judgement to the disaster filled minivan that holds the equivalent of three fervent raccoons who’ve just downed a bunch of Red Bulls. Both you and the photographer are prepared with bribery – but don’t get your hopes up, because on photoshoot day bribes sometimes carry no merit.

It’s time for the first picture, which means it’s time to herd wild animals. Being outdoors also means that at least two of the three kids are running in separate directions, generally towards dirt, water, sometimes a road. So, between a photographer, yourself, and your partner, you are all trying to get everyone in place and not get too frustrated and make everyone cry (again) for the very first photo.

Click, click, click. You pull out your mediocre ventriloquist skills as you smile and also remind your husband to smile, your kids to look at the camera, say cheese, remind them of candy, etc. – whatever you can do to get this shot pulled off. You’re also likely sweating again and begging the photographer to Photoshop out any unsightly things as a result of the stress taking its toll on you during the actual photoshoot. Next you move on to daddy only photos & the children morph instantly from wild animals to well-behaved tiny humans, just for a moment. They each smile perfectly in a photo with their dad, and the ease of this gives everyone a moment of calm, while also equally annoying you that these are the ONLY photos they seem to cooperate for (case in point below).

Then it’s time for the sibling photos and it’s as if someone rang the bell to the start of a wrestling match OR they all heard the ice cream truck song in different directions and booked it! At this point you move between bribery and threats, again while trying not to be too mean or else the photos just have mad, crying children in them (which let’s face it, might be a more accurate family photo at this point in your life). It’s a very thin tightrope to walk at these photoshoots, and as your blood pressure rises your balance abilities are jeopardized.

Perhaps my favorite part is when the child who doesn’t want to participate is asked to step aside for other family member photo compilations, and then inevitably tries to get back into the photo, that 30 seconds ago they wanted nothing to do with.

All so very magical…

So somewhere between the temper tantrums, children fleeing, gritted-frustrated teeth reminding everyone to SMILE, your photographer manages to get that “picture-perfect” family photo (to your utter amazement). But this photo has clearly not come about easily nor is it a true expression of the day’s events. With that one photo you fall in love with, there’s an entire real of all the outtakes, of children facing different directions, crying in the dirt, or two parents who just look exhausted…

It all pays off and as you look through the photos of the day you slowly start to remember less and less of this dark side. It fades into the background with every photo you come across with smiling faces, or everyone successfully looking into the camera. Even the outtakes don’t seem all that bad, because it’s all over now, and these photos are kind of adorable in their own way – they tell a real story. The outtakes serve as a reminder to the uglier side of family photoshoots, a truth to the day, and offer a realistic perspective for future photoshoots, and really just life in general. Parenting is full of joy and happiness, as well as frustration, tiredness, and sometimes abandoned expectations. We all want the perfect family photos, but getting them sheds a real light on the fact that our families are not perfect and sometimes downright embarrassingly crazy.

With each family photoshoot, I learn a little bit more how to embrace this crazy and even embrace the outtakes in life. My kids running all over the place on photoshoot day is a testament to their curiosity and their vigor for life. I try to remind myself it’s not a personal attack against me, their mother… who just wants everyone [preferably happy] in one photo that I actually get to be in for a change (& the photo is not a selfie)!

So there you have it, the ugly truth and the little dark side behind that “picture-perfect” family photo! Now you may be one of lucky ones and not have these experiences, but on the off chance you do, take my advice and fall in love with the outtakes – they really are the perfect family photos :)

Also don't forgot to thank your photographer & possibly give them a hug! They are miracle workers and probably (if not definitely) deserve hazard pay ;)

*Affiliated links are included in this post for which I receive compensation for from any sales.

#family #photography #familyphotos #fallphotos #familyphotoshoot #pictureswithkids #parenting


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