Same Story…Different Year Family Photos

The same thing happens once every year.   I announce to the family that it is time to get family photos taken…by me.   A universal groan raises the roof, and all the griping begins.  This sets the tone for our family photo shoot every.single.year.   I think many of you mothers will relate to the ordeal, but those of you who:

a)  hire a photographer or go to a studio, or

b) know how to operate your camera correctly

may not.

Yes, just getting everyone together at the same time, wearing decent clothing, and getting the non-smilers to smile is challenging for any mom, but a talented, professional photographer can usually turn out some family photos that any grandmother would be overjoyed to receive.  And then there are mothers who insist on taking their own family photos, because they have a nice camera and don’t want to pay someone else to do it.  I’m in that camp.  It should be noted that just because you have a nice camera, doesn’t mean you can crank out awesome family photos, if you don’t know how to actually use the settings on your camera.  Setting it on auto just doesn’t always work…as you will see.  Bear with me.

First, I went to the source or all great family photo ideas – Pinterest.  I found some awesome poses for family groups, and was excited about the photos I’d be able to send out with my Christmas cards this year.  I really loved the one with the kids up front and the parents a little in the distance, so we drove to a nearby town, found railroad tracks, and I set up my camera.  I set the timer to take multiple shots in a row, which may be the only setting I really know how to use.  That way I could push the button, and run to get in the photo.  I was excited!  We were going to get some awesome, everyone will love them, train track family photos.

family photo on train tracks

If the goal was an abstract, no one is in focus kind of photo – I nailed it!  Sadly, that wasn’t the kind of photo I wanted, and it certainly looked nothing like my inspiration photo.  See those rocks?  The ones wayyyy down at the bottom of the photo.  Yeah, they look great, don’t they?  They are sharp, and in focus…but none of US are.  Maybe I’ll crop the photo, and put the rocks on my Christmas card.

family photo flop 1 (648x1000)

More important than looking for family photo tips on Pinterest – I should have spent my time reading this first, from Kristen Duke Photography.  Believe me – I will be reading it now.

Camera Settings and Tips


But, since I didn’t read that first, and I could see that the half in front – half in the distance idea wasn’t going to work, I had everyone move together, and they hammed it up while I moved in closer to them.

family photo flop 4 (619x1000)

Twenty shots later and still not a single decent photo.  Everyone was getting cranky and hungry.  Did I mention this was my middle son’s last day at home, before he returned to college out of state, or that I promised them all a nice meal, at a nice restaurant, after we got a good family photo?  Yeah…they weren’t happy.

family photo flop 8 (1000x662)


I returned to my camera, and tried tweaking a few more things, set the camera to take a bunch more photos, but HARK…what’s that sound in the distance?  Oh, that would be a train coming down the tracks.

family photo flop 14 (1000x615)

So, we quickly gather up my camera, tripod, computer and hairbrush (which I brought with me, because I knew I would become a frazzled mess), and child #1 and child #2 decide to take some selfies by the passing train.

family photo flop 12 (648x1000)

Child #2 says she will take some photos of me too!

family photo flop 16 (666x1000) (2) That leads to my next great idea!  I tell the family to group together, and we’ll take a family photo with the passing train as the backdrop.   I take a test shot and am happy with the lighting, and the focus, so once again, I set my camera to take a bunch of shots.

family photo flop 19 (649x1000)

But just as I go to jump in with them, the stupid train passes us by….meaning we have to go back ON the tracks to try again.

family photo flop 15 (668x1000)

At this point, I think I heard my older sons using words I would have washed their mouth out with soap for using when they were younger.  I instructed them to get their rear ends back on that track, smile, and cooperate, because NO ONE was getting dinner, at the nice restaurant, or anywhere else, until I got just one decent photo to put in our Christmas cards.  PERIOD.

They no me well enough to know, I’m not backing down, so they get back on the track, I set my camera back up again, and they force the flakiest smiles they can muster up.  Somewhere between getting off the track, and getting back on though, my husband put his sunglasses on, and stuck my hairbrush in his back pocket, but I didn’t notice that until after I’d set the camera to take 15 more consecutive shots.

family photo photo flop 11 (800x365)

My husband realized the glasses though, so he took them off, put his regular glasses on, and we tried again…still not noticing the hairbrush in his pocket.

family photo flop 20 (667x1000)

At that point, I knew I couldn’t threaten another smile out of any of them, so that’s when I admitted defeat, and decided that I’d use Picmonkey to remove the hairbrush, and turn it into a black and white photo, so the horrible lighting isn’t so obvious.

Black and White Family Photo via Knick of Time

Then, I took my grouchy, miserable family out to a nice meal, at a nice restaurant.  I haven’t printed them out yet, so if they look awful, I’ll reuse last year’s photo in my Christmas cards.  Maybe the recipients won’t remember it.

family photo via

Our 2012 Christmas photo ordeal is chronicled here.

Family Photos a Field

family shoes

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  1. I have to say, that sounds like a fun family day…one your kids will tell their kids. and the photos look great, even the blurry ones. lol

  2. That’s so hilarious. I think anyone with older children, especially teens can relate…..but sometimes it’s not about capturing a perfect pose but the memories made. I’m sure you will look back many years from now and have a great laugh!!!!

  3. Haha, thanks for a hilarious read Angie! Why must all teenage children drive their mothers nuts when all we want is a nice photo?! Is it so difficult to Crack a smile? I love the picture with the hairbrush… Think you should totally leave that in… Think of the stories you’ll be telling years from now.

  4. Liz Thomas says

    You all are just too funny!! I can tell you have a wonderful family!! Best wishes to you all, especially your travelling student.

  5. I drag my family out too every year for family photos! Your photos are great and what a good looking family!

  6. Well bless your heart. You’re lookin good Angie!

  7. Wonderful story! You’ll laugh about it later 🙂 After all your hard work, I think the B/W is great. You have a beautiful family.

    (If is makes you feel any better, I have 3 grown daughters and seven grandchildren and I have never, EVER gotten them all in one picture. And, I have a “good” camera and have been shooting for 11 years!)

  8. I love this post, Angie! And I think the photos are wonderful…makes for fun family memories! You are a great looking family! Love your new sidebar photo, too!

    • Thanks so much, Linda! Believe me, I didn’t involve the family when I took that photo of myself for my sidebar! I had actually planned to have my daughter take one for me to use at the train tracks, but just getting the family photo was exhausting, so I decided I would just do it by myself later!

  9. Thanks for the laugh, Angie! That one where you look surprised and your husband is laughing..priceless.
    You did get a great shot in the end, and a great story, too 🙂 Beautiful family!

  10. Hi there just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let you know
    a few of the pictures aren’t loading properly. I’m not
    sure why buut I think its a linking issue.
    I’ve tried it in two different internt browsers aand both show the same results.

  11. This story was so hilarious I even read it to my children. They were making constant comparisons with how “mean” I am in trying to get them to take “1 special family picture together, darn it!” I’m so glad I’m not the only one out there who puts up with rolling eyes and stupid faces, gang signs and groanings!! Thank you for the early morning laugh!


  1. […] it to fit the tall rectangle shape.  I choose this photo my daughter took when we were taking our family photos, and cropped it […]

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