This year instead of setting up the tripod and a self-timer in an attempt to get a semi-decent family photo for our Christmas cards, we decided to splurge and actually pay somebody to take pictures for us. And I'm so glad that we did! We went to Castle Rock Regional Recreation Area to take these pictures.
Taking our own pictures is always a stressful and frustrating experience for me because I can't be behind the camera. But our photographer was so, so nice and great with the girls (who talked about Denise for weeks and played "family photographer" to reenact the fun they had at the photo session). She actually just moved here this past year and although she doesn't practice any more either, she went to BYU Law School just like me. And her husband is also a lawyer and works in the same building as Paul in SF! And she took wedding photos for my cousin in Virginia! So many weird coincidences.
Anyway, I used the picture above for our Christmas cards. I just cropped it in quite a bit, but I liked the pose for card purposes. But here is my actual favorite picture from the entire photo shoot.
I would have used that one for our family Christmas cards (and was super close to doing so) except I really, really, really strongly prefer Christmas cards with the adults in the picture and not just the kids. So I went with the one of the four of us even though as a parent, I loved the picture of the two girls the best. It at least got used on the back of the card next to our short blurb about our family happenings in 2017.
I love the connection with Clara's hands around Rose's neck and elbow and Rose kissing Clara's cheek and holding on to her arm. The colors, the natural smiles and posture, basically all of it. But most especially, I just love that it shows one of my favorite moments with our girls when they are getting along and having fun and being goofy and sweet towards each other.
Rose is our big ham and loves to give big smooches, and Clara is so goofy and fun and usually a good big sister, despite the inevitable arguments that happen between siblings. But their relationship has grown a lot stronger in 2017, I think, due to both of them maturing and most of the time now they get along really well. And when they don't, it's usually because one or both of them is tired or hungry and not thinking straight.
Here are some more of my favorites though of the entire family.
Paul is reacting a little too big in this next one, which is kind of a bummer because I love it otherwise.
I totally adored the individual portraits that Denise took of each of us. She managed to get some really great, natural expressions out of Rose, which is definitely no easy feat. And this is such a little, silly thing, but I'm glad to have these images captured of their smiles while Rose still has her straight baby teeth and Clara has her classic 6 1/2 year old smile with teeth in various stages of growing back in (she's lost 6 already).
Clara was VERY helpful in coming up with plenty of "1st Grade Poses" (her words, lol) and then politely instructing our photographer to "take one like this because it will turn out very good".
- Trust your photographer. Let her do her job. Especially when it comes to directing the kids. Having done quite a lot of family photography myself by now, I've learned that the parents who are constantly micromanaging the session and bribing/threatening/coaxing/cajoling the kids make it SOOOO much harder to get a good picture! It stresses the kids out and undercuts the easy fun play approach and feel that you really want in a photo shoot to draw out those natural expressions and family dynamics. Denise did a GREAT job at this and I was definitely learning from her while also being one of the subjects. Also, when it's time for individual portraits, parents should literally step back - walk away even. I almost invariably find that if I can get the adults out of the area where I'm photographing a child, then it goes so much better for everybody. The same thing happened with Rose, who just needed some one on one moments with Denise without us hovering too close. I'll admit that it's fun to watch, but it's so much better to step out of the picture for that part of the session.
- Don't try to coordinate outfits too much. I think most people know this by now, but it's way better to not try to put everybody in jeans and white shirts because it just comes off so cheesy. I think it looks much better to pick classic, timeless attire that everybody feels comfortable in. I like to go for at least three to four colors that complement without being too matchy-matchy.
- Along the wardrobe lines, I also like accessories in photos. Hats (I still haven't been brave enough to do family photos wearing a hat myself, but I love them for other people - even if they aren't wearing the hat, but holding it, I think that goes over well sometimes too), scarves, jackets (for layering like I did with my jacket in these photos), and tasteful jewelry can really add a lot to photos, in my opinion.
- Connection is key. At least in the photos that always end up being my favorite. I still really struggle with this in having our own photos taken and taking them of others, but I love physical connection - arms around each other, holding hands, etc. and visual connection where family members are looking at each other and not just cheesing at the camera.
I think those are my main things although maybe I will add to the list next year.