Planning an Extended Family Session


This summer my family decided to have all 29 of us in one photo. It's craziness I have to admit. The youngest was less than one and my parents were in their 70's. We had teens and kids who wanted to be anywhere but taking a family photo in August. On top of that it was 97 degrees! Would you guess all that was going on when you look at the photo? Probably not.


I hired a photographer to take our photos at my uncle's home in Huntsville, where my mom wanted a barn photo and country atmosphere. We never lived on a farm or had a barn, but we all did what she had in mind.

Here are some things I learned for next time we want to do a giant photo together.

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Don't overbook your day

When scheduling a day for photos plan on travel time plus 2 hours. A photo shoot is at least an hour long and it takes time to get everyone positioned for a traditional shot. Come to the shoot fed and have the kids rested, not eager to get to the next activity after a photo shoot. With kids I would just do a photo shoot and not plan on going to games or practices afterward. But, going for ice cream or a reward afterward is a fun option. Bribes can help.

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Remember Why Family Photos are Important

Tell everyone who the photographer is, show them a photo so they can know who they are working with. This really helps with young kids. Tell kids a friend is going to take their photos to make a family memory. Remember why this family photos is important to your family, especially to the ones who scheduled it. A family photo documents who you are right now. It's part of your family history. It's fun to see how an extended family will grow and change over the years.

I think it's helpful for everyone to know there will be things that go wrong. Chaos. It always happens so just expect it. When a meltdown happens (when, not if) just work around it. Do couple photos or just the adult siblings. Just plan on improvising. I love candid shots of all kinds of emotions.

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Wear Complimentary Colors

Have a color palate so everyone blends, but does not all match. Solid colors look best. I would avoid big logos on shirts and text that can be distracting. If it's casual have everyone wear casual clothes. If it's dressy have everyone in dressy clothes. In our photo some of the ladies have dresses and some have jeans. I think it's better to be consistent, but you can choose what you want to do.

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Be Comfortable and Relaxed

The photos look better if everyone is at ease. Wear comfortable clothes, comfortable shoes, etc. Try to have shade on a hot day, water, maybe small snacks for kids. Make sure they use the bathroom before the photo shoot. Take breaks for the kids. It shouldn't be a painful experience. Ok, it might be a bit uncomfortable to squeeze all together for a shot and to laugh for the photos, but the more relaxed, the better.

Tell the Photographer Your Ideas

Be clear about where you want to have your photos taken. Do you want a green park, fall leaves, mountain background, water, sitting, not sitting, etc. If you want props let the photographer know also.


Be on Time

The light seems to go quickly. Kids are only workable a short time. It helps to get there on time and do a shot of everyone together first. If we wait for someone to get there we can improvise and take other shots.


In the end it will all be worth it

In a few weeks you will see images of your family and be glad you made the effort to schedule the family shoot. You can see your family on the wall of your home and remember the love you have for each other.