Packing the Family Photo

In honor of my family’s recent group photo session with Gig Harbor’s Sunrise Photography, I thought I’d share a few pieces of advice I’ve picked up through the years.

Packing the Family Photo

UelandFamil2014_3197The traveler seizes opportunities to interact with families in every culture, to learn their values and observe their dynamics. Seize the opportunity to do the same with yours. Family photos document the growth of your clan, large or small. The best part? Photos travel well, especially digitally on a phone, tablet, or laptop.

And a picture’s worth a thousand words.

While teaching in Shandong, China, I loved watching jaws drop when I pulled out photos of each side of my family—roughly 20 people on each. Most students couldn’t imagine possessing so many relatives. In other cultures, my family headcount is almost negligible. Conversation’s sure to abound either way!


If you’re taking the time and expense to go pro, be sure to maximize your investment. Whether you’re shooting photos with two or twenty people, here are a few tips to get the most out of your session.

  • www.lifeofpix.comDon’t settle for the first studio portrait deal you find. Shop around and ask your friends. In the age of digital photography, you’re sure to find dozens of local portrait photographers delighted to photograph your family on location—no cramped studios or lifeless backdrops! Bonus: many private photographers will give you the rights to print as many photos as you wish. No more paying per print!*
  • Start the process early. If you’re planning a photo session with extended family, don’t wait until the last minute to schedule. Ask your photographer for a selection of available dates/times, then get your family to vote; the date with the greatest availability wins!
  • colorsPick a color palette. Avoid cliché photos and do away with the white shirt and jeans look. Create a sense of cohesion with a color palette, then let everyone show off their personality within those colors.
  • Accessorize when possible. Necklaces, bracelets, earrings, scarves, belts, sweaters, and shoes can all add texture and life to a photo. Don’t overdo it or dress outside your normal comfort zone, but do have fun!
  • Wear clothes that fit. Don’t drown yourself in excess fabric or over-accentuate your favorite features. Those are the photos that evoke cringes in the future. Proper fit is key to looking your best.
  • Avoid clothing with large logos and bold prints. These outfits are quickly dated. Advertise your family, not Nike.
  • Set your glasses aside. Eliminate the glare of sunlight reflected on glass. Transition lenses especially block your eyes and detract from an otherwise appealing photo. Don’t do it!
  • fun photoPlay! Whisper an inside joke to your cousin. Tickle your sister. Natural smiles and laughter lend themselves to the most naturally beautiful photos. Relax and record new memories!

*Beware of Groupon and other discounted portrait company scams. My family had the great fortune to grab a great deal, only to receive thumbnail images in return. Useless!

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