Becoming Your Family’s “Professional” Photographer

As soon as you start taking an interest in photography, other people start taking an interest, too.

And that is how you find yourself roped into taking pictures of all the grandkids in a not-quite-professional photo shoot.

photography collage

I’m pretty happy with these images. (Tell me that picture of Tessa doesn’t make you fall over dead. Also I’m super proud of how many photos have “catch lights” in the kids’ eyes.) But I took nearly 800 shots. EIGHT HUNDRED. It is not easy being the designated family photographer. I’m going to allow you to learn from our mistakes with the insanity that was these four kiddos.


  • Give yourself only 30 minutes.
  • Use a room with barely any light.
  • Work without at least one wrangler for each child.
  • Do all of this for free. (Well, you can dream, right?)

We had only a short time period with all 4 kids together. Rushed is really not the way to go. I get my best pictures of the kids when we’re able to relax and just go with it. I like candids in particular, and we didn’t have time for any of those here. Little children aren’t always able to perform just when you need them to. (1-year-old Stella, in particular, was not thrilled about being here.)


Adorable backgrounds are great. But we don’t all have fields of bluebonnets to plop our kids into on a moment’s notice. (If you’ve ever been to central Texas, the kid-in-the-middle-of-a-field-of-bluebonnets picture is standard.) In a way, the beige-ness of the living room at my parents’ house was a decent blank slate, but honestly, we could’ve used some pops of color.

A plain old playground can be fantastic. Green grass, bright colored equipment, blue sky.

Tessa on the Swing


This one, taken last weekend at the Zoo, is a great example. Sure enough it was just a shot I snapped without any pressure for a perfect portrait. It’s not perfect, but it has a lot more visual interest than the beige-ness of our posed photos.


I learned this trick during our family photo shoot last year when Graham refused to look at the camera and we couldn’t get a decent shot of him until we gave him a rock to hold.

For our family shoot, I passed over some fake fruit. We used it a ton and it helped keep the kids distracted from the fact that they were being forced to sit still.

props collage


And every photographer needs that ace in the hole.

No, I’m not talking about the little birdie.


Bribe your subjects. The only way you’ll get them all sitting in a row together without all hell breaking loose is if they’re focusing on the idea of candy. (In our case, mini chocolate chips.)

Guess where the person holding the candy is?

I’ve been really excited to learn how to use my camera, but just because I know a little more about light doesn’t mean I feel like I’m all set to go. I definitely want to practice. While this shoot wasn’t easy, it definitely helped me deal with some non-ideal conditions.

Cuz let’s be honest, while I love getting a cool photograph of the lion at the zoo, I really want to get these images of my kids. I want to get beautiful pictures of them without paying a whole lot. I want to have more choices than I know what to do with for our holiday cards.

With that in mind, and with the need to practice practice practice, I’ve joined up with Mom and Pop Photo (affiliate link).  You may have noticed their button in my sidebar. Most parents don’t have time or money for a photography course. The Mom and Pop courses have materials you use on your own time and a forum where you can share tips and organize local crews. Their Portraits 101 course doesn’t even care if you don’t have a super fancy DSLR. Point-and-shoot is just fine.

I love how the courses gives pictures with examples of how photographs look in different light and different settings to give you a clear idea of what everything means. They focus particularly on getting pictures of your kids and how to get your subjects to cooperate. Plus their community gives you a place to share. It’s fun to know that after that trip to the zoo I could upload my pictures to show that I didn’t need a super cool zoom lens or a lens hood or anything else to get some great animal pictures through the glass.

affiliate image


Give them a look and you’ll see me around the forums posting even more pictures than I post on the blog. (Hard to believe, no?)

I am an affiliate with Mom and Pop Photo. I received a complimentary copy of their courses when I joined the affiliate community. I was not required to blog it. 


    • says

      I so feel you. I’ve had a few years of subpar photographs and I was always jealous looking at other people’s photos. Just a little education has gone a long way!!

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