“But Aren’t Professional Family Photographs Just Fake Pictures?”

Family Pictures. When I think professional family photographs, I think of staged pictures for the camera with forced smiles. I think of the shots from the 80’s with the matching denim, big hair and a faded drape in the background.

I am scarred by those images. So much that I avoided professional family photographs.

I insisted that our Christmas cards would include pictures snapped on our phones to capture the real essence of who our family is: stained shirts, messy hair, mismatched clothes, skinned knees and peanut butter cheeks.

I had some notion that because we were dressed up it wasn’t really who our family is.

But I got more dressed up than normal on my wedding day. That was still real.

I realized dressing up doesn’t signify fakeness. Rather it’s a way to honor something that is important to us. And my family is important to me.

So early one morning, we got everyone dressed (yes, the boys in khaki shorts and Natives is “dressed up” in our world) and headed out to meet Sarah in the morning light.

She proved me wrong and caught the real essence of us from funny faces to true love – not fake, forced, or over-posed. Here’s why I think it worked:

Location! Location! Location!

Choose a location that has meaning to your fam. I’m convinced that comfort in the setting shines through in the pictures. For newborn picts (parent fail: we only did this for our first), we used our home. For our recent family pictures, we were at a park where we love to run and bike.


I love this pict not only because of its composition, but because every time we run underneath it everyone yells, “Echo! Echo! Echo!”

Charming Photog

I’m not interested in a paparazzi type who will shamelessly do anything for the right shot. I want a photographer with patience and a good attitude who values family. When our kids were being silly, Sarah not only calmly rolled with it, but also turned the trying moments into great shots.Hayes Silly Face


Choose the clothes that make you feel like your best self. I already mentioned that our “dressed up” was natives and khaki shorts. These choices were a step above our normal ready-for-the-world gear, but not so out of our comfort zone that the boys were tugging to take them off.  Just because we don’t wear our best clothes every day doesn’t mean our best self isn’t in us every day.

Let the Real Happen

Don’t freak out when the real happens. I love that these pictures caught everyday moments of our life.

B and H Playing

Everything about this. From the boys playing to the diaper in the background.


That look on Miles’ face is not uncommon. He often gets over-enthusiastic hugs from his brothers that prompt mommy and daddy to say, “no arms around necks!” as we rush in to make sure he’s ok.

Be Real

I’m the worst at this one. I’m self-conscious about how I’m smiling (too big and my eyes get too squinty) and if my shoulders are back (probably from years of my dad telling me to pull my shoulders back). I regret that I started by smiling the way I think bloggers smile. Picture #2 shows me finally not trying to be someone else and just being me.

Don’t Rush the Selections

You may remember this post about it taking a year for me to like a picture of myself. It’s the same with professional picts. When I first looked at these. I liked some. When I looked a few weeks later, I loved every single one of them. Like a fine wine, pictures get better with time.


I had to include one of just the two of us. I mean, he’s pretty cute 🙂

My belief that professional photographs weren’t real moments was completely wrong. Thanks to Sarah at McChillin Photography for the best family pictures (call her soon y’all, her schedule’s getting tight)!!



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