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A Behind the Scenes Expose: The Real Story Behind that Perfect Family Photo

This was my profile picture for about 5 months:

pic of kids from nella


Pretty impressive right? Looks like everything is unicorns and rainbows around this joint. Sweet kids. Perfect night. Zero fighting. But I’m here today to blow the lid off that nonsense. Behold: my confession on what goes into getting that beautiful, perfect family shot. Hold onto your hats my friends, it’s not pretty.

My sister is the world’s best photographer. For real, she’s amazing. We are lucky because every year she sneaks us in for family photos that would cost us actual $$$ but instead we pay her in hugs. In exchange, she gets a front row seat to the mayhem that is getting this troop ready for our photos, which is worth it’s weight in entertainment value. I hope. Actually, we really are lucky she still hangs out with us after what she has to witness on our path to picture perfect.

Each year begins with high hopes. My sister and I chat, plan outfits, she comes up with cool ideas to try and I dream dreams of our family walking through fields hand in hand as the sun sets. She will effortlessly snap photo after photo of my idyllic family and I order a giant canvas for the wall for all to admire. This is the year it will all be easy! The kids are bigger! The outfits are better! We have a perfect spot!

Only, my people never seem to get the memo. The real fun begins right around the time I show my kids the outfits we have picked out. For some reason my son is always the first to fall here. I’m starting to think tweenage boys don’t actually like dressing in 4 layers of shirts on a hot August night. But it’s all about the cool factor and a carefully chosen t shirt/photo/denim button up/corduroy blazer really cannot be beat. He invariably puts it on and stand slouched over in the family room with a look of doom on his face. But I plow on because it’s all about CAPTURING THE MEMORIES.  OK, not the actual memories…just the whole walking in the field thing. I want that memory….I just have to get my people there.

Next comes a variety of people crying. The causes of tears can range anywhere from not wanting to share their boots with their sister to a skirt that feels “bunchy” to having a massive snarl combed from hair that must be worn down for maximum twirl factor (my sister takes amazing twirl pictures) to a child that doesn’t understand that there will be no eating in these clothes for the next few hours because there is a slight chance the tags are still on them and they may or may not be going back to an unnamed store after we have captured our moment (let’s not judge OK?).

Once dressed we drive to our location. Packed in the van the fun continues.  As mentioned everyone is hungry and is now officially holding a grudge. My dear husband is trying to keep up morale with jokes that lead nowhere because they don’t come with a snack. The general van issues we usually experience are at warp level 100. Someone is touching someone. Someone has someone else’s turn in the “good seat”. Someone else is car sick on the windy ride to the perfect spot. And there might just be someone yelling, “You will look happy when you get out of this van or you are dead meat!”

We arrive at the perfect location and my sister takes one look at us and has to kick into pro-mode. I am not bringing her the best raw material, she knows us well enough to recognize an impending implosion when she sees one. She comes armed with all sorts of things to entertain them which work for 5 minutes because she’s also “Auntie Nella” and they know her too well. They are now let loose in a field and so of course they set to work finding critters. We yell names, wrangle them from lifting up giant logs, make one or the other stand still for at least a few minutes. They sit for her, pose, then off they run. We squish together as a family and finally loosen up a little. They might be stepping on each other but they stop to smile.

photo session outtakes

On our way to a hug…

We have a small moment of family love, then another and then something shocking happens. We start to have fun. Like actual fun. Even in 400 layers of clothes, even with bugs buzzing around us (the bugs are the arch enemy of the outdoor photo session), even though they are hungry and thirsty and wanted to be anywhere but here. The giant hug she makes us do becomes hilarious. The kids actually do run down the hill hand in hand without us even asking, darn it. There is twirling. There is joy. There is a memory being made. And it’s actually a good one.


And there it is! The moment!

The family photo process is a lot like giving birth. You have to forget everything that happened on the way to the prize to actually want to do it again. By the time the proofs are ready I believe that this night was exactly like the photos. Aren’t we darling? How do I not dress my son in 4 layers everyday?  Look at those angels would you? We are an absolute masterpiece I tell you!

Happily, I will forget reality until next year when I present my son with a brand new denim blazer and see the look of horror on his sporty little face. I think, next time, my sister needs to follow me around from the beginning to the end to capture the real memories. Those priceless looks and snafus and yes, even the fighting. Perhaps those moments are ones that we will look back on someday and long for? OK, not long for but maybe laugh about? Whatever. I’ll be in a quiet house looking at my awesome family-in-a-field picture never remembering how I made them all cry on the way there. My hope is they will have forgotten too (not a chance).

Be Where Your Feet Are Sweatshirt