Tips for Getting a Family Snapshot with out of Town Relatives

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My family loves photos. Maybe that’s part of the reason I was drawn to photography, right?  Anyways, my mom has a standing request when it comes to family.  When we have relatives visiting from out of town, she wants a family portrait.  Specifically, she wants me to take a portrait of everyone.  Sometimes we’ve been able to go more formal or planned with the portrait session, and other times, it’s on the impromptu side of things.

And that’s where this family snapshot was on the spectrum.  Desired, but spur of the moment, as our weekend plans had been put through a blender and the timing was just not conductive for a true family portrait.

Seriously, I think it took me longer to pack my gear before our trip than the photos took for me to take.  I spent less than five minutes taking snapshots of the kids, and about five minutes max taking a group portrait of the entire group.

Pre-session planning?  Non-existant.  Coordinated clothing?  On hand, but not being worn.  Relaxed session with lots of time for getting people to warm up and smile?  Nope, no time for that.  You name it, we covered the list of what not to do when planning your family portrait session.

But that’s okay.

Because this wasn’t a family portrait session.

This was a family snapshot.

Sometimes you need to document those moments — and there isn’t time for anything better.

So, what can you do to get a family snapshot with your out of town relatives?

First of all, relax.

  1. Don’t worry about getting it perfect.
  2. It’s okay if not everyone matches
  3. If your kids don’t have their shoes on, don’t sweat it.
  4. Do what you can with the time you have.
  5. Document your family with a snapshot, and know that it will be enough.

Seriously.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.  Not every family photo will be elegant.  But it will be real and authentic.  This family snapshot isn’t a portrait I would call award-winning.  But it does capture the moment, the spirit of our crazy busy weekend together with my out of town relatives.  People are looking at the camera.  Almost everyone is smiling.  And that’s life.

Sometimes you take what you can get, and have to remind yourself that it will be enough.

You don’t have to do perfect.

kid snapshot outdoors family photo michigan photographer
I piled the kids on the swing for some quick snapshots while we waited for everyone to gather for the main photo. These three were ready.
kid snapshot outdoors family photo michigan photographer
They were happy to smile for the camera….mostly, lol!
silly photo kid snapshot outdoors family photo michigan photographer
And then came the real highlight. Kids always love those silly pictures!!
kid snapshot outdoors family photo michigan photographer
The littlest cousin was ready for his photo, so we added him into the bunch.
kid snapshot outdoors family photo michigan photographer
No smiles from him, but looking at the camera — that works for me! We were tight on time, as I mentioned.
out of town relatives snapshot of group outdoors family photo michigan photographer
And here’s the whole family snapshot, with everyone. It’s not going to win any awards, but this is a precious portrait because of all the out of town relatives we managed to get together in one photo. Sometimes that’s what matters.

You know when I mentioned that family photos tend to happen every time we have out-of-town relatives visit?  Well, I wasn’t kidding.  And I’m thankful I have these, to show you how different styles of family photos can be valuable and precious — whether they are true studio family portraits or simple family snapshots on the fly.

Here’s a set of family photos from when my cousin and her daughter were visiting from out-of-town. Naturally, we did a portrait of my grandfather with (some of) his great-grandkids.

extended family portrait outdoors chelsea mi photographer dexter mi family photographer
Cousins together for the first time. They were happy to smile for the camera as long as I let them do a silly picture at the end!
extended family portrait outdoors chelsea mi photographer dexter mi family photographer
Great Grandpa with his oldest great-granddaughter.
extended family portrait outdoors chelsea mi photographer dexter mi family photographer
While not all of the great grandchildren, this was everyone there at that point in time!
extended family portrait outdoors chelsea mi photographer dexter mi family photographer
And the four generations all together!
extended family portrait outdoors chelsea mi photographer dexter mi family photographer
My cousin and I got a photo together too. Again, these were a step above snapshots, but as you know — a photograph can be priceless when you have memories connected to it!

This last family portrait I’m going to share is the most formal.  We did a studio portrait with three generations of extended family.  My mom has a set of these displayed in her living room as canvas gallery wraps — they look gorgeous.  We used the portrait of my kids for part of our Christmas card :).

extended family portrait indoors studio portrait dexter mi photographer ann arbor family portrait
Here’s a more formal family portrait that we did a few years back. That checklist of things to do before a portrait session? Complete! My mom has this hanging in her family room, and while it no longer shows everyone in the family, it is still a valuable family heirloom.
extended family portrait indoors studio portrait dexter mi photographer ann arbor family portrait
This portrait is also hangs on the wall next to the one above. Love it!
extended family portrait indoors studio portrait dexter mi photographer ann arbor family portrait
And one of my parents with their grandkids at the time. My mom was over the moon when she got to see the sneak peek from her portrait session for the first time. <3
extended family portrait indoors studio portrait dexter mi photographer ann arbor family portrait
And here’s my family from that same session. I can’t believe how much the boys have grown!!!
extended family portrait indoors studio portrait dexter mi photographer ann arbor family portrait
Those smiles are so cute!
extended family portrait indoors studio portrait dexter mi photographer ann arbor family portrait
This is one of our all-time favorite portraits of the boys with their dad. It’s a bit silly, maybe even worthy of the “outtake” status,… but I always include family portraits like this because it shows the loving and fun dynamics of a family relationship
extended family portrait indoors studio portrait dexter mi photographer ann arbor family portrait
And one of me with my boys. So sweet.

So, there you have it.  Family photos don’t always have to be perfect.  But they will always be representative of your family.  Make the best of the situation, get as many smiles as you can,… and if at all possible, have a family portrait photographer do your next family portrait.  Because I know from experience.  When you’re in charge of taking the picture, it’s a more stressful environment.

That’s why I do this.  I want my clients to be able to have memories of their family — without having to go through the stress of getting everyone posed for a family photo.  When you tell people to just listen to the photographer — you get to hand off the responsibility. It’s no longer your job to make sure everyone looks good, or that everyone is smiling for the camera.  That’s my job.  Your job is to relax and trust me to create images you will want to give to your grandchildren one day.  For more information about scheduling a family portrait session, call 734-424-0472 or contact the studio via our website.  I’ll walk you through the whole planning process and make your next family portrait the most relaxing one yet!

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