Doing a family photo shoot can add quite a lot of stress to your life. Especially if your children are little! Trying to get a toddler to sit still and look where you want him to is about as possible as finding a unicorn in your backyard. Not to mention getting them to the studio with their hair still combed and clothes still clean is a superhuman feat! Here are some tips for making the family photos something you will love to share – without pulling your hair out first. Remember, kids will be kids. A comfortable kid is a happy kid. If you have your child in some starchy piece of clothing they aren’t allowed to move in, all the photos will be a fight. You will have grumpy looks, tears, and at the very best, a fake smile. Dress them in something nice, but casual and comfortable. Let them play. Some of the best photos will be when your child is not aware a photo is being taken, and you will have genuine smiles and emotions. Don’t force them into a pose. Give them a couple guidelines, and then let them be themselves. Just remember to be patient, be flexible, and have fun. If you have multiple children, let them interact and play off each other. What could be a cuter picture than siblings playing together? Much better than sitting stiffly and awkwardly. Relax. The more stressed your family is, the worse the picture is going to be. A photo shoot will never go how you expect it to, so just go with the flow. If you are at the park and your son picks up a stick to play with, let him play with it! Just think of it as a prop. It will show his personality, keep him happy, and add character to the photo. We are all our own worst critics, but don’t worry about how you look in a photo. The more you worry about it, the harder it will be to look good. Sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s true! Relax, be yourself, laugh, and be happy. Your photo will turn out with you looking natural and great. Be Yourself. What is your family’s personality? Do you like to dress up as superheroes, or would you rather pose with favorite sports equipment? If your family loves board games and not sports, don’t have them pose with baseball bats! Sitting around a board game in the grass outside can make just as fun of a shot as sports equipment can. At the same time, if your family is big into sports, having them pose with books just will not work. Find your family’s personality and work with it. Keep things simple. The more complex your photo shoot is, the more frustrating it will become. Have only a couple props as opposed to 20, a couple changes of clothes rather than 10 each, and only one or two locations rather than 9. Too many things will just make the photo shoot long and arduous, and too many props in a photo makes it look messy and detracts from the people. Clothes It is good to coordinate clothes to get a sense of unity, but your clothes should not be identical; that just detracts from your beautiful faces! An overlapping color scheme works, as well as different shades of one color. Avoid extreme colors or patterns, as well as all having the same style. A Polo shirt might look good on Uncle Joe, but not on cousin Sally, even if they are different colors. Keep a certain color scheme, but let everyone chose their own style. That will help you match as well as show individuality in your photo. Location Your location is just as important as your clothing or props. The location should be interesting, but not messy with lots of distractions. You are the star after all, not the background; it should not detract from you! Pick a background that matches your clothing and mood; a wedding shot in a parking lot full of trash would not be the best pick. Pick a photographer that knows the area as well. You would not want a Cincinnati wedding photographer to photograph a ski trip in Colorado. A local photographer will know the best places to shoot, the weather tendencies of the area, and may even have a couple out of the way locations up his sleeve that an out of town photographer would not know. So there you have the 6 commandments of family photo shoots! Follow these and your pictures will be the amazing works of art you will want to show off and pass down through the generations. Happy photo taking! Melanie Hargrave is a wife and homemaker whose pride and joy is her family. In addition to spending time with her husband and daughters, she loves being outdoors, playing sports, and sharing her experiences with others.