Fifty Two Shades of Shay: Family Photo Sessions

On Saturday morning, we woke up early, got all dressed and headed out to meet Narci for our annual Christmas card photo session.  On the way there, I told Andrew that this MUST be a Shade of Shay!  Not a year goes by that I don’t drag my family out to some location, make them wear corresponding clothes and pose for a photographer.  And I know I’m not the only mama out there doing it…you girls are too!
So…let’s talk about this Christmas card photo business together.  And not just Christmas cards but any family photo session.  As moms, we’re the ones that start planning months in advance…we hire the photographer, we pick the perfect date, we shop for the clothes, we lay them out and make sure everyone gets dressed to perfection, and we say “cheese” about one million times during each session…we’re family photo taking pros.
Before we get to my tips, ideas and suggestions, let’s take a look back at my family’s Christmas cards…
The front of 2012

The back of 2012

And of course, all of the cards were designed by Slightly Askew Designs :).  Andrea has loads of card options and custom designs.  You can also check out her personal cards on her family blog, Never Say Never (where today, she’s showing her own family’s Christmas cards).
 Now, I’m no expert when it comes to family photo sessions but I do think I’ve learned a thing or two from my experiences and just from receiving cards every year…some pics stand out and some just don’t.
First, let’s talk about what you’re wearing…
1. The Monochromatic Look
I have fallen victim to this look before.  There is a portrait hanging in my aunt’s house of my entire family wearing denim.  It was probably taken in 1992 and not a single one of us looks good.  That pic will never see the pages of this blog.  We all match, the ladies all have huge, super teased hair, my uncle has this really thick mustache…it’s comical.  I might be wearing overall shorts with a giant white scrunchie in my hair…but since you’ll never see that pic, you will never know for sure.  The monochromatic look can work…just try to stay in the same color family and not necessarily the exact same fabric (i.e. denim).  Here are some examples of what I like…
 Greys and blacks look clean and chic together.  Not everyone has to wear the same black shirt.  The denim is all dark (you could totally put baby girl in dark denim too) and the tops all correspond without being too matchy matchy.

Here are some things that would work for this look…

Loft Boat Neck SweaterGap Sweater, Gap Black Skinny Jeans, Loft Moto Jacket Sweater

The best part about these items is that they are all closet staples!

This monochromatic look is orange…which is so fun and happy without you guys looking like a bunch of pumpkins.  This screams fall!
Here are some really good orange examples…
That scarf was one I featured last week on my scarf post.  You girls sent me the best feedback on it!  Apparently, you are all as scarf happy as I am!
2. The Christmasy Look
This is the family photo session where you want people to know you’re celebrating Christmas.  You’re wearing red, green and white and decked out in scarves, hats, and jackets…this look is just seasonal and fun.  Personally, this might be my favorite kind of card to receive in the mail…it’s just festive.
Aren’t these guys cute?!?!  I love how she has a touch of green mixed in with the red and white…I love the scarf, I love his vest, I love the layers…I love the whole look.  They look Christmasy without looking like elves.
Here are some options to get this look…
I bought that red coat by the way…and oh my heavens!  I will be wearing it all the time!  Nothing elevates a dreary old winter look like a great coat!
I don’t know this cute little family but boy aren’t they Christmasy without being nauseating?!  I love every single detail!
Here are a few things to complete this look…
And here are just some fun Christmasy looks I found for families that made me smile…
3. The Patterned Look
This is the look we go for every year.  I like love patterns.  I try and find several patterns (tweeds, animal prints, stripes, polka dots, flannel) and pull a few of them together to create a cohesive look.
I want to be friends with this random lady.  She gets me.  She has her hubby in plaid, one boy in plaid, and her daughter in stripes.  I totally love this outfit!

Um, hello a bunch of random prints that are pulled together nicely!  This mom gets me too!  They look cohesive and like a family unit without all wearing one dominant print.  I totally dig this look!
Here are some of my very favorite prints and textures right now…go on…mix and match them :)…
Now, my photographer friend Narci, posted these great tips on her blog about how to take your own family portraits.  I love that a professional photographer is giving tips to us about taking our own pics!  Click here to see her post on this.  Narci also blogged about how to use your camera’s fancy settings.  Praise the Lord!  The settings always confuse me.  Click here for that.
And finally…here are my tips for my family’s photo sessions…
1. Take pics early in the morning
I have learned that we do so much better in the morning…for so many reasons!  First, the kids’ hair and clothes staying lookin’ good.  With a girl especially, if we do pics in the morning, then I know her hair will stay at its best.  I also like doing pics early in the morning because then it’s not hanging over our heads all day as something we have to do.  Yes, it stinks to get up and dressed early but when it’s over, it’s over.  And the later into the day we go, the more tired my family naturally is, so we get them in their most rested prime.
2. Relax
Pictures used to make me a sweaty, anxious mess.  I wanted everyone looking good, I wanted everyone on their best behavior, I was tense, I was stressed…I was no fun.  Then I learned to RELAX.  Seriously…it’s just a picture.  There was no reason for me to be a hot mess.  If we’re being really real here…people will look at your Christmas card for a minute or two…maybe hang it up in their house during the season but then it will end up in the trash.  And if you’re concerned about getting good pics for your house, remember this… you don’t want to always look at that family portrait and think, “Yeah, we’re smiling here but when that picture was actually taken, I had yelled at hubby, spanked little boy and told little girl she was going to time out when we get home”.  You want to look at that picture and think, “Yeah, that was a really good day.”.  The mom sets the tone for the day…be relaxed.
3. Don’t over-think things!
Are you all there?  Is everyone dressed?  Is the camera charged?  If so, then you’re good to go.  Don’t over-think things.  Sometimes, I get a card in the mail and I can just tell…they totally over-thought things.  It’s not natural, it’s too forced, there are too many odd props, mom looks stressed…over-thought.
And for grins…a few more card ideas…
Now, if this puts you in the Christmas spirit today, make sure you’re following me on Pinterest!  I have so much Christmas cheer going on over there that it will make you excited!  (Plus, I still have a lot of Halloween and Thanksgiving cheer too!).  And don’t forget Face Book too!  You just never  know what I’ll post on there :).
Dinner tonight is Chipolte Beef Chili
Yummy!  Have a great day!!
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  • Narci D October 29, 2013 at 11:14 am

    Such great tips, and I am dying to see that denim monochromatic picture! 😉 love you, girl! 🙂

  • Blue-Eyed Bride October 29, 2013 at 11:19 am

    Great tips!! Christmas cards and photos are one of my favorite things about Christmas!

  • Aubrey October 29, 2013 at 11:23 am

    That JOY picture with all three kids crying cracked me up! I love family photo sessions. This post is super timely because it reminds me that I need to book ours! 🙂

  • Kelly Jo October 29, 2013 at 11:38 am

    I dread family photo sessions. They are so stressful for me!!!

  • Ashley October 29, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    We're doing pictures with Narci for the first time this year 🙂 And we're mixing patterns and going Christmasy!!

  • Sarah E @ October 29, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    Great tips on outfits! I always feel like I'm struggling to find something that makes us look cohesive but isn't too matchy-matchy. Great ideas!

  • Stephanie October 29, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    Awesome post! Have you heard of Your Merry Mailbox? One of my former co-workers and her BFF are the ladies behind it. Awesome blog that is totally centered on this very topic!

  • V @ X-tremely V October 29, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    Great tips! We just scheduled our family/2 year old's photo session the other day 🙂 Can't wait to put your tips to good use! Thanks for sharing Shay!

  • Elaine October 29, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    Love this. We are doing ours next week! I saw one where everyone in the family wore a scarf and the photo was b&w except for the scarfs…those were in color. It was very cute & made me think of your family

  • Taylor and Robin October 29, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    LOVED this post! I was cracking up about the family photo scenario – so true about mom setting the tone! I loved the idea of wrapping the Christmas lights around us, and that "J,O,Y" picture was priceless. Thanks for the smiles!

  • Aubs October 29, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    Such a great post!! I love the relax tip ~ its sooo true. I love to think back to picture day and smile and I've learned relaxing and just going with the flow is the best way to be able to do that!! AND?? The pic of the 3 kids blowing snow?? Totally my friends kids!!! So fun to see that on here! =)

  • Paula October 29, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    Already, taking your opinion. ..we have 6 in our home. 3 girls(4 with me) 1 boy (2 with dad). Colton, my son is going to wear a green, blue white plaid with blue underneath. Dad, maybe blue plaid with just white. Girls?? I have one that loves pink and one that loves purple. Signature colors if you will. What colors should be wear? I tjimk red may be Christmas treeish? I am stressing. Our pictures are November 17th. These are Christmas cards, yet just our annual family and individual that goes up all year. Advice in color or design?

  • Colleen Sullivan October 29, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    I love having our pictures taken for Christmas! I have such a hard time deciding what we should all wear — pinning this for next year!

  • Paula October 29, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    Let me note, I have two pants for the twins super cute. One pink, two shades with flowers and purple the same. But with the plaid?

  • Corinne October 29, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    Family photos give me anxiety. My daughter is 18 months and we've done it twice. I find it SO stressful.

    I love the gray, black and white. I would seriously be thrilled to pay someone to pick out outfits for the three of us. That's the worst part for me. I'm a fashion novice!

  • Jenny October 29, 2013 at 5:01 pm

    Ok, I am even more excited for the Holiday season now after reading this post! Love Christmas cards! 🙂

  • Carrington October 29, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    Thank you, Shay! This is perfect timing seeing as how I booked our pictures today! I'm still trying to figure out what we will wear!

  • Sheaffer {Pinterest Told Me To} October 29, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    Okay. One of my favorite posts you have ever done. So SO good! I loved getting to look back at your cards, and I feel like if people haven't taken their pictures yet this year, this post is going to be PERFECT for them. I totally agree that layering is KEY!

  • Jodi October 29, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    This is perfect timing as we have our's on Saturday. Can you believe we have to think of these things before Halloween!

  • Jessica October 29, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    Because of your rave reviews of Narci in the past, I scheduled to get our family pictures taken with her & she did not disappoint! We had them done last weekend & I cannot wait to see how they turned out! But boy, could I have used this post BEFORE getting them done! Ha! Hopefully our outfits made the grade! 🙂

  • {Hi Sugarplum!} October 29, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    I love seeing all your old cards, and the kids growing up!! And you are such the marketer, putting your web address on your card! We took our pics a few weeks ago, in the drizzle, so my hair was ca-ute! #sarcasm

    But I was in floral, John in large gingham, Jackson in small gingham, and Sloan in stripes….BAM! Pattern mixer! 😉

  • Saz October 30, 2013 at 1:45 am

    I absolutely LOVE getting a family photo Christmas card. I live in the UK and I've only ever gotten them off friends from the US, I hate how it's not popular over here!

  • Jaren October 30, 2013 at 2:37 am

    Great tips! I do stress over the whole family photo thing! Grrr! Speaking of…I need to go ahead and schedule those, which ought to be interesting with a 21 month old running around this year! No matter all the stress though, I cherish how they come out.
    Also, love the outfit tips!

  • Melissa October 30, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    Don't forget traditional dressy Christmas photos! 🙂 We always dress up for ours since it's only once a year. Dresses for girls and ties for boys. 🙂 They just wear their dressy Christmas clothes that they wear to church on Christmas Eve. I love receiving Christmas cards in the mail where everyone is all dressy and Christmasy! Makes them stand out more from everyday more casual pics. 🙂

  • Ashhog October 30, 2013 at 8:57 pm

    Good reminder to get my pics done! Yikes! We are about to start the house building process and I would LOVE to see a 52 shades of shay on building a house! In case you need any more ideas! 😉

  • Britain Earl December 3, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    Hi Shay, I would love it if you would credit my photo. I took the pics of the 3 kids blowing snow and it is one of Pinterests most pinned Christmas photos. But, so many times it is not properly credited or linked. IF you wouldn't mind, you can link it to my website,
    Thanks! and Merry Christmas!