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How to Get your Family to Cooperate for Family Pictures

Happy Mothers Day! I thought I’d share with you what I told my family: : All I want for Mothers Day, and how I got my kids to cooperate for family pictures. It’s no secret that I LOVE family pictures. I love to take them, and I LOVE to have ours taken. It’s something that I’ve made sure to do each and every year, even before I was a “photographer” and even before I had photographer friends to swap with. As I mentioned recently, we went on a family road trip, and knowing we would be in a unique landscape environment, I made plans to take some family pictures. I brought along my tripod, and just wanted to “snap a few” with the fam. We were, after all, on vacation, and I didn’t want to attempt to squeeze too much out of them. Lots of people say, “your kids are so well behaved with pictures, it’s probably because you take them so much, they are used to it.” I, on the other hand don’t necessarily feel the same way. Maybe they are good, and I don’t recognize it as much, because I’ll hear complaining when I mention the desire for a picture (mostly from the male portion of my family).

Photography tips

A few days before this family photo shoot in an awesome location, we snapped a few pictures at the Grand Canyon (that I’ll share later). I’d ask kind strangers to do so, to take a picture of our entire family. But I’d never been to the Grand Canyon to my memory, and I didn’t know the best spots to do it, so I may have had 3 or 4 people take our family picture in different spots of the Grand Canyon, and I MAY have asked the same guy twice in two different spots (but offered to take his again, too) because I found the second spot to be better. My family MAY have been annoyed by that. As we walked away from the 4th Grand Canyon family photo spot, my husband sweetly put his arm around me as we walked and suggested I might want to nix the idea of another group photo, the kids had had enough. Ex-cuuuse me? Sometimes I’m ok with the non perfect photo, and I don’t even care what WE look like, but I wanted the Grand Canyon scene from the best angle.

Grand Canyon

Rewind back to a few weeks before, our family Easter picture on the porch gone wrong. My cute little brother was in town with his family for the weekend, offered to snap it for me. Don’t people know that when taking a picture on a special occasion, you actually take 10 to make sure you got 1 good one? Oh, I got a picture (with my hair flying) but what wasn’t captured was my smacking a child on the shoulder for pushing their sibling in a playful way (after that first shot) which made them fall forward, which made everyone scatter in laughter, but I was not laughing. That nixed the possibility of getting the smiley shot I wanted. There was a bit of a lecture on my part about just pulling it together for one picture (meaning 10 snaps, of course), and I walked off (awkwardly in my high heels) upset, leaving them all in my dust.

Happy Easter, family.

Easter Family Picture

Not a great mom moment for me. To be fair, I had just been blindsided an hour before with some upsetting news (of which no one knew about) and was quite a ball of knots on the inside. All I wanted was a happy Easter picture–dangit! So then I hid out in my room upset about my behavior, and my husband came in after me to hold me…and let me cry on his shoulders. We talked mostly about my “upsetting news” but also about my behavior. He’s a good listener and conversation guider to help me talk through my emotions. Then I mentioned my sadness about not getting a good picture, getting frazzled with the kids, and that my brother saw me behave in a way.  Embarrassed, I was. By the time I came out of hiding, I found each child and apologized for my outburst, and hugged them. I also apologized to my brother, and he’s so sweet, he seemed to know that was out of place for me. I love him.

SOOOO, when we were traveling, I planned outfits for the special family picture. I knew it was an area with lots of Red/orange rock, so I gathered black and white for clothing. I was pretty excited, I didn’t have to buy anything new! I put it all of the family outfits in a special duffle bag together so they wouldn’t get lost or separated.

Thinking back to our most recent family picture sessions, they were pretty fun and carefree. We had our Family Paint Fight and Making Crepes at home. All relaxing, all no fuss because they were mostly candids.

Our final road trip destination was St. George, Utah. I asked a local friend where to find “red rock” and she told me the Dixie Rock. It’s near Dixie State University, and someone wrote “DIXIE” really big on one of the rocks, so that’s what they call it. The park is actually called Pioneer Park, and we LOVED it!

Once we carved out on hour from our extended family plans, we headed out, and I was a bit nervous about MYSELF behaving, as well as them from our recent previous episodes. Once we got there, I pulled my kids aside in a huddle, and with the urging love of a mothers heart, I said, “Mothers Day is next week. All I want for Mother’s Day is a great family picture in this cool spot, and your cooperation.”

I’ll tell you, the cosmos aligned, and those kids were on the best behavior I had EVER seen! Even more tricky because of the tripod and my running back and forth, but I felt like I was in an alternate universe. I really only planned for one pose (of course taken a few times just to make sure) but they were willing to give more, so I went for it. One time, I ran in the shot, and I was pretty sure I blinked just as it snapped, and I said, “Agh, I think I blinked!” as I ran to the camera to check, and they all razzed me that it was ME that ruined that shot. They were all so playful and fun, I couldn’t believe it. Joy swelled in my heart, I tell ya.

How to take family pictures

There were a few moments when the 5 year old walked off with her arms crossed, but it was so cute, I couldn’t help but giggle. We would co-erse her back, and she put on that smile. My oldest offered to take some pictures of my husband and I, and after a few smiley, I wanted playful. So I told him to “catch me.” I jumped up…and he wasn’t quite ready…and, well. That didn’t turn out so well.

Family Pictures Tips

I posted this one below on Instagram. It’s kind of a fave just because of how we are set up a bit differently

Red Rock Photography

We walked away from the red rock, and my heart was swollen with love overflowing for my little tribe. It simply couldn’t have been better. By looking them in the eye, and sincerely telling them how much it meant to me (and Mother’s Day so close, really helped), they got it. They understood=cooperate.

Silly Family Pictures

How to take family pictures

We really only took just a few, and I love so many of them!  The kids had fun thinking of new poses or places to stand.  Isn’t the scenery just gorgeous!???!!!

St George Utah Family Pictures

I also love the black and white (with a touch of gray) up against the red rock. And remember, I had all of these clothing items at my home–didn’t have to buy any!  Too bad my son has blue shoes. I may try to do something about that for the print in our home…but it really doesn’t bother me that much.

Here are my kids smiling. Up close you can tell that they spent 3 hours in the pool and have  pink faces.  My boys kinda recently started styling their own hair, it’s taken some getting used to, but I like that I can see their handsome faces so well now. I told my sis in law that they use glue to keep it up, works wonders.

smiling for the camera

My kids. I just love them. I took that one of the four of them, and then making a face that is a family inside joke. I crack up every time they do this. I’ll do it back to them, and they laugh. There is a hissing noise that accompanies it.

Kids making faces

Here we are: Just the two of us.

love my husband

I’m so happy I have this fun pictures! I love having a big variety of locations for our family pictures in years past!


Silly Family Pictures at Red Rock

Happy Mother’s Day! Do you have any Mothering goals you’ve made today?

Which family picture (above) should I print BIG for my home?  You know I love Decorating with Pictures

P.S. I felt all kinds of inspired from Mom Week last week!  I’m happy to have shared my Mom Chat Videos, and inspiration from my friends! I’ll admit, hearing from great people about their great moms made me feel….I could definitely be doing better.

My takeaway?

  • Shut my dang office doors at 3pm on school days and don’t open them til the kids go to bed.
  • Read my scriptures more in front of the kids.
  • Tuck them in at night and just lay there.


Kristen Duke

Kristen Duke

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Kristen Duke
Kristen Duke
Kristen Duke
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  1. Loved this post. The first photo for your big one is perfect, but I have to say that there is something about the very last one that I love. It makes me giggle.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      I know, I love fun and silly, need to really think about which I’ll hang big, the others will be smaller around it. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Sorry, me again. When I said “first picture” I was talking about the one after the main body of your post. Although, the very first picture is hilarious.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Ha! I think I got what you meant as “first” even before I scrolled up;) My kids thought they were pretty darn funny for that very first shot;)

  3. i really like the one where yall are sitting on the rock… i like how it draws the eye all over the picture but yet you can see it with just one glace.

  4. Iiona V says:

    I like personality to show through in pictures so I would go with the one where you
    jump and have your husband catch you. It is hilarious and shows everyone’s
    personality. I’m a strong believer that not every family picture that is displayed
    has to be serious… Love the photos too :-)

    • Kristen Duke says:

      I agree! I like the personality showing through as well, and like the silly!! Thanks for the input!

  5. I love this :)
    I was just laying in bed last night, trying to get over my frustration at not getting as nice of a photo as I wanted of me with my girls on Mother’s Day. Why can’t I just be behind the camera and in front of it at the same time, in order to micro manage every detail?! Is that too much to ask?! *breathe* It’s nice to see that someone else gets that ;) I’m happy you got such nice photos!
    Heather+Lynne recently posted..May 2014 Sharing Time – Week 2 & A Shutterfly GiveawayMy Profile

    • Kristen Duke says:

      I know, it doesn’t always work out, for sure…and yes, my husband is patient and helpful, but doesn’t always snap as much as I’d like!

  6. Great tips! We need a family photo!
    Maria recently posted..Butterscotch, Toffee, Chocolate Chip CookiesMy Profile

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Thanks Maria! If I were going to Northern Utah this summer, I’d offer to take them for ya, but alas, not til next Feb.! If you want snowy pictures then, lets talk, I love new scenery!

  7. Your photos turned out adorable!! Such a great location and super cute family.
    Amy at Living Locurto recently posted..Easy DIY Photo Booth BackgroundMy Profile

  8. Wow – these are just great! I am like you, in that I always want to get a family picture. I will ask people or just set the timer. I can’t believe you got all these with a tripod! I asked my kids for a nice picture for mother’s day too. I got one!

    I think the first one of the red rocks is my fave.

    And I can totally relate to being upset with yourself in how you acted with your children. I’ve been there! Being a mom is hard. I have to constantly remind myself that it’s hard – it’s a good thing that there is SO much good in being a mom that overpowers all the hard.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Thanks for your comment! IT’s true, I’m hoping that there is enough GOOD that it will outweigh the BAD mom moments!

      It’s a rough daily road, but working hard towards greatness!

  9. Jacqueline says:

    These turned out great, Kristen! The black and white looks so sharp against the red rocks. Great idea to let your kids come up with poses, too – that might have helped with the cooperation. Oh, and I love how you always speak so highly of your hubby!

    • Kristen Duke says:

      I love how the clothes popped against the red rock, too! I’m so happy it turned out well! Thanks on the hubby comment. He is pretty awesome. We’ve all got our challenges, but I really do feel blessed that we picked each other;)

  10. Love those pics! They are fun, you can really tell that you guys have so much fun together. I think kids can really respond well when we engage them by asking for their help rather than telling them in a harsh tone that they have to behave. Sounds like you engaged them well! I am curious what lens did you use for this shoot?
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    • Kristen Duke says:

      Thanks so much! I switched between 35mm and 85mm, but I think mostly 35 because of the tripod thing and running. I need to take some tips from myself at our next shoot, for sure!

  11. Spark*Amy says:

    Beautiful family! And those are some really great shots!! Kudos for you having to run into them after setting up the camera!! Great job!!

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Thanks, Amy! There were a few hairy shots, I kinda wish I got a shot of me running in, but I was too quick, I guess!

  12. They’re all awesome! The ones of everyone in the rocks would be great large. But the very last one is fun as well as the very first one. Fun stuff!

  13. I’m so glad you were able to capture your family shots. It’s amazing what a difference a few sincere words and the right attitudes can make. (I have been in that Easter situation and instantly felt the shame right along with you.) I love the vertical shot, and they are all so cute. It would be hard to choose which one to print and hang.
    Shaina recently posted..Chocolate Spice Tea Cakes: Fair Trade for Mother’s DayMy Profile

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Thank you, Shaina! I think we can all relate to the sad feeling after bad mommy moments! I’m glad I was able to adjust my attitude, and got great results.