How to do extended family sessions RIGHT

"All the family is getting together. I guess we should hire a photographer to get proof that we were all happy and all in one place…"

Calls photographer. Gets a date booked. Tries to coordinate color and clothing styles between 20-40 people. Brings stools, chairs and lots of treats to keep the kiddos happy and cooperating. Forces smiles and has a staring contest with the camera for 100 photos while the photographer jumps around trying to get at least one photo of everyone looking. Figures out and coordinates individual families and small groups to get photographed. Makes sure everyone is in the right groupings. Can’t miss anyone. Most of the kids get bored and wander off or are screaming, throwing tantrums and just want to be put down. The chocolate candy you brought is getting on the kids nice new clothes. At least a few people end up being frustrated, angry and DONE! Photographer goes home to swap faces and eyes on a few people to show an inaccurate representation of the mess that actually happened, but the family looks drama free and perfect in the end so you’re happy….or are you?

Family pictures have to get done when everyone is in town. I get it. Of course you want a photo of everyone, but does it have to be like pulling teeth? The photo session shouldn’t be something the family dreads and stresses over! But that seems to be the case. No one truly wants to be there and stand stagnant for photos for an hour. They want to be a family. They want to hang out in camp chairs and grill hamburgers. They want to let the cousins run and play since they only see each other a few times a year, or less. They want to sit and listen to Grandma and Grandpa share stories or look through photo albums together. They want to give hugs and share laughs.

I’ve done a few of these “family reunion style” sessions and they are such a fun experience. There are only positive memories behind the photos; you’re not thinking about how hard it was to get the kids to smile for that shot and the threats you dished out.

It’s just like it's called. A family reunion. I get greetings. I get laughs. I get games. I get kids. I get the multi generations. And of course I get the big group picture. It doesn’t take the whole time though. I capture what everyone looked like at this time-frame, but I don't look for perfection. I look for YOU. I want you to be able to look at these photos, chuckle and say, “That’s 100% US! Look at Jimmy pulling a face, and sweet Caroline showing off her dress as she curtsies for the camera. This is our wonderful and crazy family!”

Last summer my husband’s whole family was together and we got a photographer (my cousin). We took the typical group shots and then ended it with the best thing ever! A surprise water balloon fight! Yes, everyone was dressed to the nines in new clothing and lots of makeup. And then we threw 1,000 water balloons at each other. The photos are KILLER! They make us so happy! Every family photo session should end in a water balloon fight or everyone jumping into a pool. Or even a mud fight like in Modern Family.

The photos below are from our family session and taken by Chantel Cherie Photography. Click through the gallery.

The reason we get extended family pictures is to show how fun, wonderful and unique we are and to show the love that exists. Think about how much easier a big group gathering would be versus a photo shoot. Think about it, and then book a photographer!

I’d love to fill my summer with family reunions of all shapes and sizes. Contact me and share this post with your family, friends and neighbors.