Family Photos at Cal Berkeley Campus

It’s family photo shoot season! We shot these this past Thursday. It was our first family shoot since Ralph left (and then returned two years later) from his mission to Colombia.

A quick note about our approach to photo shoots: We do photo shoots not only for a record of our family, but also as a big, creative, collaborative family project. I know this approach would not make sense, and would not be appealing, for everyone. It takes a lot of work, and there’s no guarantee the photos will live up to whatever we’re picturing in our head. But we have had a lot of fun over the years working on family photos, and now it’s become part of our family culture. 

I’m over the moon with how these photos turned out. Marielle Hayes was the photographer and did a terrific job. Want to hear the thinking behind the shoot? Or what the planning was like? I hope you say yes, because I love talking about this kind of thing. : )

It started a few days before the arrival of December. I knew I wanted to send holiday cards this year, but we needed a new family photo. I remembered that my friend, Wendy of Blue Lily Photography, often shoots in the Bay Area during early December (in fact she shot our pattern-on-pattern photos in early December a few years ago). So I texted her to see if she was coming to town and if she had any spots available. She did! One spot left on Sunday morning, December 2nd. I grabbed it.

But. Sunday morning was only a few days away. So I knew I needed to come up with a concept for our photos that I could actually make happen in a short period of time. We called a family meeting and started brainstorming ideas. As I mentioned, our family photos tend to be big group projects that the whole family works on. All the kids have to buy in to the idea and the project as a whole, or it doesn’t turn out as well. Why? Because photo shoots take a good chunk of time and patience and unless each person is enthusiastic about the idea, it will likely to be too painful to pull together.

The kids had a ton of ideas. So many good ones! And I’m not going to tell you about them because we still want to use them. Hah!

We starting narrowing down the ideas by considering resources available — location options? could supplies be overnighted? what could we rent or borrow? We finally settled on a formal shoot set on a grand staircase. We knew we had several good clothing options already on hand, and figured we could rent anything else we needed.

Next, we figured out a location. We wanted to shoot at a famous Oakland park we love. It’s called Joaquin Miller Park and we’ve spent many lovely hours there — and it happens to have the perfect staircase. So we went to the park, during the same time of day we would be shooting, to snap a few scouting photos and check out the sunlight situation.

I’ll be honest. The light wasn’t good. In late spring, or early summer, it’s probably perfect. But the current position of the sun offered really harsh light on the stairs.

I sent the scouting images to Wendy, and she said it would be tough, but we could work with it. She sent us photos from another shoot she’d done that had harsh light and said, “If you’re good with the lighting in these photos, then we can stick with Joaquin Miller Park.”

So we moved forward, location settled, and turned our attention to wardrobe questions. We knew Maude and Olive and I had dresses that would definitely work. We thought we had a possible good option for Betty to wear. We knew Oscar had a navy wool suit that he looks great in. We thought we could rent tuxes for the Ralph and Ben. So we figured we just needed to find a dress for June (and maybe Betty).

I narrowed the colors for wardrobe options down to: champagne, navy, black, and grey. Based on what we already had, I knew I wanted a champagne colored dress for June. So I started scouring Amazon for dresses (with searches like girls fancy party dress), that were available with next day shipping. And I also shopped online at Nordstrom because they have an awesome option where you can see what’s available locally, and pick up the order in-store the same day. We found wonderful dresses.

We ended up with this silver-y grey one for Betty (on sale!), and this sweet little option in champagne for June. We added a tutu under June’s to get the skirt really full.

Then, I took Ben and Ralph to a tux rental place — the one with the best Yelp ratings in Oakland. I have never rented a tux. I don’t think Ben has rented one since high school. And I realized right away, renting was not going to work. It takes like a week to get a particular tuxedo in, and then they need to alter it. They had a couple of standard options in stock, but we didn’t like the look. And it’s expensive! We felt like we could buy a suit for a similar price.

So we made a plan B. We’ve had luck in the past at stores like Zara and H&M for good-looking, relatively inexpensive suits, and we decided to see what we could find in stores. It was a little bit frustrating, because there were really cool options in their online stores, but we didn’t have time to order. The in-store options weren’t nearly as fun, but we picked up a grey suit for Ralph, in a nice glen plaid, and a simple black suit for Ben.

They weren’t exactly what we wanted, but we figured they would work for the shoot — and they were less expensive than a tux rental.

The clothes were settled, so next I put out some inquires for help with hair and makeup. I have only hired hair and make up assistance for one other family photo shoot, so it’s not a regular thing we do. But because I had a particular formal look in mind, I knew I would want help to achieve what was in my head. I talked to Brittney Montoya. She had helped with my hair and makeup at an event I went to in November, and I knew she was local. She told me she was actually a makeup specialist, and didn’t really do hair, so I told her I’d look for a hair stylist, or we’d handle hair ourselves.

Everything was coming together! On Friday afternoon, two days before the shoot, Ben and Ralph and Olive went to Nordstrom to pick up Betty’s dress. While they were on the errand, I got a call from Ralph. He’d had a realization: We all knew he was flying out for work that weekend. We thought he was flying out on Sunday afternoon. But he remembered the flight had been changed to Saturday. Which meant, he wouldn’t actually be there on Sunday morning.


We had to cancel with Wendy. And the makeup artist. We were all pretty bummed.

But now we had the concept, and we’d found great dresses for Betty and June, and we figured we’d call a local photographer and re-schedule the shoot for when Ralph got back to Oakland.

The next morning, I was at a Scrooge performance, doing hair and makeup for Oscar, Betty, and June. I was chatting with another mom, Marielle Hayes. I remembered Marielle is a photographer! I told her the whole saga, and asked if she’d be interested in shooting our photos. She was! So we rescheduled for the following Friday.

I texted Marielle images that had the look and feel I was going for, so she could see what I had in mind.

Since we had more time, I figured we could now order exactly what we wanted for the men to wear. So we placed an order with H&M. We chose a beautiful black wool tuxedo for Ben, an elegant blue velvet suit for Ralph, and a grey three-piece suit for Oscar. (We weren’t originally going to order anything for Oscar, but as the shoot came together, I felt like I needed one more light-colored outfit in the mix.) The shipping time was 4 to 9 days, and there was no rush shipping option. So we weren’t sure if it was going to make it on time. But we crossed our fingers and knew we still had the back up suits.

By Thursday night, the package hadn’t arrived. We were talking with the photographer about it, and Marielle said we should wait, and shoot with the ideal clothes that we were picturing. So we rescheduled one more time.

Maude had finals the next week, so we couldn’t shoot right away. We chose Thursday the 13th, and asked the kids to block out time for the shoot. I also cancelled with Brittney, the makeup artist, for a second time. So embarrassing!

The H&M package arrived that weekend. Two of the suits were awesome — Ben’s Tuxedo, and Ralph’s Blue Velvet. Both were totally worth waiting for. But Oscar’s suit didn’t fit at all. It was much too big. So I figured it was time to move to Plan C.

I got back on Amazon and started shopping for a suit for Oscar — something that would arrive right away. I found this one. Two-day shipping, fantastic reviews, and less expensive than the H&M option (the one that didn’t fit him) by a ways. Hooray!

Once all the clothes had arrived, I had everyone try things on to see what needed to be steamed or ironed, and to work out any other details — like who was wearing what shoes. For Ralph, we decided a turtleneck was the look — it felt unusual and sophisticated, and it allowed me to bring in another piece of clothing in the cream/champagne range. I happened to have a creamy cashmere turtleneck from my Grandma Rudi (I was given her collection of turtlenecks when she died — best inheritance ever! I should tell you more about that story some time). It worked perfectly with Ralph’s suit.

For Betty, we decided to add a fur collar from my closet. The collar was the first gift my mother-in-law Julia gave me. She bought it while living in Riga, Lativa — where winters are harsh. I ended up lining it with satin and adding leather ties. I love to wear it at Christmas-time.

While we sorted out clothes, the photographer, Marielle, kept stopping by Joaquin Miller Park at different times of day to see if the light on the stairs ever improved.

It did not.

So she started suggesting other options. A pretty rose garden. A cemetery with good architectural angles. Nothing was quite right. The day before the shoot, she sent me photos from Berkeley Campus (here, we call the university Cal). It looked perfect!

I confirmed with Brittney, the makeup artist, for the 3rd time.

We ended up doing hair at our house — this took about an hour. Maude put a gorgeous braid into June’s hair. I did an updo for Betty and Maude. Olive straightened her hair and pulled the sides back with a clip. Then we carefully packed up our photoshoot outfits — laying them gently in the trunk of our van — and drove over to campus wearing comfy clothes.

We found a place on campus where we could meet Brittney for makeup — that took about 2 hours — and change into our finery. From there we had a 15-min walk to meet Marielle at the campus bell tower. Me and the girls walked in our sneakers and brought a bag with our fancy shoes.

We shot at three different locations on campus. I would have my girls switch to comfy shoes to walk from place to place. It was chilly in the shade — but California chilly, which is like 60 degrees. : ) We had a few jackets to drape over shoulders when we were between shots. The shoot took about 1.5 hours once we met up with the photographer. It was a ton of fun. My kids don’t hesitate offering ideas up to the photographer, and happily, Marielle was game.

After the shoot, we were all feeling fancy and wanted to go out. But real life took over. The three oldest kids all had babysitting jobs, and the three youngest kids had drum lessons, so we all came home. Marielle knew we wanted the photos for Christmas cards, so she edited them immediately and sent me the files. Which was awesome and really kind of her.

It was funny because I was so nervous to look at the images. The shoot had taken a ton of planning and what if they didn’t turn out? We really didn’t have the time or energy for another shoot, you know?

But I didn’t need to worry. The photos are gorgeous! A true treasure. We all feel super lucky to have this record of our family.

Okay. That was a long story. And I’m sure some of you are thinking not worth it. And I totally get that. As I mentioned, our photo shoots have become fun family projects and we all get a lot of joy out of working on them. I understand it’s not the kind of project everyone would like.

What’s your take on family photos? Do you dread them? Do you have tiny kids who are hard to wrangle? Do you like to keep things simple? Or do you like to come up with a concept or plan? Have you ever had a shoot come together that you really loved?

68 thoughts on “Family Photos at Cal Berkeley Campus”

  1. Definitely worth it! We just had last minute photos at home and I LOVE THEM-I cried while looking through thanking my lucky stars that we just bit the bullet and booked…wondering if my boys would be into a more formal shoot now! What a beautiful thing you have and what awesome memories to look back on! Merry Christmas from Australia ;)

  2. Growing up in a family who did our photos at Olan Mills or JC Penney, it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around the cost of a custom photo shoot like this. No question the photos are amazing, and I can see how people would see it as an investment, but it’s just hard to justify for a middle-class family like ours. We’ve had friends and family do photos for us but they never really turn out the way I hope, so I’ve kind of given up. We really haven’t had any kind of formal portrait in years.

    1. A lot of professional photographers offer ‘mini-sessions’ during the holidays – last year we paid $150 for a 20 minute shoot outdoors and the photos were AMAZING – we got to pick our favorite dozen or so and went from there.

      We did the JCPenny route when the kids were little and paid relatively the same ($100+), so there can be affordable options depending on where you live (we are in the Bay Area as well, but I imagine this is pretty common in most metro areas).

      1. I live in a rural area, but I do believe you are right. If I really made it a priority I bet I could find a workable option. Next year may be our year. ;)

      2. Yes! Redde – I too live in a very rural area. But 45 minutes away in our “big city” (still less than 100k people) we have found an AMAZING photographer who does mini sessions all year long. We have done her holiday mini’s the last 7 years – it’s a $25 sitting fee and then I pay $150 for about a dozen high quality amazing digital images of my family. She’ll do pretty much any combo you want so I get a few of all of us, a few of just my husband and I, a few of each kid, and a few of the kids together. It’s something I look forward to every year. The photographer also does mini’s throughout the year with different themes. We did a unicorn shoot with my daughter when she was little (with a pony dressed up as a unicorn!). She does superhero shoots, old truck shoots, local park shoots, fall color shoots. She does Easter/Halloween/Mother’s Day specials/freebies too. And of course, you can always hire her for a full on family photo shoot (or weddings!).

        I’d recommend calling local photographers who shoot weddings to find out what’s available around you. And of course, there’s always social media!

  3. Beautiful photos! I wish I had the creative energy to arrange something like this. I always thought I’d have family photos taken while my kids grew up and we NEVER have had a formal family picture. My kids are almost 14 & 18. But we’ve had plenty of casual family photos so I guess that’ll do.

    And yes, tuxedos are so expensive now! We’re about the same age and I seem to remember them costing around $50-75 during the prom/wedding years and sometimes my husband has to rent one for work and they’re almost $250! You might as well buy one now…jeez!

  4. Oh my sparkly stars, Gabby! All of it is just stunning. The photo of you in sharp focus with the girls behind you is ah-maz-ing – you are a matriarch badass QUEEN. Love, love, triple love everything about all of it. Wow!

  5. Gorgeous photos! Worth every bit of time and effort. I’m curious about your inspiration photo – is it something you would be willing to share?

  6. I think the worst part about these is figuring out which ones to frame!! These are simply gorgeous and so glad your vision came to life! When I did photography I was all about the juxtoposition so these really speak to me. I love the schmancy outfits against the backdrop. These are such a treasure!

  7. I am curious if you have at least one photo from each of your portrait sessions that you’ve done over the years framed in your house? I think it would be fun to see them all together on a wall, both seeing the kids as they grow up and also the very different aesthetic of each one. This one reminded me a bit of the one you did in France, which I think also had a lot of gray tones in it but not so formal? Also, I’m assuming the subtle touches of red/pink were intentional? They turned out beautifully – what a treasure. I especially love the ones on the tall stairs and the ones with the tree framing the top of the photos.

    We’ve had a few portrait sessions done over the years, although nothing quite this involved. I do love the end result. Last winter, we had one with my husband’s extended family and his grandma, who is our last living grandparent (his mom is an only child and he only has one brother so it wasn’t actually a ton of people). His grandma recently had a stroke and won’t be traveling anymore so I’m so glad we did them – it was likely our last chance. I remembered how you had always coordinated your family’s clothes so I suggested everyone wear blue, green, or red, and everything actually coordinated really well, even though we didn’t plan it out in detail. It definitely makes the photos feel more cohesive so thanks for that tip!

  8. We do family photos every fall, but they are not nearly as creative or well-styled as yours! I do persuade my husband and twin boys to dress in coordinating outfits, and our clothing schemes have been hit-and-miss because I don’t have the greatest eye for design.

    Their agreement to wear what I ask is about the extent of their cooperation. Still, my husband agrees that the photos are great to have and to track our growth as a family, and the sessions are getting easier the older my sons get (they will be 7 next month).

  9. Thanks for writing the whole story out. I truly enjoyed reading all of it. You all look gorgeous, and I can see why you love the photos. They’re a treasure. Memories with the whole family are precious. We have never done such an elaborate photo shoot, but we have had other occasions which has elicited some wonderful family photo treasures. I just wanted you to know how much I enjoyed reading what you wrote.

  10. The colorful shoes are a fun touch! We have taken to hiring a photographer for family pictures when we are on vacation and for family reunions. Wish we had done it when our family was younger, but it is now considered part of our vacation expenses. We have been super lucky finding excellent local photographers even internationally. The clothing coordination doesn’t happen – we just let that be random, but they still come out priceless. And we always get a picture of my now 32 year old son up a tree – it’s his signature pose!

  11. I love your photo shoots so much! Lot of work, but worth it a thousand times. (I’ve been reading you since the NY years and my absolute favourites are the colourful Central Park shoot and the French greys.) I love having professional photos of my family, but we don’t do it often enough. Only three happened so far and my eldest is nearly 12… Btw I’ll probably steal some of your ideas when we go this spring. :) (I’ve just decided that I need this for my 38th birthday!)

  12. I love the idea of making it a whole family planning experience! I also love the turtleneck/velvet blazer combo, well chosen! CAn’t wait to hear the story of the inherited turtlenecks eventually :)

  13. I vote for a post with a whole family photo from each session you’ve done over the years please. Would be really neat to see the different styles you’ve gone for as the kids have grown.

  14. Tooootally worth it! Love these and feel totally inspired. You’re all so stylish! A special memory like this – both the photos themselves and not least the experience of making it all happen, together – is a great thing for a family to invest in. I like your priorities!

  15. These are all so beautiful! Our family (my parents, siblings, and I- us kids are all grown but don’t have kids/aren’t married so we still do family shoots) hasn’t had a photographer do our photos since I was really little (and I think those were probably jcpenney shots), but most years we do take family photos on our own. We set up the tripod and dress in somewhat coordinating clothes. Usually we take them in the fall at my grandpa’s Christmas tree farm, since it has a beautiful backdrop of brightly colored hills. I’d love to get professional pictures someday but we’re terrible at planning.

  16. I love these! Gorgeous! Too bad you couldn’t all go out afterward to celebrate. We do an annual photo shoot too. I coordinate our outfits. We usually hire friends to do the photography, and do our own hair/makeup. This year, we won a silent auction item for a photo shoot at our local community farm. The pics turned out great, and we helped the farm! All to say, our photo shoots are some of my most treasured photos. They are casual, and usually capture us laughing and being ourselves. Very few formal poses. The love really shows. Thank you for the tips on how to keep the kiddos engaged and include their ideas!

  17. Gorgeous! I too love the one with you in the foreground and the girls behind. So sweet. Also the one with you all looking in different directions coming down the steps. And all the others…… :)

  18. Your pictures are beautiful! What a treasure for your family, both for the process and the final results. This summer we rented a house near a beach for my parent’s 40th wedding anniversary and I had the idea to get pictures done. We found a local photographer and my sisters and I coordinated everyone’s outfits (without my parents knowing! I know it would have been a major stresser for my Mom). It was just before sunset on the beach and they turned out so beautiful. I had the pictures printed, framed and on our wall within a month (by far a record) and I’m so glad I took the time (and expense!) to arrange it. Capturing the pictures on a wonderful, special vacation also adds a layer of meaning to the photos, much like your having them as a family project.

    Many of the commenters above mentioned the high cost of professional photography and this is something I have always struggled with as well. I sew and have done various types of projects over the years and there are very few people (if any?) who would pay me a fraction of what a photographer charges for their time (not to mention the high cost of quality sewing materials). This isn’t against photographers, more about the value of different types of labor. I think the sewing and garment industry has been hurt by consumers being used to paying for products produced overseas, but there is no way to “outsource” a local photographer, so people are used to paying fair prices for that. Likewise, this is true for my husband’s small DJ business (I feel people are willing to pay him fairly for this time). I find this concept fascinating, though I sometimes lament I chose the wrong hobby, ha!

  19. Okay, when you snuck us a peak of June’s dress, I knew it was going to be big, but this is epic. Betty’s whole look is just amazing, and that picture of you in the foreground with your girls behind you, for real, took my breath away. And then I cried. The one with Ben Blair and the boys is pretty great, too. I loved the whole blow-by-blow of this creative process, including set-backs. Soooo worth it! Everyone looks just picture-perfect. Those suits (that turtleneck! The story of that turtleneck)! Each dress/personality! I mean.
    Welcome home, Ralph. Merry Christmas, everyone! superXOX

  20. Beautiful!

    We once stayed at a family friendly resort in Cancun, Mexico that had a professional photographer selling his services in the lobby. Although my husband was reluctant, the ocean was an amazing backdrop and we got some great photos Our boys were little and loved the straw “cowboy hats” they bargained for at a local market. A picture of them in theirhats, with their feet in the waves, and their back to the camera is my favorite photo of all times and the only photo I ever had “blown up” and hung. The little one was a preschooler and the photographer captures the moment he reaches out to his big brother to steady himself in the waves with his brother turning towards him. They’re not quite touching in the photo and it says everything about their relationship. Photo also helped by the Pacific Ocean swirling around their ankles and an amazing sky.

    Other than that all of our professional photos are around major milestones like weddings and bar mitzvahs. My parents hired photographers for their 70th bday celebrations and it’s always super hectic to round up all 15 the of us (including 7 boys, many still very young) but the end result is worth it.

    We have a bar mitzvah coming up and our synagogue has a big outdoor staircase. I think I’ll share some of these with our photographer for inspiration

  21. Completely worth it! I love that your whole family participated and came up with such a fun plan. Thanks for sharing the process, showing us that things that don’t work out at first end up working out in the end xoxo

  22. These are STUNNING! I think they are my favorite of your family photo shoots. You all look amazing. We haven’t had family photos taken since my youngest was a baby (he is now 6)…I am inspired! Honestly, I’ve wanted to do it for awhile, but I didn’t want to have the same look as everyone I know–Fall backdrop, very coordinated outfits in one or two colors–you know the look. I am stealing this formal idea for next summer!

  23. Beauties, all. I believe the title of this post could have been Bad Ass Matriarch though! So glad it all worked out. Would love to see a post of all the family portraits over the years. We book a session every year (my one annual non-negotiable “Mom thing”) and yes it totally helps to have group buy-in on what to do/wear. We always go out after — it’s part of the deal — and that is always a lot of fun especially if we are in something ridiculous or unexpected. For those worried about expense, I really think you can replicate this in a short amount of time (think 30 min or less) for a reasonable fee (less than what you would pay at a studio for sure). Once you have the digital images, you can just print them wherever you like.

  24. TOTALLY worth it! Family photos are such a treasure! We’ve been getting an autumn shoot every year for Christmas cards, and I’m so fortunate to have them. But I’ve realized we need to mix it up in future years so they don’t all look the same! I’m thinking something either summery, or super wintry next year. Love your ideas and dedication to the project!

  25. Love the photos, the story, the family collaboration, the art direction. Now could we get a TV show of your family, maybe titled Mormon-ish? Just picturing you art directing the outfits with last minute changes, making the calls to cancel, the three bigs off to babysit whilst the littles head to drumming…all too fun and funny. A big creative family with a modern take on being Mormon in California in the 21st century. What’s not to love?

  26. I shoot family portraits and I LOVE that you laid out all the work and planning that went into this one (absolutely gorgeous) shoot. When you get the shots in the end, it makes it all worth it.

    I also love that your whole family gets in on the project. My family (of three!) is not as enthusiastic so today I’m looking at iPhone selfies and wondering if I can print some for my mother-in-law. So well done!

  27. An especially beautiful photo shoot, and thanks for letting us know all the real life challenges behind the perfect pictures!

    I’m impressed you raised 6 kids who cooperate for family photos. One of my two children is determined to be miserable for any and all photos. It’s such a waste of time for us to have anything other than candid photos, which almost always includes poor lighting, uninspired outfits, and cluttered or meaningless backgrounds.

    1. Melissa, believe it or not, someday when they are older you may just look back on those not-so-perfect photos and find they are your favorites :-) The ones where my kids are sticking out their tongues or making a grump face are (years later) the ones that make me smile even more than the “perfectly styled” ones. It definitely didn’t feel that way in the moment though. Everything is a phase, some phases just last longer than others ;-)

  28. Just loved reading about every design choice that was made to produce these gorgeous pictures of you and your family. Thank you!

  29. This is totally something I would do. For now, I have my husband committed to a family mini-session every December with a fantastic local photographer. But my hope is we will be able to make the commitment to something bigger on a more irregular basis. Or more mini-sessions throughout the year. There are so many amazing options. Like your family, I’m all about planning a theme or the outfits or some unifying element. My family? Not so much. Luckily, so far they are happy to just show up with a smile wearing whatever I have provided for them. :) And with mini-sessions, it’s only a 15 minute process to spectacular images I treasure forever.

  30. These photos are incredible! As a photographer, I love the story and the effort it took for the photos to live up to your vision. Clients often don’t realize that you get only as much as you put in to making the session magical and meaningful.

    1. Julia S., you are so right. When my boys were 3 and 5 I had a client who suggested trading services (bartering). I readily agreed as he was a professional photographer and I knew I would like having him snap a photo of my boys. We met him at a park and were there half a day! I kept wondering why he couldn’t just take the shot but it turns out he was letting the boys play and climb trees, he took many, many shots, and I ended up with a large framed b & w image of my boys perfectly captured in a tree. The artistry and patience were all his.

  31. My father is a college photography professor, so, growing up, photo shoots were definitely a thing, but, oddly, not a lot of family photos as he or my mother (a former students of his! Scandalous!) would be behind the lens. So, now its a weird mixture of A) all the posing lessons we learned growing up (things like, no “floating hands” and always fingers together etc. etc.) and B) going “Oh, yeah. You have to call a photographer to get family photos” because its not something we’d needed to do before but as an adult with her own family, definitely do!

    Also, not formal photos, but I’ve decided one of my goals for the new year and the holiday season is just more family photos even if they are selfies or strangers at tourist sites.

  32. These are gorgeous! We usually do a shoot with a photographer we love but this year didn’t get a single decent photo of all of us together. I’m super bummed, but also recognize that my 3 boys (3, 5, and 7) are all just super hard to wrangle at this age–and also not that invested in the idea of the family photo shoot!

  33. I think your photos are stunning! And I enjoyed reading about all the effort you went to to have everything just right.

    Family photos are not a thing for our family. We have lots of photos, and I means LOTS of photos, of family members, but few family photos. One of the main reasons for this is that I have a severely intellectually disabled daughter and trying to get a decent photo of her is extremely difficult, let alone trying to get a decent photo of her and the rest of the family. but you have given me food for thought.

  34. Gabby, would you consider posting a gallery with all your family pictures – well maybe not *all* lol, but one or two from each series in a single post? I remember so many of them and it would be lovely to see their evolution all in one place.

  35. As a family photographer, this post made my heart sing!

    I love it when families bring their own ideas and creative vision to a session.
    And you all hit it out of the park (again) – I love the mood and setting and styling. Beautiful!

    Something fun my family likes to do with photos is get messy (I have two younger boys) – you can see some ideas from things we’ve done here:

    (Now I just need to get my own local professional photographer to come take those so I can be in them as well)

  36. I understand your thinking that some/many might not get putting so much time/thought/energy into a photo shoot like this – but I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who sees these images who would think NOT WORTH IT! They’re so great! The outfits are just perfection – so luxurious. And so much fun with a big family – I think the effect wouldn’t be nearly as cool with a family of 4. Love them! And I LOVE hearing the behind the scenes parts too!

  37. When I first saw these images on Facebook, my very first reaction was shock, and then disappointment that I felt shock.

    As you can tell from many of these comments, you are a representation of our church. But two of your girls’ shoulders are bare.

    You are also wonderfully honest and open about the journey you’ve had to get to these photos; you’ve hinted in the past that at least one of child of yours does not hold to all the beliefs of our faith. How brave of you to portray that so openly in something so public and personal as your family portraits! When I see these images, I see defiance in your eyes.

    With much love, I ask this: Is the lack of shrugs and sleeves and shawls part of this amazing process you’ve shared with us?

  38. These pictures are so luxe and beautiful! Thank you for sharing. I love hearing about what a collaborative process it is for your family. It makes me excited about working with my son this way when he’s older :)

    He was born in November 2017. Last year I snapped a quick photo of him at 10 days old, and did the layout for our holiday/baby introduction card myself: “Silent Nights Are Overrated!”

    Once a month over the past year (his first year) my wife and son and I have gone downtown to our favorite photo booth and done a little family photo session. We have 12 strips — one for each month of his first year. So for this year’s holiday card, I scanned them in and picked our favorite shot from each strip. I put these together (in chronological order) on our holiday card. It’s so nice to see how he’s grown and changed over the past year! And a great little time capsule for us.

  39. My family pictures ended up having an accidental theme. We are a military family, and move frequently. We don’t do family pictures every year. But I do it once in each location we’ve lived. Sometimes by a friend just taking our picture for us, or sometimes we pay someone. Once, I won a free photo shoot! They are all very different, and when we lived in TX and NC no fam pics were taken as we were only in each place for one year. We are about to leave Hawaii, and we did some last month. I love them.

  40. Love this post! I always love learning the thought process behind your projects. I have found in the last few years with young kids that my vision for photos isn’t usually what ends up happening, but the results are often even better than I had imagined.

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