It's Time for Family Portraits!

June 2007

My Christmas picture is done and I am happy! It is a lot work for me to organize everyone to get a nice portrait taken. This year, in honor of our 25th wedding anniversary, we had a professional portrait taken . It was great knowing that our Christmas picture was done in August.

We purchased the disc of photos from the photographer, so we are able to edit and print many different variations of the family. I have a favorite of the entire family, one of the girls, one of the boys, and then one of the four youngest girls, and a last one of Eby and Little Man. I’ll be sure to share them all here, but for today, I want to encourage you to plan your family holiday picture. Ask a friend to take it, schedule a date with a photographer, or plan to do it yourself; just get it done.

In 2005 my friend, Amy, and I waited until November to take each other’s family photos. The day was so rainy that we had to set up a “studio” in my family room. After struggling with poor lighting, we swore we would do it earlier in 2006, and we did!


In 2006, on October 1st, our two families packed picnics and went the University Arboretum where we took one of my favorite family pictures.


2007 was our first year with Dimples, Eby, and Little Man. I thought it would be fun to take the picture on the tractor by our barn . I had everyone wear jeans with a dark colored shirt. We planned to take it after church. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to it until December 9th and it was very cold. In fact, we got the kids down to the barn, and my camera refused to shoot. Russ finally realized it was too cold for the electronics in the camera to function. We ran inside and did some some chaotic shots by the tree. Then Russ took the kids back out, arranged them on the tractor and I ran out with the camera in my coat. I quickly took the photos, and ended up with one we liked, but the kids were cold!


In 2008 we took our picture in October and sent it along with Honeybee’s adoption announcement. This picture is hanging in our entry way and I really like it. I squeezed everyone into the space next to our bay window which allowed enough light to avoid using flash. Window light is great. I have a reflector that Russ held while standing to Dimples’ left (as you look at the picture). The reflector bounced the light back onto the kids who were furthest from the window (which was to the right of Honeybee as you look at the picture). Holding up a piece of white poster board or white tablecloth would also work well.


That leads us to 2009. The photo still needs a little bit of editing before it is ready to share, but Rusty is going to get it done soon. We wore jeans and white shirts again, like we did in 2007. It was the simplest theme to accomplish and right now, simple is all I can manage. Fortunately, it is a look I like!

Here are some tips you may find useful:

1. Choose a day and time when your youngest children are most likely to be happy. This year we took our photo just after an early dinner. It was August so it was still light.

2. If you have big kids, schedule it well in advance. I sent multiple email reminders to my older crew.

3. Choose a unified clothing theme. It can be formal or casual, holiday-ish or not, funny or serious, but you should look cohesive. In general, stay far away from patterns, stripes, or excessively fussy clothing. Our 2008 photo is a good example of how to hide some color problems; Rusty converted the image to sepia. My friend Joy always sends a gorgeous photo; last year they wore jeans with black shirts. Some other friends dressed in jeans with red and green shirts which looks very cheerful on our bulletin board.

4. Go outside where you won’t need your flash or where it will only add a little pop of light. Alternately, place your children near a window that will shine some indirect light on them. You don’t want bright light, just soft illumination.

5. Take lots, and lots of pictures. Back when we all used film, it was more costly to shoot multiple rolls, but now that nearly everyone has gone digital, there is no reason not to shoot dozens of shots. The more people you have in the family, the more photos you should shoot.

6. Put small treats in your pockets to keep the youngest children happy. My little ones like Tic Tacs which don’t make a mess or look big in their mouths.

7. Plan a special reward for a job well done. This year we came home and had ice cream sundaes to celebrate.

It is a lot of work to get a decent family picture, but it is worth the effort to chronicle the changes and growth of your family. I have a future project that has been brewing in my mind for a few years. I plan to go through my negatives and find every family Christmas picture beginning in 1987, the year Sweet Pea was born, and print them all as 5 X 7’s. Then I will frame them in sequence and hang them in my house. It will bless me every time I look at them and I think it will encourage our guests to see how our family has grown over the years.

Have fun, and get that picture take
n! You will be so glad to have it off your to-do list when the holidays arrive.


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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.


  1. Kathrin
    October 28, 2009

    Your children are so beautiful! Thank you for sharing.
    I love to see the comparison – they all were so cute and tiny.

  2. Chantelle
    October 28, 2009

    Once again, a beautiful, timely, and much needed reminder! Bless you! ((hug))

  3. Staci
    October 28, 2009

    As a family photographer, I will say that polo shirts or button up shirts for boys always look slightly better than t-shirts. ESP on girls. If you have anyone in the family that is not slender or women dealing with any kind of bust, t-shirts are just not flattering, you get little pull marks on the chest, and too much fabric at the waist. Don't be scared of color, either. Uniform is absolutely easiest, for those with more tahn 5 kids and I can understand why you go for it. But layers are nice too. Also, for natural light, in the am before 10am, or 4pm is the best time for outside. 🙂 Good luck families! If you want any ideas or inspiration, my photography blog might be helpful…

  4. Ajay
    October 28, 2009

    Beautiful pictures…, my husband and I have taken a wedding anniversary picture every year…this November it will be 7 years! We have just little 3inch photos hung chronologically in our entry and it is a blessings to watch and remember how the family has grown! We are pursuing a child through adoption who will be out of birth order and so this will help remind others too of how our family has grown too!

    Can I ask? What happended to Honeybee in the last portrait?

    Thanks for sharing your photos!

  5. Thankfulmom
    October 28, 2009


    Thanks for the great suggestions. I am happy to say that this year the guys all wore button up shirts and it does look very nice. I will definitely check out your photography blog.


  6. Ajay
    October 28, 2009


    So, sorry, I was asking about what happened to Honeybee, because as I was looking at the top picture on your blog post, I thought it was labeled 2009 and you were putting your current picture up first! I see now, after counting the kids in it many times and just not understanding where Honeybee was that it says 2007! You think I would have realized how little your youngest boys were too. Oh, I feel so silly. Sorry, maybe I should look into glasses! lol

  7. Thankfulmom
    October 28, 2009

    Thanks for the comment Ajay. I love the idea of taking a portrait on your anniversary. I'm not sure what you mean about Honeybee in the last portrait. She is only in one because she came home in August of 2008.

    Also, I have your email and want to reply…I just haven't gotten to it!


  8. Thankfulmom
    October 28, 2009

    I wondered if that was the problem. I had intended to put the most recent photo at the top of the post, then I decided to edit it a bit first. 2007 was an unusual year because we took a photo of the kids in the summer when our three little ones came home, and then took another one to send out for Christmas.

    I was quite proud of myself for pulling it off twice in one year!


  9. Laura
    October 28, 2009

    I have used any good picture I can find of our kids for our Christmas card picture..with only 3 we often get one on vacation. Last year we had to wait for our oldest to get home from college in Virigina for Christmas vacation to take one. My kids actually laid in the snow in winter hats and swim suits as a joke on a day that was 23 degrees. (Highly unusual for WA!) But, my favorite Christmas pictures of my kids is our Santa pictures..I have one from every year 1989 to present and when Drew gets home in the December, I will add a new one to it. It is wonderful to see how they grew each year since I have one from every December.


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