5 Problems I Overcame to Create our First Family Portrait!

“You must have the most amazing family portraits!” – That is the statement I hear almost daily from my clients. I guess it would make sense as a photographer that my own family would be photographed often. Well, ever heard of the shoemaker’s kids? LOL …

Now if you have followed me for any length of time you know I frequently photograph my own children, however I am very rarely in the photographs. This summer we made a family trip to Chicago to visit one of my very best photography friends. Jeff Ebert of Ebert Studios owns one of the most amazing portrait studios in this country. In fact, as the 4th generation to own the studio they just celebrated 100 years!

As I am sure you have experienced, pulling off the perfect family portrait is not easy!

Here were the 5 problems I had to overcome to pull of our FIRST Family portrait since James was born (yes, you heard me … this was our first … I know … shame shame).

  1. What the heck are we going to wear?
    Since Eryn and James don’t wear clothes from the same stores, there isn’t the easy “go to” matching outfits. I looked on Etsy for some ideas, but nothing really fit the look I wanted. Simple. Classic. Slimming (for me of course).
    Our home has a large cranberry colored wall in our entryway and dining room. This is where I wanted to hang our portrait when completed so I set off to the mall to look for clothes. I dragged the entire family along …  after all, they should get to experience this joy with me 🙂 It took 4 separate stores, but we finally hit the jackpot between Express for Men, Banana Republic, Gymboree and Oshkosh.

JEANINE TIP! — One of my little tricks I tell clients is to lay out the clothes you will be wearing for your session and take a photograph of them with your phone. You can tell from the picture if you have a good combination of colors and patterns. After taking this photo I debated about trying to find James a cranberry bow tie to wear to add another colored element to the photograph … but I couldn’t find one I liked, plus I knew he wouldn’t wear it!  

Portrait Outfits

2. Time of Day to Schedule the Session
James being a typical one year old still NEEDS to have a nap if we have any hopes of a happy baby. The only day that worked with lighting and scheduling to photograph our session was the day we flew in to Chicago. Ummmm let me just say some prayers were said to the big man upstairs that James would sleep on the plane and then again in the car ride from airport to studio. This was a HUGE risk on my part … THANK GOD it all worked out and he slept.

3. Getting Everyone Ready and Dressed
Since we were in Chicago, there was no getting ready at home while being relaxed. We unloaded our suitcases from the airport ride in the lobby of Jeff’s studio, got dressed in shifts in his bathroom all while one person was always making sure James didn’t destroy this 100 year old studio. I did my own hair and makeup, let James run around half naked so he wouldn’t drool all over his shirt and oh did I mention we had a minor panic attack when we thought we left Eryn’s pants at home! I know every mom has their own favorite story of getting the family ready and out the door to my studio for their family portrait. Why can’t it be easy with angels singing from heaven, kids laughing, husbands looking at us saying “thank you for planning this perfect day” and the extra pounds we gained while being pregnant just magically disappeared? Is it really asking too much?

4. Letting Go of Control
This was actually easier then I thought it would be. Being a photographer I am pretty picky about what I like, want, and envision with my family portrait. This was the main reason I wanted Jeff to photograph us, I know him and I love and trust him! Once we got situated I breathed in and out and just let go. I didn’t even yell at my kids! Are you impressed?


5. Selecting My Favorite
This is actually a good problem to have! When I sat down with Jeff to look through the images I was amazed at: how many times James smiled, David didn’t have his goofy smile and I didn’t look fat!!!! Eryn of course is the rock … she always looks good. The garden outside Jeff’s studio was the perfect backdrop with our clothing and our home. David and I debated back and forth on a few poses, Eryn even weighed in her opinion and this image below was our all around favorite! Once selected I ordered a 30×40 canvas for the wall in our entry way.

Family Portrait

There were many, many beautiful images, below were a few more of my favorites that we decided to also display in our home.

Family Portrait Family Portrait Family Portrait Family Portrait

I ordered the other 4 images as canvas wraps to hang in a pinwheel on the wall between our dining room and kitchen. Below are some iPhone shots I took while we were hanging our new family portrait art in our home.

Family Portrait Display

Family Portrait Display

Deciding to schedule time to create your family portrait is the easy part. Actually planning and making it happen is the hard part. I know and feel the pain you are going through in making sure you have the perfect memories of your family to treasure in your home. I hope reading through my experience gave you a little chuckle and let you realize you aren’t alone in the struggle. However stressful the getting ready part can feel, the end result is totally worth it. Ever since we hung up the portraits in our home I show them off to everyone who comes to visit and smile at them whenever I walk by. I love my little family and now our home reflects that love.

Thank you Jeff for taking the time out of our vacation together to create this artwork for my family! Go check out his website Ebert Studio.


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Jeanine McLeod Professional PortraitJeanine McLeod is the owner of Cloud 9 Studios, a Florida based photography studio located just north of Tampa in Wesley Chapel. They specialize in family, children and baby photography and love helping families celebrate their love of family with fun, fresh and beautiful portraits.