7 Tips for Grown-Up Family Photos… Just in Time for the Holidays!

Christmas Card Traditions

My mom has always sent out a Christmas Card for the holidays and 90% of the time that Christmas Card included a family photo (usually just my sisters and me, not my mom and my dad). We used to whine and complain about taking this annual photo and then cringe when we saw the photo she chose to have printed on those annual cards.

Fast forward almost thirty years and now we LOVE looking back at those still cringe-worthy photos and laughing at ourselves. It’s crazy to put them all side-by-side and see how much we changed over the years!

When two sons-in-law joined the group and we were all “grown-up” and moved out, we weren’t sure if the annual Christmas card tradition would continue. I mean, the first year it was easy because my mom used one of the wedding photos as the “group shot” but after that…. we weren’t really sure where to take this now cherished tradition.
O'Connor Chestnut ClubIf we’re being completely honest, it probably is a little weird that we still get together and take these photos. BUT in our defense, if we don’t force ourselves to carve out time for these annual photos, we would go years without documenting our family all together. Don’t get me wrong, we spend a TON of time together as a family, but we never pose for a photo with everyone in it without a specific reason (i.e. graduations, wedding, baptism, etc.).

Keeping this Tradition Alive

So last year we decided that we HAD to keep this tradition alive (no matter how OLD we are). Last year’s picture, above, was the first “not-at-a-formal-event” group photo we took and we learned A LOT from this pretty painless process.

But before we took that photo, I searched Pinterest and the blogosphere for tips and inspiration on family photos. The only thing I could find was insanely adorable photos/inspiration for families with little ones. I could not find any pictures or ideas for families in our stage of life. So that’s where this post idea was born. If you have a group of adults (with or without kids) that is getting together for a family photo, Christmas card, or just because, I hope these tips provide you with some of the info I was never able to find!

And heck, even if you don’t have a group of twenty-somethings in your family, I’m confident these 7 tips can still work for just about any family!

7 Tips for Taking Family Photos with Grown-Up Kids

After learning from our mistakes the first year around, here are my best 7 tips (and this year’s family photos):
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1. Choose a Location

It’s important to think of a location that is big enough (aka wide enough) to hold the entire group. This year we chose an apple orchard because picking apples is one of our favorite fall traditions and there was plenty of room to photograph all of us together. Last year we went to a local park, but we waited until it was December so the trees were pretty barren and the temps were FRIGID (note to self: super cold temps are not good for morale or for outfit selections).

You don’t need anything extravagant … heck, even a plain wall could work… just make sure you choose a place where you can spread out and not be rushed. And if your family is anything like ours, I would suggest going to wherever you are going when the LEAST amount of people are there (less people watching you take these photos will save everyone from feeling awkward).
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2. Choose Outfits Wisely

We learned after last year that it’s hard to read the outfits accurately in the photo when some of  us have on super dark colors (black, dark navy, dark green) and others have on super bright colors (like white). This year I told the family to steer clear of these extremes and I also told them to choose “fall colors”. We definitely didn’t want to match (been there, done that for about 10 years in a row) but we wanted to loosely coordinate. Establishing these flexible guidelines helped keep us in the same “ballpark” without being too matchy-matchy.

I also started a google doc for everyone to type in what they were wearing. I know that sounds crazy (it probably is), but I was able to see the colors and vibe of the outfits before the “big day”. Seeing the outfit plans in advance helped me recognize any problems and also helped me and Matt choose our outfits accordingly. And since I usually set up the photos, I like to wait for everyone to let me know what they’re wearing and then I try to choose outfits for Matt and me that will mesh the whole look together.

Rookie Tip: I know this sounds super scientific but honestly my advice would be… DON’T OVERTHINK IT. You want everyone to feel comfortable and feel very “them” so provide loose guidelines but let each person put their own spin on their clothing from there.

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3. Go Outside!

Remember when I said you should choose a place that you can spread out, maybe even a place that is special to your family? Well there’s a bit more to that story. My BIGGEST piece of advice when choosing a location is to try to do everything you can to take your photo outside because of the natural light. If you’re using a friend to snap a few pics (or a tripod + remote like us), choosing an outdoor space will make sure your photo is well-lit even without a professional photographer.

Overcast skies produce the best light, but if the day is super bright (direct sunlight) try to take your photos in the shade or around dusk to get the best lighting. Having a well-lit photo makes the picture look 100% more professional so try everything you can to choose an outdoor location…or at least an indoor venue that has super large windows.

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4. Have Fun… It Shows!

It’s important to HAVE FUN! Not just so everyone has an enjoyable, stress-free experience that day but also because if you’re having fun while snapping these photos, it will definitely show in the photo! Make jokes, laugh, do a few “fun ones” because these genuine smiles will make the best pictures…and the best memories!

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5. You Only Need One!

Feel free to snap away but don’t forget that you only need ONE photo! If you keep snapping away, I’m confident that at least one of the pics you snapped will be a keeper so try not to stress.

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6. Bring Props

Last year our family held up a DIY Pallet sign, which definitely helped make our pose a lot less awkward and a lot more natural. Remember when we held these poster boards to create a personalized Mother’s Day Gift in preparation for the newest member of the O’Connor family? Both of these experiences have taught us that having props (or something to hold) makes standing and taking a group photo a lot less awkward. I know that’s not always a possibility (like in our photo this year) but it is a tip I wanted to include because it definitely makes a difference.
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7. Imperfect is Perfect When You’re All Together

At the end of the day my BEST piece of advice is to not focus on perfectionism. It really doesn’t matter about the outfits or the lighting or even the location, as long as you all get together and capture this time (as cringeworthy as it may be later on), your family photo will be absolutely PERFECT. Crying babies, laughing siblings, flat hair…. these things are all a part of our stories and as long as this story is captured and frozen in time, your family photo will be just like it’s supposed to be — perfectly imperfect!

For your information, here is our all-time favorite photo equipment & what we use to take all of our pictures (affiliate links used):

  • Our Camera with this lens and this lens is what we started with
  • This lens was a splurge and what we used to take this year’s photos
  • We used a tripod (like this one) for these photos
  • …. and used this clicker! (Can you spot who is carrying the clicker in each photo?)family-photo-tips-for-grown-up-families

Bridget Signature

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Leave a Comment

  • shawnna griffin

    Hey girl Great tips! love the pics!

    • Thanks Shawnna! We had so much fun taking them.

  • shawnna griffin

    Hey girl Great tips! love the pics!

    • Thanks Shawnna! We had so much fun taking them.

  • Ashley Sorrick

    Such adorable pictures!! Great tips – you reminded me to try to get some pictures with my family for Christmas cards 🙂

    • Yes! It’s definitely tricky to find time, but it’s well worth it 🙂

  • Ashley Sorrick

    Such adorable pictures!! Great tips – you reminded me to try to get some pictures with my family for Christmas cards 🙂

    • Yes! It’s definitely tricky to find time, but it’s well worth it 🙂

  • Erin

    hoping to do some family pics this november when the whole family is together (minus the husband) do you recommend hiring someone or just use a camera with tripod?

    • It depends how comfortable you are with a camera. If you like photography (like we do!), then definitely take our own! But if you’re worried about quality, it might be a good idea to hire someone you trust! Good luck Erin!

  • Erin

    hoping to do some family pics this november when the whole family is together (minus the husband) do you recommend hiring someone or just use a camera with tripod?

    • It depends how comfortable you are with a camera. If you like photography (like we do!), then definitely take our own! But if you’re worried about quality, it might be a good idea to hire someone you trust! Good luck Erin!

  • You are definitely not the only ones who still do the big family picture at Christmas. We do it every year with my in-laws for their Christmas card and there are over 50 of us! Suffice it to say, usually getting everyone there at the same time is about as coordinated as it gets…

    • Wow! That is awesome Diana! What a wonderful tradition

  • You are definitely not the only ones who still do the big family picture at Christmas. We do it every year with my in-laws for their Christmas card and there are over 50 of us! Suffice it to say, usually getting everyone there at the same time is about as coordinated as it gets…

    • Wow! That is awesome Diana! What a wonderful tradition

  • Nicole B.

    It’s so funny you took the time to write this post… because this summer I, too, searched Pinterest (and google) to find inspiration for a family photo of all adults when there aren’t babies yet and there are basically none! I couldn’t believe it! Like, how do you pose 6 adults? Haha. Long story short- like you said, we all had fun and it shows in the pictures. Now we have really nice memories of our family trip to Cape Cod. Super idea for a post, I bet it will help lots of people 🙂

    • Isn’t it crazy how there is nothing out there for adults?! Ha! So happy we weren’t the only ones!

  • Nicole B.

    It’s so funny you took the time to write this post… because this summer I, too, searched Pinterest (and google) to find inspiration for a family photo of all adults when there aren’t babies yet and there are basically none! I couldn’t believe it! Like, how do you pose 6 adults? Haha. Long story short- like you said, we all had fun and it shows in the pictures. Now we have really nice memories of our family trip to Cape Cod. Super idea for a post, I bet it will help lots of people 🙂

    • Isn’t it crazy how there is nothing out there for adults?! Ha! So happy we weren’t the only ones!

  • Patti Walsh

    Looking for some advice. We want to take a family photo for our Christmas card. All of my adult children (and grandchild) will all be together in Syracuse, NY to celebrate Thanksgiving together and attend a SU football game…yay! Bridget, as you know, my son-in-law, Sean coaches college football and will have a very busy schedule during our visit and a small window of opportunity for a photo shoot. We do not want to be on the football field or in SU swag for the picture. It appears that the photo shoot will not take place outdoors in the daylight but rather in the evening – 6:00ish in Sarah’s home. What ideas/suggestions do you have for an indoor photo? She has a staircase, large foyer, fireplace / mantel, plenty of white wall space…. Appreciate your feedback.

    • How exciting, have so much fun on your trip! Getting EVERYONE together is never easy so just capturing any picture is a “win”. In terms of our advice for getting a picture inside during the evening– we don’t have a ton of experience with this but we would say to turn on any lights so that the house + picture is well-lit. If you’re using a DSLR, try and bring down the shutter speed a bit so that you can keep it a tad bright. And I’ve found that even if it does turn out darker than you had hoped, editing it to be black and white can be hide a lot of those imperfections. HOWEVER the most important part is that everyone is in the picture and as long as you capture that, we think it’s PERFECT. =) Good luck, have so much fun!!