I write about what you---
women, wives and moms---
about your family, faith and future.
I write about what's hard, what helps and what heals.
I show you how it's done. And not done.
I hold your hand as you find what matters to the Savior.
And let go of those things that mattered to you, but not to Him.
I write about what Him.
               Sonya Contreras

The Dreaded Family Picture

A picture is what you take when you accidentally mash your hands on the shutter release while your camera sits idle on the living room table. It’s when you bump the camera while it hangs from your shoulder and snap that oddly angled picture of your feet. It’s the photos you took of your friend just because they asked you to. It’s also generally what most of us are shooting the first time we pick up our cameras – myself included.

But if you really want to advance your photography, you’ve got to stop pressing that shutter release just because you can. Instead, take the time to create a vision. Stop taking pictures. Start creating images.”  Matt Dutile, New York City photographer.

People think our family picture must be a breeze to take. It’s not.
When we first started taking a family picture, we purchased a photo shop program for Joey John.
After taking a hundred pictures, Joey John would crop a face from one picture and insert it into another to make everyone “looking happy.”
Now that Joey John has his own family to “make happy,” we didn’t have anyone interested in photo shopping.
Jacob has taken the baton of responsibility to take the pictures. He purchased his own delayed shutter button. But he likes to get the “real” picture. He has a natural gift of balancing the pictures so we aren't crowded, side-heavy or sticking out.

Since the boys have grown to be teenagers, and have noticed our picture displayed on various refrigerators, they are more picky about this family picture. We must find a good place, be attired properly, and smiling brightly. I thought this was impossible when they were younger, when only Joey and I had to decide the final picture. Now everyone must approve of “the one.”  Impossible!

We still take close to a hundred pictures by the time we’ve tried several locations, with different lighting, and different poses.

What rules do we use in taking pictures?
1. Aim for the feet. Include the feet and where we’re standing. (Not just blue sky.)
2. Show hands. Curve the fingers, in what we’ve learned as the “Reagan pose” for a natural look.
3. Try to achieve different heights. (Harder now that the boys are almost all one height, but I add my shortness.)
4. Never make them dress in flaky costumes, matching shirts, or girl’s colors. Usually my requirement is a collared shirt. But if we are going casual, we have what we have.
5. Sunshine, not at the camera, and not in our faces (so we’re not squinting).
6. We’ve come to the conclusion after multiple shootings and many years, there will never be a perfect picture where everyone is looking their best. Majority rules. And the youngest will always look like he does, regardless of what anyone says, so spare the angry words.

You'll notice, we don't always follow the rules. But what's new?

Throughout the year, we're on the lookout for a good place to take them. It’s becoming harder to get everyone together, so when we get the majority, we attempt another picture.

The boys anticipate it with great dread. The groans and complaints seem to outweigh the suffering of the experience. Maybe the pressure's too great. But then again, we’re cemented in time permanently, at least on someone’s refrigerator.

Thought you might enjoy the trials of this year’s attempts. Most only get to see the finished, final product, but here are the runner-ups. (There's always a hole when someone is missing. Joey John and his family, and Jonathan and his fiance' weren't here.) But many thanks to Jacob for carting his tripod and camera over all the Yosemite trails, even while sick, to accomplish these great "trials."

And happy shooting for your perfect family picture of the year.

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