My love/hate relationship with family portraits

I have a love/hate relationship with family portraits.

I love the outcome; everyone perfectly dressed, every hair in place, everyone smiling, and everyone hoping it won’t turn into an awkward family photo. 🙂

I hate the stress of it all; the waiting at the studio, the somewhat cheesy backgrounds, the pushy salespeople (no, I don’t need the 16×20 canvas oil painting thank you), the ‘kids’ factor (spitting up, cranky, crying, hungry, won’t smile, about to have a meltdown, etc.)

I guess I am somewhat of a control freak – and what stresses me out about family portraits is the lack of control I have over the other 3 people in my family. I start thinking about outfits and haircuts weeks in advance – but it’s the unknown that drives me bonkers!

This past weekend, we took our kids to get a famly portrait done – the first one with all four of us. I had a specific agenda in mind. I wanted:

  1. A family portrait
  2. A portrait of just Owen (for his 3 year old photos)
  3. A portrait of the 2 brothers together
  4. Naked baby photos of Luke (2 months old)

Seemed simple enough right?

The progression of this day is really split up into 4 acts:


The photo shoot was scheduled at 11 AM at JC Penney’s, but to properly prep for this day I awoke with Luke sometime early morning – well actually he woke me up, but whose counting, right? I promptly got my husband Paul up to help, then I went to take a shower and pray to the hair gods that I have a good hair day.

I had scheduled a haircut for Owen at 9:30 – we decided Paul should take him. So, I nervously agree – my control freak personality was emerging – I remind him a half a dozen times:

“Don’t let them cut it too short, and make sure she spikes it in the front, but not too much, and have her put the pomade in his hair, but not too stiff, and make sure they let him watch a movie on the DVD player, oh and I promised him he could have a lollipop……”

Thankfully I have a husband with the patience of a saint. He says he’s got it and takes Owen as I am still shouting reminders from the door.

Just me and Luke now. Hmmmm when do I get him dressed? I need to wait until the last possible minute in case he spits up or ‘does something’ in his diaper. Also, I am dressed now too so I feel like the worst mother in the world – I have 3 burp cloths on me and everytime he makes a sound – I hold him away from my body like a football just in case any bodily fluid comes out of him.

I know, I’ll feed him one more time! So I feed, burp and change him and now I’ll get him dressed. I put him in the cutest sweater vest and khakis. I tried putting newborn shoes on him but he screamed so I figured that was not a good idea.

Just then, Paul and Owen came home – success!! His hair was adorable but AAACK his mouth was blue from the lolliop. I quickly washed him off and got him dressed.  He looked so adorable in his blue polo and jeans. My hubby jumped in the shower and was dressed in under 5 minutes. Damn, it must be nice to be a man!


We arrive at JC Penney’s at 11 AM on the dot – I am super proud that we are all clean, pressed, hair in place, kids fed – Oh, did I mention we are potty training Owen?! Just one more thing to give me more grey hair! 🙂

We round the corner of Penney’s walking by all the wonderful toys that the merchandising department has put out right at 3 year old eye level (“Don’t touch that Owen, keep walking Owen, don’t touch!”) and as we get to the portrait studio – I say, “Oh, no, this is NOT good.”

The place was packed! Kids, babies, parents, grandparents, siblings – what a mess. Everyone trying to stay calm and clean in a packed little waiting area. Thank God they had a movie on for kids and crayons. Crayons seemed like a good idea, right?

After waiting almost an HOUR – I go up to the counter and ask how much longer is it going to be. Then I play the newborn card, “We have a 2 month old – is there anyway we can get in as soon as possible?” She asked me if I knew what kind of photos I wanted – so I clearly gave her my 4 requirements with the exact backgrounds I knew I wanted. Yeah, I’ve done this before. 🙂

Just then as I’m walking back to my husband and kids, I look at Owen’s shirt and say “WHAT is that??!” There was a nice big red crayon stain. I almost lost it. But thankfully I had a “back-up clothes bag” – so I ripped off his shirt and put on the back-up one.


So we go into the tiny photo room and there are two photographers. I try to take charge and say “family portrait first – that’s the top priority.” They arrange us a bunch of different ways and of course my adorable 3 year old doesn’t understand saying ‘cheese’ without scrunching his whole face. How do you explain to a 3 year old how to smile naturally? Luckily they got one that I liked.

Next up was Owen by himself. I had the brilliant idea of having him hold a ‘3’ for the photos. Yea, I think I got the last laugh here – he held that 3 in any position expect the correct one. Finally I said, ok let’s get this out of the picture. Eventually did get a bunch of cute ones that really reflected his personality.

Then it was time to get photos with both kids. It was at this point I realized we were definitely ‘on the clock’ because at that moment a 3rd photosgrapher came in who seemed very managerial and really seemed to know what she was doing. She took the camera and was snapping photos very authoritatively – while the other 2 looked on and fiddled with the computer that kept disconnecting her camera from the computer – lovely! Poor Luke was slumping over and Owen was trying to hold him up – we were all barking orders: “Hold him up Owen, no – don’t squeeze him, watch his head, look up here!” – poor kid was probably traumatized!

Last but not least was little “Lukey.” Time to strip him down to his birthday suit – he was not happy. He couldn’t have been hungry – he was stuffed like a turkey. He just was not a happy baby. At that moment all my stress bubbled up to the top like like a pot boiling over: “WHERE’S THE WIPES??” I barked at my poor husband. He told me, but I couldn’t find them, so I  start throwing everything out of the bag. I could practically hear the photographer thinking: “This lady has lost it!” I found the wipes, cleaned him up, held him and finally he calmed down. He still didn’t want to lay down so they put me in a black smock and I held him with my face out of the picture so they could get some good shots. By now I was sweating, make-up melting,  clothes wrinkled – what a sight!


And then we were done!! The whole thing took less than an hour but it felt like all day!

Now, the fun part. They make you stand at a kiosk with a salesperson to buy all your portraits. Thankfully my amazing husband offered to take the kids out of there so I could do the shopping. I knew exactly what I wanted but boy, those sales people are good! And how can you say ‘no’ to all those photos! Luckily I had some experience and I knew what they could do for me – so I think I ended up teaching the saleswoman a few things!  But, man is there the pressure of: DECIDE NOW what you want!!

$200 later and about 20 more grey hairs I was done! Just then I got a text from Paul that they were at Fresh Choice – which leads me to the all-important Act 4….

ACT 4: The Apology

So I stroll into Fresh Choice – Paul has Luke in the carrier sound asleep and Owen eating a plateful of food. I sheepishly slide into the booth, we smile at each other, he shakes his head and says, “Are you ok???” 🙂 I say, “Yes….. I’m sorry honey, I love you.” He just smirks at me. He knows me too well.


I thought I was done until I looked at the proofs again and succomed to the pressure of “needing” more photos. I just got off the phone and added a few more prints. It’s all worth it though right?

Now, how can I break it to Paul I want to do this again when Luke is 6 months old? 🙂


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6 Responses to My love/hate relationship with family portraits


    omg!!! i feel like i have my own family in yours. funny thing is, i think you save “uptight katie” for the fam, bc i sure don’t know her!!! super adorable photos, and WHEN DID OWEN TURN INTO SUCH A BIG, GROWN-UP boy??? cute, cute, cute!

  2. Tom Meriam says:

    Beautiful pics, Katie. Most parents don’t have the experience of doing the same thing for 100 real estate professionals. You’re a pro!

  3. Norma Carlson says:

    You are so right, I remember the stress of trying to take the kid’s to the mall for pictures. It was a nightmare. But even now, years later, I love all the pictures and can even recall some funny things that happened, before, during, and after! The pictures are adorable. I love the one of Owen and Luke.

  4. Carin says:

    Katie – you go girl! What a great blog and so very intertaining – I could truly visualize every step of the way….loved it!

  5. Paul Lance says:

    Ok I’m canceling the credit card. NO MORE PICTURES!!! LOL

  6. katielance says:

    @Cynthia – you are so funny! I guess I do save that for the fam – maybe I need to let her out more often LOL! And, yes Owen looks so grown up especially next to Luke!

    @Tom – Thank you! That is true… hadn’t thought of it that way!!

    @Norma – I’m glad I’m not the only one – it really is stressful! I will make sure you get a photo for your wall!

    @Carin – thank you so much for the compliments!! you made my day!

    @Paul (a.k.a. my awesome husband) – what can I say but I love you 🙂


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