Almost every family at this time of year, tries to take a photo suitable for their holiday card. Some opt to take these photos themselves and others try to pawn off that responsibility to a professional, who will surely do better than an automatic timer.

Some of those professional family shoots go well and some of them go terribly, but for the large majority of people, it goes somewhere in between. There are the rare moments where everyone is on board, there are the moments with you are just praying the kids stand still, and there are the moments where everyone’s smiles fade and their minds clearly drift to far off places that are ANYWHERE BUT AT THIS GODDAMN SHOOT.

In the past, I’ve always advocated for people to use their worst takes for their holiday cards. It takes the pressure off your photo shoot and I believe these cards are way more appreciated by the recipients than the Stepford Family shot. That’s what I think I have in the photo up top — my Stepford Family shot. We all look decent and we’re looking at camera, but I won’t be using that photo for my holiday card. It’s way too formal and does not represent who we are, or really how anyone behaved on that shoot.

In addition to the lovely family photo I ended up using for our holiday cards, I thought it would be a great service to share all the photos that led up to the winning shot. Here is the entire output of our half hour photo shoot. Blogger families. They are just like yours! (Maybe worse.)

This is Mike and I literally trying to hold the kids in place. Witness the clenched smiles.


Then the photographer suggested tickling the girls to get them to smile.


That didn’t work.


Then the kids wanted us to pick them up. Here is Harlow’s hair curtain in full effect.


Here is my hair curtain in full effect.


Then the photographer suggested we sit on the floor and instructed everyone to smile. Here is Mazzy smiling like she just main lined pink lemonade.


I’m not sure who gave Harlow the chapstick.


But it became the focal point of this otherwise great photo.


Then the photographer suggested that we take some pics of the girls alone. Mazzy immediately adopted our tickling trick and no one would stay still.


The photographer suggested some seasonal props to distract the girls from attacking each other.


After .02 seconds, Mazzy decided she was not interested in holding seasonal props and wanted to ditch the pouf for a stool.


Then Harlow got upset that she didn’t have a stool too and we had to drag one out for her as well.


This series of photos is actually adorable, so I guess my kids know what they are doing. Clearly, it worked in our favor that the girls couldn’t really move on the stools without risking falling off.





Then Mazzy had to go to the bathroom.


And Harlow got camera shy when she realized she was out there on her own.


The photographer gave her some blocks to play with.


Then Mazzy came back and was like— I want to play with blocks too!


Then Mazzy attacked Harlow with hugs.


And Harlow was like— GET OFF ME, MAZZY! (You can’t see the screams in the picture, but trust me they were there.)


Then it all went to a very bad place really quickly. The photographer didn’t send over any pics of Harlow’s meltdown but I know it happened because I captured it on my own.


Mike gave me a look that said— it’s time to end this shoot and go home. I pretended that I didn’t see it. I wasn’t sure we got a good shot of our family all together, and we still had a few more minutes in our photo shoot that I was not about to waste! I suggested we take a few more family pics with a different background. Look at me trying to smile enough for everybody involved.


Mike was clearly exhausted.


Mazzy was despondent.


Harlow was trying to touch her tongue to her nose.


Then the kids escaped.


Who taught them about bunny ears, I have no idea.


I thought— if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.


And then we finally got the shot.


After a little retouching, so you can’t see Harlow’s underwear…here’s our holiday card! It is the first time I am using a pic of the whole family as opposed to just the kids.


Longest half hour ever.

Thanks to CJ Isaac for getting the shot!