Let’s face it, most families don’t have portraits done every year because just the idea of it seems daunting and overwhelming. Perhaps you’ve had a couple experiences in the past that weren’t exactly picture perfect? See what I did there? Photo pun! Moving on. Maybe baby was crying the whole time? Big sister didn’t want to smile? Baby brother wanted to play in the dirt and when you told him “absolutely not” he got grouchy? It happens. It’s called life. But there are some things you can do to help guide your experience toward a more pleasurable one. So without further ado, here are 8 tips for you to take into consideration before your next family photo session.

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1.  Choose your clothing carefully

Have your clothing chosen way in advance and make sure that your outfit choices are comfortable and attractive.  What do your dream family photos look like?  If they are soft and elegant?  Chose neutral colors with soft, flowing fabrics…. think creams, very soft pastels, oatmeals, light browns, tans, grays, and slate blues.  Want to showcase the fun and spunky side of your family?  Choose coordinating colors (but not matchy, matchy) with bold accent colors, such as hues of gray with yellow or bright red accents.  Adding fun accessories like scarves, headbands, hats, etc. can add a modern twist and sassy flair to your images.

2.  Be well rested and well fed

Be certain not to schedule your photo session around your child’s nap or bedtime.  The best time for lighting is the two hours before sunset and after sunrise.  If this is a bad time for your children, talk with your photographer.  Good photographers will be able to shoot at any time of day by utilizing areas of open shade that will give your skin a beautiful hue and put a sparkle in your eyes.  Don’t show up to a photo shoot on an empty stomach.  I meet many families who come to a photo session with dinner scheduled at the end.  If this is your plan, be sure to give everyone a healthy snack before the photo shoot.

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3.  Leave plenty of time to get ready.

Moms are often rushing around before a photo shoot, making sure that their family is dressed and ready.  I always encourage mothers to have their hair and makeup professionally done.  This will prepare mom for her pictures and when mom is feeling pretty and confident, this will reflect on the rest of the family as well.  Leave plenty of time for showers, baths, dressing, and grooming.  When a family shows up to a family photo session rushed and disorganized, it sets the tone for a rushed and disorganized session.  Give yourself extra time so that you are ready before it’s time to head out that door.

4.  Dads! Be cheerful participants.

Dads, please cheerfully participate.  I know that many dads dread the family photo session, but fathers, please understand how important capturing your family is.  These images will be left as a legacy, when your children are grown, with families of their own some day. Family photos are treasured forever and they are so important.  Please, please, dads… cheerfully participate in your family photo session.  Once you see your happy wife and amazing photographs, you will be so glad that you gave this time to your family.

5.  Cheese is for crackers.

Please, parents… leave the “cheese” at home.  Cheese is for crackers.  So many times I have found parents who stand behind the photographer and scream, “Say cheese to the lady kids!”  Yelling and demanding young children to look at the camera to smile will only stress your children out (not to mention the photographer) and will result in strained, unnatural and often unflattering photographs.  Step back, and allow the photographer to naturally interact and talk with your children.  This will result in natural, gorgeous smiles.  Help the photographer capture the true essence of your child’s personality by talking with and coaxing out those smiles naturally and easily.

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6.  Have fun with your family.

Don’t be afraid to pick up your children and toss them in the air.  Give your wife a sweet kiss on the check.  Tell your husband how much you love him and appreciate him for being there for your family.  Have fun.  Laugh. Giggle. Joke. Embrace.  Kiss.  Snuggle.  Play.  Doing these things will allow the photographer to capture the emotion and true beauty of your family.  Leave the stiff “cheese” faces for Aunt Marge at the next family reunion.  Show your photographer who you really are, so that she has the opportunity to capture your love through her lens.

7.  Bring an activity that you enjoy doing together as a family.

My most successful family sessions have incorporated an activity that the family loves to do together.  This gives you something to do with your hands and feet, engages the little ones, and brings an authentic smile to your face.  Do you love to read together?  Bring some books.  Is your favorite dessert ice cream?  Bring some ice cream bars or drumsticks to your session or better yet… hire an ice cream truck to come to your session.  Love to play board games or cards?  Plan to play a round of Uno or Monopoly during your family photo session.  Other ideas include: football, piggy back rides, races, bike riding, hiking, singing, picnics, the ideas are endless.  When families are engaged in doing something that they love together, the photographer will have the opportunity to take some beautiful and authentic photographs.

8.  NOT everyone has to be looking and smiling at the camera at the same time.

The best photographs are often the ones where everyone is engaged or interacting with each other.  Understand that not every picture needs to have everyone looking at the camera and smiling at the same time.  If you are engaged as a family and loving on each other, your eyes will be on your family members and your smile with be natural.  These are the photographs that you will cherish most because they depict your family connection and your love.

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You’ve already put so much thought into the details of your wedding — from your dress to your flowers to your vows — so don’t let the bar become an afterthought. Keep the beer and wine flowing, but when it comes to making a real “just married” statement, it’s all about the signature wedding cocktail. With clever names and seasonal flavors, these cocktail recipes might just be the personal touch you and your groom have been looking for.

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1. Watermelon Refresher: If you’re hosting summer nuptials, think about using seasonal fruit like watermelon in your cocktails. This recipe calls for a strawberry-watermelon combo, healthy splash of vodka and hints of basil, ginger and lime. (via Style Me Pretty)

2. Drink Tags: “If you liked it, then you shoulda put a tag on it,” said all smart DIY brides everywhere. Once you’ve made your signature drink, bottle it up and add festive “Just Married” tags that describe the drink of choice. (via Wedding Chicks)

3. Champagne and Fruit: Sometimes a signature drink is more about the garnishes than the booze, like in the case of this champagne cocktail with slices of soaked pears in glass and skewered blueberries on top. (via We Tie The Knots)

4. Margarita Madness: Throw the fiesta of all fiestas by making you and your grooms’ signature drink the ultimate in tequila-infused sippers — a margarita. We can’t think of one guest who could complain about that! (via Style Me Pretty)

5. Blueberry Mojito: If you’re not into blue shoes and jewelry for your “something blue” make it about your drink instead. This twist on a classic mojito is fruity from fresh blueberries and just as refreshing as the minty classic. (via A Crimson Kiss)

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6. His and Hers Drinks: Just because you got hitched doesn’t mean you suddenly adopted his passion for a good Scotch on the rocks. Make the bar just as much about you and your main man as the rest of the wedding with two go-to drinks, his and hers style! (via Wedding Chicks)

7. Personalized Glasses: Whatever you decide your signature drink is, like this berry-infused lemonade, serve it in a glass guests can take home. To make yours, have your calligrapher write names on each glass. (via Brieowmi Films)

8. St. Germain: Give this St. Germain cocktail, made with lime, white cranberry juice and vodka, the name it deserves — The White Wedding. (via Style Me Pretty)

9. Lavender Infusion: Getting married in the spring? Infuse your champagne with floral lavender by adding a sprig of the purple stuff to each flute. If those lavender sprigs match your bridesmaids’ dresses, bonus points. (Bridal Musings)

10. Champagne Mojitos: This is one of those two-in-one cocktails you’ve been dreaming about. The maid of honor and best man can now make their toasts to raised glasses of sparkling mojitos instead of boring ol’ champagne. And those cute umbrella-topped straws are just the best. (via Style Me Pretty)

11. Pineapple Rum Tea Punch: Southern belles, this one’s for you! Go punch bowl style at your wedding with this tropical concoction, served in pretty glass tea cups, of course. (via The Daily South)

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12. Mini Rum and Cokes: Rum and Coke might not be the most original of cocktails, but you and your groom can make it all yours by serving them up in mini glass Coke bottles. How sweet! (via The Knot)

13. The Menu: After you’ve decided on what drink is yours and what goes to your groom, make a fun menu to stand at the bar. This way guests can choose sides. (via Buzzfeed)

14. Black and White Martini: Throwing an elegant affair? Go all black and white with your drinks by serving martinis straight up with black olive stirrers. (via Merriment Events)

15. Rhubarb Raspberry Fizz: Feeling fruity? This pretty pink cocktail will have your guests double fisting. It’s loaded with fresh rhubarb, raspberries and vanilla bean. (via Golubka Kitchen)

16. Grapefruit Mimosas: This one’s for those daytime weddings — or for a bride who really likes her brunch drinks! Instead of orange juice though, use grapefruit juice and make those mimosas pink. (via Jelly Toast Blog)

17. Sparkly Stirrers: Give your drinks some flair by adding pom-pom topped stirrers to your glasses. Just think how cute all those sparkly raised glasses will look come toast time. (via Style Me Pretty)

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18. Pineapple Peach Vodka: How about a custom drink they can drink at the party or on the go? Pour fruit-infused vodka into airplane bottles (or go larger!) for an on-the-spot indulgence or a party favor. And don’t forget the cute labels. (via Burnett’s Boards)

19. Blushing Kiss: This grapefruit gin martini has all the makings of a fun night — and judging by its name, it should be drank immediately following your first kiss as husband and wife. (via Bakers Royal)

20. Lavender French 75: Your guests have probably tried a French 75. Light and refreshing, it’s made with gin, lemon and champagne, but they probably haven’t had one infused with lavender. In honor of your “something new,” introduce them to this fantastic drink. (via Love and Lemons)

21. Pretty in Pink: This is the kind of drink that should be served at an outdoor summer wedding: Refreshing from the fresh lemon juice, bubbly from sparkling wine and booze-infused with gin, it’s a hands-down winner. (via Apartment 34)

22. Bathtub Gin: If you and your groom love all things old school and retro, you’ll love this nod to the prohibition era. Bottle up “bathtub gin” (just make yours by infusing gin with fruit) in mason jars. Then, throw it in a bathtub for guests to grab from. (via Wedding Chicks)

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23. Strawberry Cachaca: This drink is almost too pretty to sip! It’s mixed like a caipirinha with cane sugar, muddled strawberries and cachaca, a liquor similar to rum, made from sugar cane. (via Wedding Chicks)

24. Elderflower White Cosmopolitan: We’re fans of anything that adds flowers to the mix. Put them in a cosmo, and you’ll find us at the bar all night! (via Brides)

25. Orange-Gin-a Cocktail: This citrus and gin cocktail is infused with rosemary, making it the ultimate in balanced flavors and an elegant addition to your wedding’s bar. (via Ruffled)

26. Caribbean Mist: Consider this a cocktail for a destination wedding, inspired by the crystal blue oceans of whatever beach you and your man decided to escape to. And if you’re having a homegrown wedding, you can serve this as your something blue or in honor of your honeymoon. (via Something Turquoise)

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Already have a drink of choice? Tell me what signature cocktail you and your groom are serving at your wedding in the comments below or on FaceBook!

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Wedding Escort cards that star your gorgeous guests are a fun alternative to the traditional small card with name and table number. Check out these creative takes on this fun, photo escort card idea.

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Now that you’ve exchanged vows, it’s time to party! Guests will be making a beeline for the bar but they’ll also be looking for their reception seats. The escort card—typically a small card printed with their name and table assignment—is their guide to get there.

These days, though, couples are coming up with crazy-creative ways to direct guests to their seats. One of our favorite escort card ideas? Repurposing a photo of each guest as the escort card itself. Start by collecting pictures of every guest (labor-intensive, yes, but you could start with Facebook and use everyone’s profile pictures). Next, print them out with their name and table number. Then, display them at cocktail hour in a fun and unique way. All your guests will get a kick out of seeing their mugs up on display!

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I love this clever idea! Ask guests to replace their escort card with a photo. Here, the couple strung traditional calligraphed escort cards onto twine with clothespins. Then, they set up a station with Instax instant cameras so guests could snap their photo and replace their escort card with the picture (for the couple to keep). Such a fun way to repurpose an escort-card display!

Or, for something a bit simpler, print out photos of your guests to resemble Polaroids, along with their names and table number. Cut them out so that they are tented and able to stand on their own, then arrange the photos in alphabetic order by first or last name.

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Turn a simple framed chalkboard into a creative escort-card display by attaching lengths of twine to create rows. Use miniature clothespins to affix photos of your guests with their seating information, then finish the display off with a fresh garland of greens.

Source: http://www.brides.com/gallery/escort-cards-that-use-guest-photos

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If you’re the soon-to-be-wed couple who can’t say “I do” without a little java running through your veins, then your registry is the perfect place to begin setting up your new coffee bar. I probably don’t have to tell you what coffee to buy, or if you need cream and sugar, but I can suggest to you what a few products I personally need to brew the freshest — and best — cup o’ Joe at home. Check out these registry gifts for coffee lovers.

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A Coffee Maker
Let’s start with the basics: The drip coffee maker. Not only does Cuisinart’s Coffee Maker brew at exactly the right temperature to create the perfect cup, it also can be programmed to start percolating when your alarm goes off. You’ve got the option to brew 2 to 14 cups of coffee (we’re a long way from your parent’s one-option coffee maker!) and an insulated carafe that keeps your coffee hot if you forgot about it — oh did we mention the freshness timer? It lets you know just how long that coffee’s been sitting there. Basically, it’s got you covered if you want the precision of hand-crafted coffee with the ease of ordering at your favorite local coffee shop. (Cuisinart 14-Cup Perfectemp Programmable Coffee Maker in White, $99.95)

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A Coffee Grinder
As any coffee snob will admit, we know you don’t like anything but freshly ground beans. That’s why your registry should include a coffee grinder. OXO’s Conical Burr Grinder will produce consistent grounds every time, and includes a built-in scale that measures your grounds in cups or grams to take the guesswork out of the process; or, you can grind manually without the scale if you prefer. It’s also designed to minimize mess while grinding, so you won’t have to clean up ground coffee dust when you should be enjoying your brew. (OXO Barista Brain Conical Burr Grinder with Integrated Scale, $199.99)

A French Press
This is a registry item you may want to have two of — one for home, and one for the office. This classic French press coffee maker combines flair, style and sophistication, while bringing the full, fresh flavor of café culture into the comfort of your own home! This means your brew will be protected and insulated — plus, you get a crystal-clear view of the coffee brewing process. With a 34-ounce capacity it’s the perfect maker to use for breakfast in bed (hint hint: think about this for your first anniversary!) or at work. One batch in this press could get you through even the toughest day. (Bodum Copper French Press, $50)

A Cold Brew Coffee Maker
Did you and your fiancé jump on the cold brew trend this year? Save yourself those daily trips (and that daily expense) to the coffee shop and make it at home instead — it’s a lot easier than you think with the proper cold brew coffee maker. After steeping grounds in OXO’s cold brew maker for 24 hours, you’ll brew up a concentrate (the maker filters out the grounds so you won’t end up with the “sludge” at home techniques can often produce) that will provide cold brew coffee for a week at a time. Yes, your wallet will actually thank you. (OXO Cold Brew Coffee Maker, $49.99)

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An Airtight Canister
Great coffee starts with great beans, and you’ll want to keep yours fresh and safe in a sealed container until they’re ready for the grinder. Accented with an eye-catching copper-plated top, this set of glass storage jars comes in three sizes—17, 34 and 64 ounces—to provide attractive countertop storage. And because the containers are stackable and easy to store, you should register for more than one if you’re the type of couple who likes a variety — French roast, espresso, and decaf anyone? — on hand. (Bodum Chambord Classic Copper Storage Jars Set of Three, $54.95)

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The larger families grow, the more difficult it is to get everyone together for family portraits. Thankfully, this second of two families I’m featuring made good use of their holiday time together and scheduled family portraits!

The second lovely bunch I had the privilege of serving over the holidays was the Mtenga family. Look at their beautifully coordinated outfits! Just gorgeous! And their super fun, laid-back personalities made for truly wonderful family portraits that captured their personalities.

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Can we please look at Dad in the top left photo? Look at him tipping his hat! What swagger he has! He was such a gentleman, always being funny, making jokes and keeping the session light-hearted. Mom looked utterly sophisticated with her ruffle-neck dress in the bold red print. Moniaishi, in the blue cardigan, reached out to me via a mutual friend of ours (thanks Portia!) and did a wonderful job coordinating everyone’s tight holiday schedules as well as their wardrobes!

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I adore the Bloxham Annex next to Cascades Park. It’s white walls everywhere! I feel like my mind is a catalog of white walls and open spaces. Give me all that natural light! The abandoned buildings of the Bloxham Annex lend themselves beautifully to timeless, simple, clean family portraits. I lucked out yet again, because this family naturally knew where to stand and how to arrange themselves. Clients like these spoil me! And for that, I’m ever so thankful.

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The red blooms and moss swaying in the wind made for perfect Tallahassee embellishments so we made sure to take full advantage of them in everyone’s individual portraits.

The Mtenga’s are humble, kind and truly a joy to serve. When I dropped off their “thank-you” gift a few weeks later they invited me to sit in their home with them to just chat awhile. They had a family friend visiting from Africa who extended an invitation to me in hopes that I’ll visit them there. And I whole-heartedly agreed. I truly hope to see their beautiful continent one day.

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