Family photos are the worst. Okay, that’s not an entirely fair statement. The actual photos are fine, and can even serve as a fun source of memories and nostalgia for years to come. The process of taking a family photo, however, is truly a living nightmare filled with matching outfits, weird locations, and forced smiles. And while it tends to be one of the kids, sometimes it’s the dad whose smile more awkward than a Skywalker family reunion. Is a family photo shoot ever going to be the most fun part of a dad’s day? Probably not, but there has to be a way to make it at least tolerable, right?
Fatherly wanted to find out, so we talked to three professional family photographers, Amy Gray, Jenny Grimm, and Bentley Waters, who shared their best tips and secrets for making the process of taking a photo bearable for the whole family.
Embrace the Awkward
Posing for photos can be extremely awkward for both kids and adults, and dads especially are aware of how silly the whole experience is. But instead of trying to ignore the awkwardness, Waters says the best way to overcome it by is acknowledging it: “People tend to tense up when the camera comes out. The key to getting past that is acknowledging the awkwardness. Laugh at how cheesy and uncomfortable this can be.” There’s no getting around the fact that standing in matching sweaterss is pretty damn weird, but if your family can laugh about it that can lead to a prime candid photo opportunity.
There’s no getting around the fact that the photo process is kind of absurd and extremely uncomfortable, but by embracing that whole thing is a little bit stupid, it can suddenly become fun and everyone can relax. Grimm suggests purposefully taking some bad photos (she calls them the “grandma shots”) to start, as it can release some of the initial nerves.
Happy Kids Make a Happy Dad
Even if you’re fully relaxed and have shaken off all his nerves, you’re still probably never going to be stoked that you’re spending your Sunday afternoon at a park in an outfit you’ll never wear again. “I’ve never met a dad who’s excited about getting their picture taken. Including my husband,” says Grimm. But there is a secret, easy way to trick any disinterested dad into having a good time: make the kid happy, and the dad will follow suit.
Amy Gray says getting a dad to play with his kids is pretty much guaranteed to make him happy, stating, “Dads with their kids are pretty easy because I just ask them to twirl the child around.” As a dad, you’re in your element when you can take the focus off yourself and instead place it squarely on your kid, and this is even truer during photo time. It can be easy to overthink and be stuck making a stupid face in front of the camera, but getting out of your own head by seeing your kid having a good old time is a surefire way to create a natural smile instead of a cringe-worthy grin that looks like your life is being threatened by the photographer.
Dads Just Want to Have Fun
This one is obvious but essential: don’t treat the entire thing like a goddam chore. At least try having fun, and maybe you can trick your mind and eventually start actually having a good time. It sounds dumb, but it’s better than being a miserable mope the entire time who then upsets the rest of the family with your inability to produce anything resembling a smile.
Amy Gray says that without everyone willing to have some fun, a photo is never going to turn out well: “This is not about capturing what-you-want-to-look-like. This is about capturing who you really are.” So even if you would rather be anywhere else in the world, suck it up and make the best of the situation. Sure, today might suck, but in 20 years you are going to be glad you have some decent photos of your family.