I can’t believe that it’s taken me so long to share this session on here, because it may be my favorite extended family session ever!
Extended family sessions are such a sweet way to gather everyone together in one place, to celebrate the generations that have shaped who we are and to draw close to the people who define family for us. But it’s often no small task to get everyone all together in one place and once you finally do, it can be tempting to default to a stiff everyone-looking-at-the-camera pose as you hope that no one blinks! So when Angela approached me with the idea of gathering her family around a campfire with s’mores for their session, I answered with a resounding, “YES!” because that sounded exactly like the kind of relaxed environment that can bring out those sweet, candid family moments.
And you guys, it was every bit as fun as it sounds! We gathered at the edge of the woods on one of those crisp November afternoons when the gray skies draw out all the richness of autumn’s yellows and browns. We walked together down a wooded path carpeted with leaves and I took some time to photograph each couple, as well as Angela and her dad and the two brothers with their father. And then everyone gathered around a fire to toast marshmallows, wrap their hands around mugs of coffee and hot cocoa, and laugh together. Having something fun to do together really helped everyone relax and have fun, even as they created photos they could treasure for years to come. And Angela did such a great job of coordinating everything and preparing a spread of tasty treats!
I felt especially privileged to photograph Angela’s grandparents because they had never had professional photos taken together. As we walked in the woods, they shared that they’d met at a dance (many years ago, back when dances were more common!) and they happily obliged when I asked if they’d mind dancing a little as I snapped some pictures.
Have you considered setting up an extended family session but feel intimidated by the process of coordinating everyone? Here are some tips for creating an extended family session that is fun for everyone and captures the heart of your unique family:
1) Choose a location that feels meaningful to your family. Maybe it’s the house where your grandparents have lived for more than fifty years or the farm that has been in the family for generations. Maybe it’s a vacation place you visit every year that echoes with memories from your childhood. Or maybe it’s as simple as a favorite park where you like to picnic. But picking a familiar place that you love can go a long way in helping everyone relax and enjoy the moment together.
2) Bring treats to eat or drink. Seriously! I can’t recommend this enough! It helps kids relax and smile, but sometimes it helps adults have fun, too! You can choose something meaningful, like your grandma’s famous chocolate chip cookies or just pick something fun like popsicles or cotton candy.
3) Don’t worry about matching outfits. It can be stressful to think about coordinating outfits for 10-20 people (though did you know that I send my clients a little “What to Wear” guide to help take some of the stress out of that?) and it may be tempting to default to having everyone wear the same thing, but your photos will be so much more interesting (and authentic!) if you let everyone’s personality shine forth a little. Try choosing three or four coordinating colors and then let people personalize things with their accessories.
4) Do something fun together. A fire and s’mores are a great idea, but there are so many other options, too! Think about what your family loves to do together. Maybe you love to take long walks together or always bring out the same board game at family gatherings. Maybe your family gets fiercely competitive at badminton or has a unique family cheer. Maybe you love to pull out old family stories and listen to the family elders share stories from their younger years. Whatever it is that you love to do together, whatever reminds you that you are part of a larger family, find a way to incorporate that into your session!
5) Print those photos! In this digital age, it’s so easy to let photos sit forgotten on hard drives, but it is so valuable to hang these photos on your wall or print them in albums so you can enjoy them together now and treasure them even more later when those people are gone. Incorporating these photos into your home and daily lives serves as a reminder of who you are and the things that deeply matter in your life.
Are you dreaming of your own extended family session? Send me a message and we can chat about ways to authentically capture your family in this season!