It’s funny how when you watch a movie and see a location you get this preconceived idea of what it looks like in person. Earlier this year when I went to Chicago with my photo club, I wanted to see “The Bean”. I had seen it in several movies and so, of course, I had to see it in real life. From what I had seen in the movies, I expected “The Bean” to be in some plaza at the base of a tall building. I was surprised to find it in a city park and not right outside a skyscraper. Just goes to show you . . . . never believe what you see in the movies. 😉

Interestingly enough “The Bean” isn’t really a bean at all. It was inspired by liquid mercury and is officially titled “Cloud Gate”. The arch is 12 feet high, and I recommend walking under it and looking up. It’s quite the visual experience.

We were walking to Millennium Park when suddenly everyone around me stopped and started taking pictures of this fence. I couldn’t understand why at first . . . then I saw it. Can you see it? It was a very surreal visual moment.

On the left, you have my Bean selfie. 😉

This is what you see when you walk under The Bean and look up. Can you see me?

I had to take another selfie under the arch.


Taking my own advice from my Tips for Photographing Your Next Vacation blog post, I had to slow down and explore the area. While The Bean is the main exhibit of this part of the park, the skyline behind it is pretty fantastic too.

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My first impression of Gabi was the quite, seemingly shy lady who came to the pre-consultation. She talked about her art and wanting photo’s of herself with her drawing pad. At my prompting, she showed me the style of pictures she liked. I figured it would take me a bit of work to pull her out of her shyness during her photo session.

I was pleasantly surprised when during her session she opened up and this fun, spunky girl emerged. She would give me fun crazy poses and her boyfriend would do things behind the camera to get her smiling. Overall it was a fun afternoon with Gabi.

Gabi, I enjoyed working with you and loved seeing you open up and let your personality out. You are fun and spunky. I wish you all the best as you move into the next chapter of your life.

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It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon, perfect for a photo shoot. But in true Oregon fashion, it started raining 10 minutes before the session. Despite the rain, Portland did not disappoint as a backdrop for Destiny’s senior pictures.

I first met Destiny a few years ago while her mother and I were in grad school together. I enjoyed getting to know Destiny at our school functions and class events. In those couple years, I’ve watched her grow into a beautiful young woman with a lovely personality.

During her photo reveal Destiny paid me one of the best compliments. She said, “I never like pictures of myself, but I like these.” Destiny, thank you for letting me be a part of your senior year. I hope you always see yourself as beautiful as I do.

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I first met Gabi during her pre-consultation. I discovered during this meeting that she has the opportunity to graduate high school early. She struck me as not only smart but sweet and artistic as well.

Gabi wants to be a tattoo artist. As an artist, she felt tattoos would be a way to make a living while expressing her creativity. She did a job shadow at a tattoo parlor and while there watched a tattoo being done on a burn victim. This inspired her to help others through the art of tattoos.

Gabi also likes old rock music. When I asked her to clarify what she considered old, she said music from the 60s and 80s like the Beach Boys and Police. Sigh. I grew up with 80s music. It’s a sad day when the music from your childhood is considered “old”.

Gabi, I had an absolute blast taking your senior photos. You pose so naturally, have a beautiful unique style and were a dream to photograph. Thank you for letting me be a small part of your senior year. I wish you all the best as you move forward into the next adventure of life.

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When I was a kid around this time every year my mom would drag us all out for the annual Christmas card photo. And every year we’d end up fighting and grumpy. When I had my own family I would do the same thing, with the same results. Trying to take family photos with a grumpy family is no fun.

Eventually, I learned a few secrets for hassle-free family photos that don’t leave everyone fighting and annoyed.

1) Keep it short – My last family Christmas card photo took 30 minutes

This will require a little organization and preparation. You’ll want to know ahead of time where you are going. But don’t just pick out the location. Know where at that location you want to go. If I’m hired to do a photo shoot for a location I’ve never been I will go there a day or two before and scout the location. I want to know where the good backdrops are and where the light looks the best. Once you have not only the location but also the specific areas of that location you can move quickly to get the shots you want.

             These examples are from Jenny’s senior photo session in Rhododendron Gardens in Portland. It had been several years since I’d been there, I didn’t remember much of it, so I arrived early to scout the location. I found so many great locations my little photographers heart nearly burst with excitement. A charming pond, large grassy area, a bridge with so many possibilities and even *gasp* a waterfall!! I chose the locations I wanted to shoot and mapped out a loop through the 9-acre gardens that would allow us to efficiently use the location in the time allowed.

2) Don’t force it – This only makes people grumpier

In my various photography jobs over the years I’ve seen it time and again. The kid is tired, upset or just downright mad and the parents stand there, “come on smile”, “we’ll get ice cream if you’ll just stand here” or my favorite a threat of punishment if the child doesn’t smile. If you want good, relaxed and natural family photos you cannot force people into submission. You have to work with them.

This grandkids photo session was so much fun!! For this photo, the girls wanted to have everyone climb the tree. The young man had no interest in this venture. I’ll admit I was disappointed he didn’t want to climb the tree and his family tried to convince him. But I didn’t want to force him into something he obviously didn’t want to do. So instead I had him stand at the base of the tree and the expression on his face just makes this photo! Because I listened and didn’t push him I ended up with a better photo because his personality shines through giving this image a fun and comical quality.

3) Plan for a time when everyone is rested – Especially young kids

Several years ago I worked for a Santa at a local shopping mall. I spent Thanksgiving thru Christmas taking pictures of kids sitting on Santa’s lap. I saw it happen time and time again, kids tired from shopping or being out late unable to handle one more holiday thing. Then their parents would set them on a strangers lap and tell them to smile. Instead, the kid would have a meltdown. While it can make for some hilarious photos, most parents would get frustrated their child would not cooperate. When your kids are tired, it’s time to stop.

This sweet family hired me to take their family photos several years ago. Oh my, it’s hard to imagine how old these kids must be now. We wandered all over their little town, taking pictures and ended up in this field right around sunset. That’s about the time the little guy decided he was done. I was able to snap this photo and that was the end of the session. I think it’s a fun family photo that shows what having young kids is truly like. But it’s probably not one you’d want as a 20×30 canvas on your wall. 😉

4) Let everyone have input – Giving kids a voice keeps them involved and they are less likely to get bored

When I took my family out for our annual Christmas photo shoot, everyone would get a turn posing and taking the photo. Kids can come up with some really fun ideas. You never know what you’ll end up with when you hand over the control. Sometimes their ideas are better. 😉

This family was so much fun to photograph because they had so many great ideas. The tree image above and this jumping image were both their ideas. I find these images way more engaging than everyone lined up smiling for the camera. When people are involved in the process, they have more fun and thus more genuine smiles.

5) Give them something to do

Having something to do helps people to relax. When the camera comes out, people automatically tense up. So give them something to do with their hands or something to look at.

Several years ago I was visiting my friend in South Dakota, while there she asked me to take their family photos. We had a fun day running around the park taking pictures. We decided to take a break from the heat and take a couple photos in the shade of this tree. Their dog plopped down and they all turned to look at him, and I snapped the shot! This is one of my favorite images because it shows them connecting as a family with their dog.

My sister on occasion will ask me to take their family photos. With 3 boys and a dad who likes to goof off, they can be quite the challenge to photograph. This year I figured out the secret . . . . give them something to do. They had a lot of fun throwing leaves multiple times so I could get this shot.

6) Play together and have fun

             Sometimes we make photography to serious. Stand here, smile, and take the picture. We miss the connection and interaction we have as a family when we shoot this way. So loosen up, have some fun, and be silly. You’ll enjoy these pictures much more in the future, than the stiff and posed images.

Have I mentioned that taking photos of my sister’s family can be tough? I learned this lesson when we tried getting family photos on the football field. It was going ok until we brought in the football for a prop. With this football-crazed family that was the wrong thing to do. My photo shoot suddenly became a football game. But I got some fun shots of this athletic family. This one is one of my favorites from this session because my at the time, 1-year-old niece lined up to take on the whole family. It makes me giggle every time.

My friend wanted her family photos on the beach this year. While I was taking photo’s of one of the boys, mom and daughter started playing one of those clapping games. I swung my camera around to capture photos of them interacting. The game quickly dissolved into some silliness that resulted in mom grabbing her daughter to pull her in for a hug. I snagged this image. I love the connection and joy of this photo.

Family Photo’s don’t have to be the thing everyone dreads. Be silly, get everyone involved, but most of all have fun and enjoy your family.

Bonus tip!

7) Hire a professional – You knew I’d throw this one in 😉

This could probably be a blog post all its own. By letting a professional do all the heavy lifting, you can take a lot of stress off you and your family when it comes to getting family photos. In addition, a professional will bring years of experience, education, and knowledge to the photo shoot to ensure you get family images that you love.

Contact me today to book your family photo session! (shameless plug) 😉

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  • Dale Hardin

    Hi Teresa.

    Really liked this blog a lot. The content and lessons are superb and the message clear. I also like the “pin it” icon instead of the roll over effect. To these old eyes, I wish the text was a bit larger and darker but that is just me. Your audience will have no trouble at all.

    I am very, very impressed with the professional look of your work and it’s obvious you’ve given it a lot of thought and effort. So proud to see you doing so well and to be your friend.

    Lots of hugs,


    • TeresaHuntPhotography

      Thank you, Dale. 🙂ReplyCancel

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