Family Portrait 2012

By Kate Riley November 28, 2012

Last week our oldest was home from college for Thanksgiving so we set aside an hour to take the annual family picture.  We were so grateful to have perfect weather that day (hello gorgeous fall colors!) and a willing and talented photographer to assist.   Last year I just set up the tripod for our family Christmas photo, but this year we liked the idea of being outdoors together.

kate family photo

family collage 1

kids leaves

kids cute and silly

leaf throwing


We enlisted the help of my talented friend Heidi who takes amazing pictures as a hobby (but really she should go professional!) and she’s always teaching me something new about photography, sharing her tips, and turning me on to fab photography sites. 

I asked if she could meet us at our house and snap a few photos.  We looked around the neighborhood for a great backdrop and I saw this tree just up the hill from our house so that’s where we shot these.  The whole shoot took 20 minutes and we were done – I love how they turned out! 

A few tips for taking great outdoor family photos:

1)  Lighting.  Most professionals will tell you to snap the images during the “golden hour” or “sweet light” which is one hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset when the sun’s rays are not overhead but traveling sideways instead since the sun is low in the sky. 

2)  A Good Photographer.  If you don’t know a great photographer, then by all means hire one!  An hour spent on a session plus a CD of the captures to go with it is a great investment.  Pictures really are the best keepsakes!   Kids grow up fast so I say spend the bucks, you’ll never regret a great photography session.

3).  A Great Backdrop.  Think brick walls, pretty nature scenes like the beach or the woods, an old barn, anyplace that has some color and character. 

4)   Limit the Palette.  There’s no need to wear matching outfits, but it’s best to at least keep the palette limited. This year we went with gray and navy and that worked and everyone dressed in what they liked.  The exception is if you’re shooting in black and white and in those circumstances it doesn’t really matter if everyone is wearing something in a different color. 

5)  Act Naturally.  Hyper posed images can seem phony so it’s nice when you just snuggle up naturally or engage in antics that capture the family’s personality.  Just ask the photographer to keep snapping and you’ll end up with some great ones! 

Have you taken any great family pictures outdoors?  If so, share your tips! 




  1. Beautiful photos Kate and you are a beautiful family. Your you gets daughter looks a lot like you. Your friend is a fantastic photographer. I know you said she does it as a hobby. I wonder if she’d be available to hire to do our photos…..

    • Hi Allison, send me an email maybe we can convice her! Assuming you’re local!

  2. The photos are lovely, and those are great tips! But as a relatively new follower, the most surprising part was seeing that you have a college-age daughter – you guys look like you’re nearly the same age!

    • Ha! Jess, I should say my oldest stepdaughter but I’ve raised her since she was 3 so I consider her “mine” ! But yep, I’m plenty old enough to be her Mom, knockin’ on 40 next year!

  3. I agree with your advice. And your friend is GOOD! I see so many ‘staged’ photos on Pinterest for weddings and sometimes they look ‘odd’ because they are too staged. NOT real! Like those people will be embarrassed someday for seeing those photos and say ‘what was I thinking’?

    Love your happy family photos!

  4. Love these pics – I am so happy I found your blog!! Thank you very much for the inspiration.

  5. Spectacular shots!!!! And what a great looking family.
    20 minute picture shoots are really all I am ever going to go for.
    Last month a local photographer took pictures of our three young boys – I had won the session at a school benefit. This “childrens’ photographer” had zero patience for my boys (for all 20 minutes of the shoot), and her prices were outrageous – $79 for a 5×7 alone, and she would not sell me the CD. So, as much as the finished shots were amazing of my three non-stop monkeys, I took a pass….
    Instead, we took the boys back to the same farm, wearing the same clothes for the same crazy but quick photo session – but now I was the wanna-be photographer! And wouldn’t you know, the best shot was the first one I took. It is now our Christmas card and I am so proud.

    • Wow Christine, sorry you had such a bad experience! Good for you for going for it yourself, glad you ended up with a great shot!

  6. Gorgeous pictures!!! Love the deep blue against fall backdrop. Your oldest is a Kate Middleton look alike! So cute. :)

  7. Oh my goodness. Seeing those gorgeous photos has made me realise that I have been following you for over a year now! Where on earth did that go?

    I just wanted to say that some blogs in my inbox come and go and some I don’t get around to opening (as I’m too frantic with work) but I can never wait to read and devour yours. Thanks for the constant inspiration. I learnt how to relax and write more like I talk by reading than I did writing for a VERY big magazine here in the UK for 9 years!

    Keep up the amazing work. Looking forward to the next years


  8. Such a beautiful family! At first, I didn’t know which woman was you and which was your college-aged daughter! Are you sure you’re old enough to have a daughter that age?! You look like you’re 21! lol

  9. You are so tiny Kate..No wonder people think you are one of the kids..Great photos again this year..

  10. Love your photos, Kate! You and Matt have the most beautiful children. Great color choices for the outfits. I chose gray and dark red for the girls dresses this year, and I think they look nice. Love the shots of the kids throwing leaves. :)

  11. love these pics and i’m totally doing the blue theme for next year. I’m totally usually like the young lady on the right, getting caught with a wrinkly shirt or a bad hair day (her’s is fab) on family pictures day! :o(

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