Not As Easy As It May Look

Every time a new catalog comes out, people comment on our family photo. I appreciate those comments, because nothing means more to me than my family.

That family photo is a wonderful family memento, but it doesn’t come without a lot of work and effort. Anyone who has tried to put together a group photo with more than a dozen or so people knows that. We shot our annual family photo this weekend, and I thought I’d give you a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes!

The timeline this year—and pretty much every year—went something like this:

January 12 (the Monday we got back from Leadership): Shelli and Shalae left at 11 in the morning and got back at 9 at night, spending the entire day determining colors and purchasing clothing. (I cover the top half, and they’re responsible for taking care of the bottom half, based on the colors that we’ve chosen.)

January 13-last week: Clothes are tried on and returned or exchanged; stewed over, mulled over, and discussed—it’s quite a process, especially when you’re a perfectionist and color freak like me (and Shalae).

February 13: Everyone comes into town. The girls have hair appointments. Everyone eats a good dinner and gets to bed early. (At least the kids!)

February 14: Family photo shoot day! We wake up happy (or at least pretend to be), and the parents smile and act as calm as possible. By 9 a.m., the photo crew (pictured here) and Shelli and Sterling arrive at the studio to start makeup and other preparations.

The girls and their families stagger arrival times, depending on the age and how well behaved the children are. We have two makeup artists on hand (pictured below) to do the girls; the boys put up with powder.

By 10:30 a.m., we are starting to place people, shooting starts at 11 a.m., and we’re done by 11:30 a.m.

We’ve learned by experience that a half hour window is about all we can get from our young grandchildren, and so we’ve got it down to a science! Our photographer takes dozens and dozens of shots in that short 30 minutes, and we can almost always find one or two that most of us look good in. Then, through the marvels of PhotoShop, he often substitutes a head shot or two for those who may have been blinking or grimacing or just not paying attention. It amazes me what he can accomplish on his computer!

Our photographer and his wife have worked with us for years. They do a lot of the photography for our publications, but they don’t normally do family portraits. However, their studio is large enough for all of us, and we’re glad they make this exception. They have everything ready so it happens fairly quickly and painlessly—considering that we’ve got 10 adults and 13 children! (We missed Shanna this year—it’s the first time we haven’t had everyone for the photo. I’m already looking forward to next year when she’s back!)

I’m always a nervous wreck, worrying about things that might go wrong. The studio is full of hundreds of props, and I’ve always been panicked that, with kids running around, something would break. It never has though—until this year! All I’ll say is that little boys and balls are great outside but not inside with glass tables and vases!

We used to go out for lunch after it was all over, but we’ve gotten large enough that now everyone heads back to our house, and Sterling and I pick up lunch somewhere and bring it home. Then we get to just relax and spend a fabulous weekend together! And that’s what we did! It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it for the wonderful family picture—and weekend of memories!