As I mentioned in my first post, I am an ingrained amateur photographer. When I post about photography any tips I give will be fairly basic.  They'll be based on what I have read and experienced.  
It's somewhat odd that my first post would be about the family portrait.  Whenever we are on vacation or having a family gathering, I groan to myself just thinking about trying to get the kids to look at the camera and smile.  The picture below sums up what a lot of us experience-not just the person taking the picture.  I was getting the camera and tripod set up this past summer at the beach and snapped this picture of my family.  They look real excited about the process don't they?
I eventually took a better portrait, even though it had me in it.  Here are some things I have learned while trying to take the dreaded, I mean blessed, family portrait over the years.
-The magic "say______" trick doesn't really work.   Fill in your favorite: "cheese", "pizza", "Canada", "Canadian-cheese pizza", "root canal", "tax-deductible IRA contribution", whatever we fill in the blank with just makes our kids shout a word while raising their eyebrows.  Skip it and let them be at ease, while hopefully giving you a nice smile.
-Take the silly picture first. It's normal to want to get the hard part over first, and then let them goof around-stick their tongues out, strangle their siblings, etc. after you have tried to get the "serious" picture. But if you let your kids (and adults) goof off first, then they tend to relax. Once they calm down, start firing away, (with your camera, that is), they will most likely have a more natural smile and hopefully be in a better mood.
I took this shot of my three after they had goofed around some and it's one of my family favorites:
-The point of the picture is to remember.  This is a hard one to recall in the heat of the picture-taking moment.  We're always wanting a perfect smile, perfect hair placement (well, for some of us), open eyes looking at the camera, and good posture.  But, often these pictures are simply marking that you were at a certain place, at a certain time, with a group of people.  So, relax!  And when you look back on your old pictures, don't you normally have a chuckle looking at a funny expression or closed eyes anyway?
Are your vacations or family gatherings "perfect"? Why should your pictures be?

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