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The traditional Christmas family portrait – behind the scenes

The traditional Christmas family portrait

Last Christmas I had a great and very simple idea: I was going to take a Christmassy family photograph with my husband, son and baby daughter. Simple, effective, elegant and a little bit cheesy. I could picture the whole idea in my head, sending this memorable moment to my family and friends, all of us smiling, shamelessly showing off the perfect family and celebrating the season.

How wonderfully naive I was.

So the first lesson in taking the family photograph? The finished result will never be as beautiful as it is in your head. I’m an idealist, thinking that my husband will be responsible enough to not pull a sarcastic face, or my son will not sneeze at the most inopportune of times.

So behold my top tips, not to get a great family photograph, but to avoid total disaster.


Get yourself two nice outfits, because you’ll definitely get projectile baby vomit down the first one. Increase the above number based on just how immature each family member can be.

Then put makeup on everything. With a heavy hand. That flash will reveal just how stressful the Christmas season can be. I discovered circles miles underneath where my eyes stopped. I looked like I was mid-seizure. And look, I’m not going to stereotype. My husband needed a few touch ups, too.


Easier said than done. But if you can have five minutes to yourself before the shoot, do it. Take a breather. Collect together every ounce of patience, love, flexibility and efficiency you have. You might need them all. Tell yourself: I love my family just the way they are. If my son accidentally headbutts my husband in the groin while my daughter pulls a face that is most definitely her soiling herself, then at least I’ve captured the truth. The cold hard truth, sure, but there’s beauty in that. I think.

A glass of wine and a deep breath definitely helps.


My daughter, Heidi, was never going to take the best photo at 4pm on a Saturday. She had just been fed and the sleepiness was kicking in. That was key grumpy time. My son wasn’t going to play ball straight after school. While my kids were all good and ready first thing in the morning, it took two gentle nudges, two screams, a row and a verbal push to get my husband into the shower. After that neither of us were firing on all cylinders. Take note of when they are all in a great mood so you can capture them at their best.


Pick a photographer that you entirely trust, and you can give complete control to. Someone who is plugged into the latest technology and not prone to shaking (sorry, Grandad). Ideally your photographer will let you unload your thoughts onto them before the shoot. They should take millions of photos. Millions. Don’t ask your partner’s best friend, they’ll just make each other not take it seriously at all. Provide biscuits. Everyone works better with biscuits.


Look, no one said blackmail. Nor is it a threat. It’s just that, if everyone behaves nicely, there will be a treat in store. Perhaps be vague with expectations. Your idea of a treat, your partner’s idea and your kids’ ideas are all quite different. Let them imagine the best. There’s nothing wrong with optimism, and it might just pay off.

And remember, the surprise comes after the photograph. You don’t give ice cream before the peas. Especially when the ice cream spreads across their face and drips down their very pretty and surprisingly expensive new dress, moments before the photoshoot started.


Look, it’s not going be perfect, but wouldn’t it be boring if everything was perfect? You might end up with the most horrible, badly lit, grimacing, awkward photo in the history of the world. But hey, it’s your family. And they’re the greatest, right?

At least it’ll make you laugh.

We did manage to finally get a photograph. It’s too dark, Heidi isn’t looking at the camera, Axel is cringing, my husband looks bored and my smile is painfully forced. As you can imagine, we didn’t share it with the world but we did print it out for ourselves. I framed our family photograph alongside four beautiful portraits of the kids using the family photomontage DIY kit from Mum-Made. Axel and Heidi helped me and we spent a great afternoon crafting all together.

Although it’s not the perfect photo I’d hoped it would be, we all love it and it has become part of Heidi’s bedtime routine as she points to each family member in the photo and wishes them goodnight. Despite all the drama, I’d say it was definitely worth it.

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