The Worst Photoshoot Ever

This is a blog about why you shouldn’t do self-portraits or in my case, self-family-portraits!  Hire a photographer, People!  (I’m talking to myself.)

It’s hard to do that when you are a photographer.  I’ve had a few photographers ask if I wanted to trade family shoots — photographers I’ve never met, but whom follow my blog (Hi, Guys!) — but I’ve always said no.  I am definitely one who feels comfortable only on one side of the camera:  the back!

Not surprisingly, I’ve taken our family portraits every year for our holiday cards.  I bring my trusty tripod, a wireless shutter remote, and something to get the attention of my kids, like a DVD player or this time, Blue (the dog from Blues Clues).  Unlike doing a shoot for my clients, I only wanted one shot.  Just one.  (For client shoots, my goal is to get 50-80 great, framable shots!)

Doing a self-family-portrait was a last minute idea because I had a photoshoot cancellation from my client being suddenly sick.  Since this was my first morning off in months, I thought what better than to use the precious morning light for a photo of my own family?!!

The hour went by like this:  bad to worse to miserable.  It was the worst photoshoot I’ve ever had!

I figured, I can’t use these photos for my holiday cards, so why not blog about them.  That way, the shots won’t be a complete waste.  They can be used as a source of entertainment!


Problem #1:  A Stationery Camera

With a photographer behind the camera, the camera could move to where you need it to be.  Instead, I had my toddler monkey running up to the camera and touching the lens!

That’s me on the left.  Yea, you see me smiling on the outside, but inside, I am crying!  😉


Problem #2:  No One To Control The Subjects

Hiring a photographer isn’t just about having someone who knows how to take a nice photo.  It’s also about managing your subjects… coming up with ideas, getting the attention of the subjects, and sculpting your photo by talking to your subjects and moving the camera to the right light, composition and perspective.


This next photo has two obvious problems…

Problem #3:  The Ambiguous Focal Point

No one knows where the focal point is since there is no one behind the camera! The result is a nice, blurry photo of us.

Problem #4:  Who’s In The Frame?

Apparently, another family is, but we didn’t know since no one was facing that direction!

(And hey, is my husband making a chipmunk-smile?  I’m contemplating if that should be Problem #5!  Tee hee.)



Here are a couple wide angle shots that just crack me up!

My, That’s a Big Finger You Have!


And I am appropriately calling this photo…

That Kid Must Be VERY Smart With THAT Size Noggin!


FYI, the distortion was intentional.  Ian was standing there and checking out his prized branch, while I was getting my camera tripod set up, so I played around with my wide angle lens until I got the distortion I wanted.  The more distortion, the better!  🙂

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  1. Lawrence

    as for problem #5, it’s not a problem, it’s my natural smile. well, at least the one you’ll see in all my pictures from now on! i think i look stunning. oh and thanks for telling me to wear a green shirt and black pants so that I’m in full camo gear.

  2. Ah, silly man. You crack me up! You know it’s that chipmunk smile that won me over! 😉

  3. Ramon and Kathy

    This was hilarious.

  4. amy nguyen (san carlos)

    i still love the shots!! you’ve got a beautiful family, annie…and what a gorgeous setting!! and heehee — i love that on prob #2 shot, you can see melia’s little hands on daddy’s shoulders! too cute!

  5. Amy, how’d you catch that? Yea, those are Melia’s hands!

    The shoot was a nightmare. I was also taking the kids out on a COLD morning when they were still sick, too. So that probably didn’t help. <:)

  6. I don’t often laugh out loud while cruising web in the morning, well done. This post had some great information and I was wondering if you could talk a bit more about #2 controlling the subjects. I find that I put people at ease, but I can’t prevent myself from being their focus- and sometimes it shows in the photos.

  7. susan blatchford

    That was so much fun Annie! I giggled at every shot. Good to know that even the best photographer’s deal with the same issues as the rest of us. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Thanks for your question, fellow photographer Anneliese!

    Controlling your subjects is where there can be a huge difference between photographers. It’s not just about artistic talent or knowing how to use your camera when you’re talking about shooting people (and animals). It sounds like you’ve mastered an important part of portrait photography already: making people feel at ease! That is soooo important! No matter how great of a photographer you are, if you don’t put people at ease, it will be difficult to get natural-looking shots.

    To make group shots look natural, I give my subjects a little direction. I never ask them to sit/stand and look at me. I will give kids something to do or I will play with them (if they aren’t doing this on their own already). If I can’t see their faces, I will do or say something to make them look up, like make a silly noise if the subjects are really young or point out something behind me if the subjects are older kids.

    Adults are probably the hardest to take natural-looking shots of because they tend to have the bad habit of putting on their rehearsed smile when there is a camera pointed at them. With adults, I tell them NOT to look at me or I’ll give them something to do. I’ll tell them only to look at me if I ask them to, which usually I don’t need to. That way, I will capture images of them interacting with each other, like looking at each other or laughing. I’d much rather capture the simple “moments” people have than posed, rehearsed smiles.

    One more thing: I will capture the group shots where everyone is looking at me especially if it’s around the holidays (October, November, December) because I know many people like having those kinds of shots for their holiday cards. But once I know I’ve captured that, I’ll focus on capturing the natural shots. You have to stay true to who you are as an artist, but photography is also a business, so you have to satisfy your clients’ needs as well.

    Happy shooting!


  9. Thanks for the advice, I’ll put it to good use. And keep up the blog- it rocks!

  10. Hi Annie! I stumbled on your blog today whilst googling ‘child sitting on couch outdoor photoshoot’, to see if I could get any ideas for an upcoming shoot, and your blog for some reason, turned up… Wait, actually, I think it might be because you have a picture of your daughter on a couch somewhere…?

    Anyway, I love, LOVE, LOVE, your work!! Brand new fan here, keep up the excellent work!



  11. Welcome to my blogsite, Monie! I’m so glad you “stumbled” upon me! 🙂

    I post a lot more on my Facebook page, so feel free to “like” it, so we can be connected. It’s a great way to ask questions or make comments.

    THANK YOU for your sweet comments, too! I really love hearing how my posts are helpful…or just fun to read! 🙂