Honest Opinion :: Family Holiday Photo Shoots are the Worst

I recall specifically looking forward to the day when I would have my own family and reason to send holiday photos. Before that point, it seemed silly to send a photo of just myself or even myself and my husband. The cuteness factor is obviously the baby or children in this hypothetical photo. If my family and friends wanted to see my face,  they could easily just go visit my profile on Facebook. I needed offspring to warrant a Christmas photo.  I admired from afar the families who took their annual photoshoot with precious smiles, handholds, and greenery. If only I knew what I know now.

Because in a nutshell, this is a special kind of torture.

It has always been a challenge since my child’s birth, such as making sure we have outfits in hand that compliment each other. Getting ready on time with a baby is a daily struggle, and having the added pressure of everyone looking their best at a very specific time and respecting nap schedules is a whole different beast.

Enter the toddler years.

You need to plan for at least two meltdowns during the process. This year, I chased my daughter around the house with a hairbrush as she hysterically screamed, “No!” For some reason, trying to logically reason with an almost-three-year-old that you have to brush her hair was useless. Thankfully, my husband has always had a wonderful sense of style and needed no extra set of hands in getting ready. 

It was my fault, to an extent. Time got away from me and before I knew it, my typical photographer was booked for the season and if I tried to choose a later date, it would make mailing out Christmas cards on time an incredible challenge. A good friend recently chose a phenomenal photographer who did mini sessions–which meant shorter time taking pictures, but shorter time with receiving the final copies. I thought that would be a great alternative to my predicament.

This was my first mistake.

My second mistake would be choosing early afternoon, which was the only time left to pick, and undoubtedly would crash into nap time. But you can’t make the perfect situation in life. Sometimes you just have to accept what you’ve been given and adapt.

This was my third mistake. Positive thinking.

Long story short, we drove the 30 minutes to New Iberia which was the photographer’s location, and of course, she fell asleep. Thankfully I had rushed my family out the door early because right before we arrived, I found out we were mistakenly given the wrong address. Another 10-15 minutes off we went. Is there anything more stressful than being late to a 20-minute-only photoshoot? I think not. The photographer was just lovely. Skilled and professional, she was obviously an expert with children. Except for my two-year-old.

She adamantly refused to smile.

Not only did she refuse to smile, but she also refused to let me put her down at times. Our photographer tried her best, she did not give up for a second. Halfway through, I knew it was a losing battle. Toddlers going toddler. And this one was not having it. My child is usually prone to stage fright and a camera in her face with a stranger was not on her list of favorite things. It was so rough, at one point the photographer regrettably looked at me after the shoot, promising she got some good ones but said I could retake the shoot if I wanted. Also a mother, she had all the compassion for the toddler years. She told me, “They are going to make up their own minds; this isn’t your fault.”

Thoughts of reenacting this mini-nightmare of getting the whole family ready danced in my head. I thanked her generously and we were on our way home. I sat in the car seat thinking, why do I do this torture to myself? Paying a not-so-small amount of money for my child to decide she’d rather do anything but smile and listen.

I hate the holiday photoshoot process. It stresses me out beyond belief. Why do I keep signing up for this?

But I know why. Those pictures are classic, irreplaceable, a moment stopped in time. A moment I’ll never experience again because she just keeps getting bigger, bigger, bigger. I’m going to miss this moment. I already miss this moment. I just blink and she’s already older and taller and telling me complex sentences such as “The moon is really far.”

For the record, I got back the pictures. And no, she isn’t smiling in hardly any of them. But she’s precious. She’s beautiful. And it’s my whole family documented from 2021, and I will treasure it. My photographer graciously offered to take the pictures again, and when I casually asked my husband, he looked like I said his cat had died. I didn’t blame him – I felt the same way.

So we kept them. And I’m thankful we did. We had a chuckle at putting her non-smiling picture on Christmas Cards that loudly proclaim “Joyful, We’re So Merry!” I’m already telling my husband, “Well, there’s always next year!” Because you know I”m going to put myself through this again. I’ll be questioning my sanity, but the end result feels worth it.

A kid at heart, Katie loves all things writing, Harry Potter and musicals. At any moment, she is down for either a cup of coffee or margarita. Her passions are building and improving her community of Lafayette, where she was born and raised, and teaching her one daughter to have a British accent. (Not so successful at that last part yet). She spends her day as a credit union storyteller, believing that building strong personal finance habits can be the secret to a fulfilled life. She also contributes to the local finance and community-centric blog, the Meri-tea Community.