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Tag: family photos

Why You Should Never Wait to Take that Photo

A last-minute photo attempt may not result in the best picture. Then there’s no opportunity to try again. Here’s how to avoid that disappointment.

Whenever I feel inspired to take a particular photo, it’s based on an almost subconscious series of creative choices. My brain constructs the framed image, and I can visualize it. Then, I just need to capture the actual photo.

If it’s beautiful scenery, then I simply snap the picture. Easy!

But if it involves other people in the scene itself, then I have to interact with any number of other brains that may or may not want to conform with my brain’s vision. The challenge becomes one of staging the moment you see in your head.

Maybe it’s wrangling a good group shot at a party or event. Or perhaps it’s capturing a key family vacation photo that you’ll need for that photo book you’re planning to create.

Here’s my number one tip to help ensure your success:

  • Don’t wait to get the shot!

That’s because a photo ‘moment’ is by definition a short period of time. It’s rarely going to wait around for you. So you’ve got to move quickly.

Early Departures can Crush your Plan
If you’re with a group of people at a party, snap that group shot as soon as everyone has shown up. Any number of variables may then quickly thin the ranks. As soon as you see everybody in one space, that’s the moment to ask for the group picture.

I think there’s a social norm that suggests the end of an event is the more appropriate time for everyone to gather for a group photo. While that may feel like a better flow, it assumes all your guests are still there. See the problem?

Be Mindful not to Ask for Too Many Photos
Family vacation photography doesn’t typically have that same challenge as you’re tracking fewer people who should theoretically be together through much of the trip. But as the family photographer, I always need to pay attention to the reality that my family doesn’t always want to pose for my frequent requests for a picture. (They’re not my photo models!)

So, I’ve got to be strategic and not waste opportunities for a posed photo or a family selfie.

That said, I often try to front-load the family pictures I take early in a vacation to ensure I’ve got what I think I need. (And you can see how that thinking can negatively impact my family’s tolerance for my photography later in the vacation.)

Ultimately, I find it’s a balancing act. And I’ll admit that as a family photographer, I’m still a work in progress!

Don’t Wait for your Last Day
I recently snapped a few group photos with my work colleagues, because I’m changing jobs. (I’ve really enjoyed working with them, and of course, I wanted some pics.)

I used my ‘take-the-picture-early’ strategy and did not wait until my last day. And I’ve got to tell you, it was a delightful process (and more relaxed than it would have been as a last-minute attempt). It removed all the unnecessary stress about whether everyone would be available to take the shot.

There is no Perfect Moment
The bottom line is never wait for the perfect moment to take a picture, because that moment may never arrive!

When you see an opportunity that contains the imagery and people you want, then you’ve got to make your move. It’s as simple as that.

It might feel a bit forced, but if you’ve got some staging to do, it may be your only chance.

Everyone will thank you later when you text the group what they see as the perfect photo.

A Poem for Dads on Mother’s Day

Photo collages are ideal for creating the perfect holiday card. Here’s how to do it all at home with a poem for easy reference.

What have you been doing with those thousands of family photos you’ve collected over the past years? Posting a few on Instagram or Facebook? That’s great. But what about all of the others?

Well, you can create annual photo books that will capture hundreds of your favorite photos. Those photo books should last through the century (actual mileage may vary). But that’s always a huge project to pull off.

Tackling a smaller version where you’re collecting only 15-20 images is clearly more manageable. How about applying that towards a “photo collage?!”
(Light bulb moment)

Photo collages are perfect for holidays or any occasion to give a physical card.

You just load your photos into a template. (Lots of photo websites like Shutterfly offer this.) You can pay them to print your card, or you can take a screenshot and instantly print out the photo collage card yourself. (That’s what I do.)

In honor of all mothers (and one in particular), here’s my little poem for fathers that doubles as an emergency instruction manual.

Instructions for Fathers on Mother’s Day

That day has arrived
When dads should applaud

With a pile of gifts
Though we are so flawed

But time is fleeting
Delays mute your plans

Amazon is late
Your wish is now sans

You are on your own
Just laptop and pics

A photo collage
That could be the fix

The story is there
For you to now share

You’ve got the photos
For you to declare

Websites will help you
To do this cool trick

Just load it all in
A template is slick

Then print out your card
It’s easy as pie

You’re back in the game
It’s okay to cry

Stuff doesn’t matter
It’s the life you share

Your collage reflects
Each day that you care

Say Happy Mom’s Day
For all that you are

This photo collage
Shows you are my star

How to Decide which Lifetouch School Picture Package is Best for You

Buying School Picture Day photos doesn’t have to feel complicated. Here’s how I determined what to order…

Our son is in fifth grade, and I’ve been faithfully ordering Lifetouch School Picture Day photos for years. Each time, I pledge to only buy what I really need. Invariably, I realize there are compromises to be made that have necessarily increased the price point. This year is no different. But this time, I think I got it right.

At the end of the day, all I really want is a digital file of my boy’s school portrait. I can then print additional photos at home. I don’t need Lifetouch’s more expensive prints. (Although I do understand that’s the foundation of its business model.)

Also, the photo’s background needs to reflect that this is a school photo and display my son’s elementary school grade. Otherwise, it’s really just another generic posed photo which holds little value for me. The photo has to clearly be his school photo. (I’ve got plenty others.)

If you have a similar perspective, here are my suggestions on how to get the best deal when ordering your Lifetouch photos (assuming there’s still a school picture day scheduled in your neck of the woods during this year so affected by COVID-19).

Order the Basic Package
I really don’t want all of the extra prints that are part of the more expensive packages. (A few prints are just fine.)

I’m looking for the one digital file with the correct background. (And my son’s class photo would be nice too.)

The good news is the Basic Package gives you:

  • 1 8×10
  • 2 5×7
  • the class picture (size unknown)
  • and the digital file! (available as a download via Shutterfly)

All that costs $14.99.
(That’s a much better price point than the forty bucks I’ve been spending in previous years.)


You only get access to the generic background with the Basic Package.

Then, Add to the Basic Package
There is a workaround, but it’s an analog solution…

You can add on an extra printed photo to your package and then choose the background you really want for that additional print.

The next step is to simply digitize this physical photo when it shows up. (Scan it or take a picture of the picture.)

Then, you’ve finally got what you wanted in the first place. No, your digital copy won’t look as perfect as the original photo file, but if you order an 8×10, your scanned version should be fine for most uses.

And the price for that extra 8×10?

  • $14.99

So add that to the original $14.99 Basic Package for a new new total of $29.98 (plus tax).

Consider the Plus Package
If you don’t want to go through the trouble of MacGyvering your purchase to save money, your next choice is to go with the Plus Package for $44.99. That officially unlocks the option to choose your own background(s), and it also provides a whole lot more prints that you may or may not want. (In this smartphone age, does anyone even use 2×3 wallet photos anymore?)
Here’s what you get:

  • 1 -8×10
  • 4 -5×7
  • 2- 3×5
  • 8 -2×3 Wallets
  • the class picture
  • and the digital images via Shutterfly

Plus, you get the name and grade on all prints and basic retouching.
(I’d already have the grade as part of the background. As for the photo-retouching… I think that’s unnecessary for kids.)

Barrett’s 2020 Lifetouch School Picture Day Purchase
There are a couple of other packages that offer additional combinations of physical prints, but that didn’t move the needle for me.

I kept my focus on Basic vs. Plus. And it boiled down to this:

  • Spend $15 more for the Plus Package to easily choose your photo backgrounds (and get more prints)
  • Or keep it ‘Basic’ and order the extra 8×10 print with the right background. And then scan that print.

I took a look at my past purchases, and I’ve always gone Plus.

But I have a confession to make. I have a cabinet at home filled with photos that have yet to find a final destination (album or frame). In it, there’s a folder containing years of Lifetouch prints I’ve never used. There were just too many. It’s a painful reminder that I never needed all of those photos in the Plus plans.

Sure, spending a little more for the Plus Package provides all of the ordering flexibility you’ll want. But if you don’t use what you buy, that’s not good value.

So, I decided to keep it basic this year:

  • The Basic Plan for $14.99
  • Plus the extra 8×10 print for another $14.99 with the background that says 5th Grade


Buy What You Need
Future Barrett might laugh at me for going through all of this effort to save $15. But Future Barrett might also nod approvingly at my ability to finally get the equation right for my actual needs.

I think that’s called progress.

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