Family / Fun

How to: Awkward Family Photo


The best picture from the 2015 session

Over on my facebook page, I just posted the pretty amazing awkward family photos from this year. As always, we got a good response. Lots of people were asking about how it all comes together so I thought I would blog a bit about our process. Of course, this is in the hopes that you all will pick up the reins and do your own awkward family photos so that we can all share the love.

STEP 1: Well before your pictures, pick a theme:

This could be just about anything. Thus far, our cohesive themes have been ugly sweaters, printed t-shirts, and this year the theme was turtlenecks/fancy 80s. You don’t want them theme to be too garish. It needs to look serious enough that people question whether your serious enough.

Case in point? We walked around the mall before our shoot and people certainly stared at us, but no one openly laughed or asked us questions about our outfits. They knew something was off but they weren’t sure if it was purposeful or not. That’s exactly the kind of theme you’ll need.

(Reminder: You’ll want to steer clear of cultural appropriation, which basically means don’t pretend to be people of a different culture or race. No one would appreciate their culture being stereotyped as “awkward” so just don’t do it. (For more on cultural appropriation, please check out Chescaleigh’s video on it. ))

Step 2: Start shopping.

Thrift stores are going to be your best friend here. I find that it’s much funnier and glorious when the clothes are authentically bad. You can buy brand-new ugly sweaters online, but there’s nothing quite like the rush you get when you locate an actual, authentic ugly sweater after digging through several thrift stores.

It’s good if everyone has that one thing that’s off. P2 For me, it was the horrible jacket. I found the navy hat for Alex at an American Trooper resale near us and, duh, we all freaked out about the pink jacket. Our son’s hat was a last minute find and it really pulled his outfit together.

After you find your one gloriously hideous thing, then you accessorize.  It doesn’t have to be alot. My brother-in-law just gelled his hair down and had creepy glasses. I think he might have brought this one home.


Step 3: Find the place and book your appointment.

Part of the fun , of course, is going out in public like this. There’s nothing quite like the awkward, uncomfortable stares that you get. People are REALLY curious about it.

JC Penney Portrait studios has been our studio of choice, because they run really good coupons (we ended up paying around $50 this year for everything (including the digital copy of the pictures)). They also give that genuine studio feel. It would be possible to do awkward family pictures at home, but I think it adds some authenticity to have them professionally done.

Step 4: Get ready and get into character.

Luckily, my sister enjoys hair and make-up so she takes care of all the styling. I’m not sure what we would do if she wasn’t around, but the hair definitely would be lacking that particular awkwardness that is so necessary.

Once everyone has located their outfits, it’s important to discuss your characters, just like actors in a play. This year, the night before the pictures, we did a dry run and had a fashion show where every person walked the catwalk in their character. Aside from being a bit nerdy, it was lots and lots of fun. My sister did a good job at this. She decided that she was going to be the aloof, fancy sister and she played her part well.


Step 5: Just do it!

The first year that Alex and I did it, our photographer did not understand. He tried, but the poses ended up being TOO awkward and thus, not real enough to be uncomfortable. It was clear we were joking in the pictures. Still funny, but not great.

The next year, we had a photographer was instantly got it. She knew just where to place our hands and bodies to make it look normal but awkward. She’s the one that took this little gem, which might just be my favorite.


Of course, you won’t always get a great photographer (I think JC Penney probably has pretty high turnover). In that case, you’ll need to kind of guide them. Keep in mind that you don’t want things too awkward or it comes out looking super weird.


Too awkward

You’ll be laughing while you take these pictures, but that’s part of the fun, of course.

For those of you that asked how we got my son on board, he’s just an awesome kid and we didn’t have to do much convincing. He loves the spotlight and getting into character. I’m not 100% sure that I would have been able to do it as a child, but I figure if you start early enough and everyone is having fun, then the kids will too.

I hope this tutorial has inspired you to get a group together to take your own awkward photos. These have become the centerpiece of our living room because they’re so much fun to take!

4 thoughts on “How to: Awkward Family Photo

  1. The too awkward one of you and Leah made me laugh out loud and I loved the one of the three girls bc I could really see Betsy’s outfit in it – hilarious! I love that y’all do a fashion show the night before. Such a fun family tradition! Do y’all get these done in your town bc I thought I’d checked here and our jcp doesn’t do pictures. Or am I just missing it? Thanks for sharing the process

    • haha. We love it too! Yes, we get them done in Dallas. We had discussed doing them in Abilene and I was looking at Sears. Target might also have a little photo studio. THose would probably be just as good!

      • Thanks! Hadn’t thought about Sears. I remember the first year your mom posted these shots they were great bc you really did have to do a double take – pretty sure y’all were joking but didn’t quite want to say anything. I kept looking at it and finally it was the garish red lipstick that made me decide it was awkward on purpose. But there were a few comments from people who didn’t realize it was awkward. Hilarious!

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