12 Things You NEED For Your Next Family Photo


12 Things


Family photos can be complete chaos and full of unhappy people, but they DON’T HAVE TO BE!  Take off some of the stress by following these simple tips.

  • Coordinate your colors.  This is very important as it allows good flow in your photo and helps ensure one person does not sticks out.  Check out my Pinterest board for color palettes.


A couple stands in front of an old cabin in the woods

  • Choose a specific style of clothing.  If this will be a formal photo, consider wearing button up shirts with slack or skirts.  If it is a casual photo, you can wear dark jeans with a nicer top.  Just make sure everyone knows the plan and is comfortable in what they will be wearing.
  • Avoid wearing shorts unless it is specific to the theme for your photos. The lightest part of a photo is what usually catches our attention first and if you are anything like me, your skin is naturally pretty light.  Keep the attention on your face and away from your legs by wearing long pants.  *If you are wear a skirt, consider wearing darker nylons.
  • Wear shirts with 3/4 sleeves or longer.  This follows the same rule as #2.  If you want to keep the focus on your face, cover your arms.  Low necked blouses can also be a problem.  Skin attracts the eyes.   Avoid shirts with extreme patterns or character t-shirts.  These can detract from the photo.
  • Consider layering your clothing as well.  This can add variety to your photos as well as keep you warm or cool, depending on the season.
  • Pay attention to socks and shoes! This might not be something you normally think about, but the shoes will make or break the outfit.  You shoes need to match the tone of your clothing.  Usually black or brown shoes do quite well.  But don’t forget the socks! White socks will stick out just as bad as bare skin, so consider wearing black or another dark color of sock.  If you sit down in any of your photos, you will thank me.

Woman with hand on cheek softly looking at camera. full color with a warm tone.

  • Women: coordinate hairstyles.  This might seem a bit odd, but think about it.  If one person has their hair up while the rest have it done, that person will stick out.  Decide among your party and then stick with it. Avoid hats.  They tend to cover too much of the face.
  • Make-up should be clean, but a little heavier than your usual day-wear.  This will help your eyes pop in the photos.
  • Be prepared for close ups.  I shoot individuals as well as the full group.  This way you have several options to hang on your wall.  So consider putting on lotion on dry hands or getting a great skin care routine going and exfoliate regularly so that your foundation doesn’t get cakey.
  • Bring supplies to revive hair and make-up.  This is especially important if we are doing a session in the middle of summer or it becomes windy during our time together.
  • Jewelry and accessories should be kept simple.  Avoid chunky necklaces or large bows.  Remember the focus needs to be you and your family.  Not your attire.
  • Plan to arrive about 10 minutes prior to your scheduled session.  This will allow for traffic problems, bad weather, or wardrobe problems as you are on your way.

I look forward to seeing you at our session!


Want more help with prepping for Family Photos? Check this post out.

Are Family Pictures Hoaky or Memorable?

June marks the beginning of summer for most families as school lets out.  If you are like my family, there are at least two reunions we go to every summer.  Not to mention weddings, pool parties, and Sunday dinners.

However, with all that family gathering, when was the last time your family actually had their picture taken together?  And I’m not talking about that group wedding photo that you can hardly identify yourself in.  No.  I’m talking about a photo where everyone is easily visible and looking at the camera.  It’s likely been a few years (or decades) since your family took a nice photo together. 

Why is that?

Most of us feel self-conscious about some part of our selves.  We have imperfections.  ALL OF US DO.

This acknowledgment of imperfections, however, may not be enough to make getting your photo taken any easier.  So what is a person to do? (If you struggle with being self-conscious in photos check this out).

Another reason family photos may be hard for you is because you feel that having those stiff, posed images don’t really convey who your family is, and you are likely right!  Stiff awkward poses don’t tell your families stories.

A Solution to the Dilemma…

One of the biggest ways you can help your family achieve better pictures is to

  1. Coordinate clothing to some level.  When your family has on a similar color or style, your photos look more professional.  Some colors that work well are varying shades of blue, purples, and tan.  These neutral colors allow your faces to be seen clearly without being overpowering. 
  2. Communicate with your photographer about your family.  What are your likes, dislikes, your flavor of personality, and especially if someone is shy or really goes out of their way to hide when the shutter button is pressed.
  3. Allow enough time for your photos.  If you are looking for just one large photo, you can expect it to take anywhere from 15-30 minutes.  If you are going to break out into smaller groups or do individual shots, allow more time (1-2 hours). Don’t plan major things for right after your photo session so that everyone can relax and enjoy their time mingling together. 
  4. Consider having music.  Music allows us to relax, find a rhythm, and who knows, maybe it will turn into a dance party! 
  5. Finally, encourage everyone to show up on time, but if you have family members who are perpetually late, consider doing individual/immediate family photos first.  This will allow those individuals time to arrive without holding anyone up too long. (Or a trick we used in my family was to tell the tardy ones to arrive thirty minutes earlier so they got there on time. 


This summer, consider making it memorable by having a great family photo taken where everyone enjoys the experience, even Dad.

Book now and save the date!

Family Photo near a lake with young children.


What Does Your Smile Say About You?

Good Afternoon and welcome back to the Vanessa Thurgood Photography blog.  I was blown away by the response to last week’s post.  I think it may be safe to say that we all struggle at times with how we view ourselves.  Yet, I feel it is important to be reminded  that no matter what stage of life we are at, we are beautiful.

In last week’s post, I asked you to take a short quiz to check in with yourself.  How did you score?  Did you remember to write down A. A. Milne’s quote? If so, how did it help you?  Leave me a comment!


This week, I want to focus on how we smile.  A smile is one of the most contagious, and universal physical signs we make.  A smile can help you feel happier, healthier, and more relaxed.  Even a fake smile can substitute until you can give a genuine one.

Groom kissing bride on cheek

As I have continued in my career as a photographer, I find that there are a wide variety of smiles out there.  A relaxed individual smiles easily, while someone who is nervous or stressed has a very tight smile.  Other reasons someone may not smile is due to a  real or perceived imperfection in said smile.

To be truthful though, in many cases our imperfections are what make us special.  Few people likely have had as many stitches on their face as I experienced as a child. (Word to the wise with three-year olds, don’t let them pull any strange dog’s tail).  I have a rather large scar on my lower right jaw and upper lip where I was bit by a dog.

Do you want to know something, though? If I smile, those scars disappear, (as do my eyes on occasion if I smile big enough).  Those scars help create who I am, but they do not hold me back.  I have been told by people that they didn’t even notice I had a scar until I point it out.

Self Portrait of Photographer


If you have the time, check out this 7.5 minute TED Talk on smiling.  It does a wonderful job at explaining why it is so important to smile.


So next time you are getting your photo taken, remember to smile!


What Can Happen with a Sprinkle of Confidence? Only You Can Tell Us.

Today is Wednesday.  It’s the middle of the week and this can either be exciting or it can feel like drudgery that you still have two more work days to go before the weekend.  Does this seem to happen often?  Although we may occasionally have our downs, my hope is that you will find more joy in your journey through life.

Elderly Woman sitting in a chair and Laughing

Now this is probably not a post you would expect to see on a photography website, but hang in there with me.  The way we feel about ourselves comes through in our photographs.  If you are constantly stressed, it is hard to give a pretty, open smile to someone behind the camera. Plus, it’s hard on you in general when you don’t relax and smile and laugh from time to time.  So let’s dive in.

(Disclaimer: This post does contain affiliate links for which I may receive a small percentage of anything you may purchase.)

Time for a Check-up!

Now I would like you to get a piece of paper and something to write with.  We are going to do a check up on how you feel about yourself, and be honest!  The only one who is going to see these answers will be you.

(1=very poor; 10=very positive)

  1. On a scale of 1-10, how much confidence do you have in your own natural abilities?
  2. On a scale of 1-10, how do you feel about the way you look?
  3. When was the last time you spoke positively about yourself?
  4. How do you feel you look in photographs?
  5. Is there anything that stands out to you in photographs that you wish you could change?
  6. On a scale of 1-10, how often do you genuinely smile?
  7. When you shake someone’s hand, do you look them in the eye?
  8. When was the last time you did something that impressed you?
  9. Do you feel you can speak to others easily?
  10. What do you love most about yourself?

Now, review your answers.  Did they show you anything surprising?

Now take a minute and view this wonderful video from Dove.  You may have seen it from one of their campaigns, but it’s definitely worth viewing again.

We are infinitely more beautiful than we often believe.  If you had a negative answer to any of those ten questions above, I would like you to write a way in which you could turn it into a positive.  For example, if you gave a 1 for how often you smile, I want you to write a game plan for how you can turn that 1 into a 5.  This could be every time you see yourself in the mirror, you will smile.

Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.

~ A. A, Milne

Do you remember this quote from “Winnie the Pooh”?  I want you to print this out and place it on your mirror, or if you want something more permanent try one of these.  Either way, place it somewhere you will see it often throughout your day.

This week, I want you focus on speaking positively about yourself.  By performing this one simple act, you will see that others will notice.  You may even find they will compliment you more often.  Confidence invites people in.  Negativity drives them away.

Have a stellar week!



p.s. If you liked this post let me know! I would love to hear from you.  Also, you can come hang out with me on Instagram.

Vendor Series: Live, Lash, Love Red Aspen

Have you ever tried to help someone when you yourself are feeling down?  It’s really hard!  Although being there for someone else when you do feel that way can help you get out of your funk in a most amazing way, I feel that we need to take care of ourselves too.  When you feel beautiful, it’s much easier to help others feel that same beauty in themselves.

Today’s post in my vendor series is to introduce you to a spunky lady named Gaigh Gull.  She is a fitness instructor, mother of four and consultant for Red Aspen Lashes, a company based in Boise, ID.

Woman dressed up showing off her faux eye lashes.
Photo Credit: Gaigh Gull

Being from this area, I’m excited to showcase a local business.  Yet that isn’t the only reason I wanted to include Red Aspen Lashes in my vendor series.  I truly love this product.  The founders of this company have a mission to bring women together, and I think that when we feel beautiful, we are more willing to gather and lift each other.

As a personal user of these lashes, the thing I love most is that you can wear them for multiple weeks if you treat them well.  They never move once applied, unless you choose to take them off.  Plus, they are full and really do look natural.

Photo Credit: Red Aspen Lashes

Through Red Aspen Lashes, Gaigh can provide you with a wide array of options from barely there, to full on flare.  One reason I highly recommend wearing these faux eye lashes is the confidence you will gain during your engagement session, and more especially your wedding day.  You will have no doubt that you look stunning as you walk down the aisle and every head turns your way.

Another bonus is that they are comfortable!  It took me a couple tries to get them on correctly.  (We’re talking about gluing the middle of my eyelid to the lash band. Oww!)  Once you get the technique down, however, you will not notice they are even there.  And if you do struggle, there are tutorials available, or if you are in the area, Gaigh can help out too.

You can find Gaigh and her beautiful lashes at redaspenlove.com/gaighkgull and on Instagram and Facebook.


“Like anyone else, there are days I feel beautiful and days I don’t, and when I don’t, I do something about it.”     ~ Cheryl Tiegs

Have a fantastic week!

p.s. Don’t forget to check out my Engagement Style Guide! and look for me on Instagram.

Don’t Forget the Announcements! Impress those future in-laws with this.

Woman in a blue shirt sitting and looking at camera

Welcome to the first edition of my vendor series!

Congratulations on your upcoming wedding! I am thrilled you are here and I hope you will find what you need in my vendor series.  Through this and future posts I will highlight various individuals and companies I have worked with over the past years to bring you suppliers that will give you the very best.

To be clear, I don’t receive anything from highlighting these vendors, aside from knowing that should you choose to go with one of them, you will be in skilled hands.

Today I would like to introduce you to Deanna Weaver of Accent Design.

You might be wondering why a supplier for wedding announcements would be the main topic for the first post in this vendor series.  Answer: Your wedding announcement, Save the Date cards, Thank You cards, etc. are all a reflection of you.  They are also a first look at you for your future in-laws.  You may have met your fiance’s parents and siblings, but I’m talking about his grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. (And if it is anything like my husband’s family, this can mean joining an entire tight-knit village).  Many of these people will not even meet you until the day of your wedding.

For some relations, this can be a make or break moment.  That is why it is so important to be timely in sending out those announcements and working with a supplier who cares about your timelines.  It also sends out a great first impression if you keep them well-informed on where to be and when.  This is where Deanna comes in.

Hands sorting through a color palette for wedding announcements.

She offers a no-commitment consultation for FREE!  She will discuss timelines and prices with you so that you know exactly what you will get for your wedding invitations and how much of your budget this will take.  You get to choose your colors, the size of your announcement and other cards, as well as a final say in the design of your announcement.  This way you get something that looks like you, AND feels like you.

I feel that is extremely important as you plan for your wedding day.  It is a celebration of you and your future spouse.  It is one day where you truly make it special and your very own.

Hands holding a selection of cards included in a wedding announcement package.

Deanna began Accent Design in 2008 after branching out on her own from her day job.  She is highly trained and has a great eye for what looks amazing.  I have personally worked with her on numerous jobs ranging from graduation announcements to wedding invitations.  She is skilled in creating beautiful cards that you will be excited to show your family.

You can find here on Facebook as well.

I hope you found this post helpful.  If there is a topic you would love to see me cover let me know in the comments!

Best Wishes,