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.

Portrait Sessions in Tight Places Are Opportunities for Creativity

The Problem

The past couple of months, I have been searching out and photographing at various locations that have a very urban feel.  I’ve chosen a different city for each shoot and this time we were in Eagle, Idaho.  I had hoped to have a fun small-scale city feel, but I found this was going to be a bit more difficult upon closer inspection.

This couple was fantastic to work with. They were fun and were willing to help me out so that our session went great.  I had scouted out this location a few days prior, but on the day of, I was struggling with composing the shots.  I found there were a great deal more dumpsters, road signs, and debris than I had originally thought.  

The Solution

This posed a problem as we were walking around.  I wanted an urban feel to this session, but all the trash was a bit too urban.  So we got a bit more creative with this session.  We were working in pretty confined places so to hide the debris, we used a trick of creating a smoke effect with baby powder.  It was incredibly helpful to hide all that stuff and it was all done on location. 

We also did a great deal of up close and personal shots with the sides of buildings and roads.  Even though our location wasn’t the best I have used in the past, we still made the most of it.   The best part was when we found a large grey stone building.  It created the background I needed and really highlighted my couple.  

So regardless of where we will be shooting, great locations can be found and help you look your very best.


Do you have a great location you want to get photographed at? Let me know! I am always up for expanding the locations I shoot at.  Be sure to check out my Engagement Style Guide or Four Ways to Rock Your Portrait Session.

Also, find me on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest!


Four Ways to Totally Rock Your Portrait Session


Portraits can seem intimidating to some people. You are the lone person in front of the camera and that can feel a bit unnerving for someone who has not had much experience with this. However, I want you to feel comfortable. I want you to feel like a RockSTAR, because the truth of it is, YOU ARE!

To help you be a RockSTAR, here are some simple tips to keep in mind.

Determine what type of shoot you are doing. Is it going to be rustic, by old barns and buildings? Is it going to be an urban shoot with an industrial feel? Are you going into the mountains or the woods?  Answering this one question will help you narrow down your wardrobe selection.

Wear complimentary colors.  Purples with yellows, greens and reds, oranges with blues, etc.  Or stick to the same palette, such as all neutrals.  However, as there is an exception to every rule, if you have a favorite accessory, or shirt, by all means wear it.  It will make your photos more authentic and increase how comfortable you are in front of the camera.

Wear different layers and textures.  This is the key to making one photo shoot look like several because you can change your outfit by simply adding a jacket or scarf.  With fashion, contrast is important.  So, if you have that cute little black dress, why not throw on some biker boots to give it some attitude?

For you girls, Heavier make up is a must.  It may feel a bit awkward if you are not used to it, but I can promise you that it will improve your portraits.  If you are unsure about doing it yourself, get a friend who is make up savvy or use one of these tutorials by Michelle Phan.  I have personally used several of her glam looks with great success.

Woman looking away from camera with hands near face.

I hope these tips help.  Be sure to check out A Style Guide For Your Engagement Photo Session: To help you look and feel your best if you are doing photos as a couple or for your engagements.

If you have found any tips that have worked for you, or you have tried some of my tips, please share! I would love to hear from you.

Until next week!


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