Family Photos

I have always hated having my photo taken. Sitting in front of a camera I feel awkward and ill at ease. Over the years I’ve taken a few that would be worthy of contributing to the Awkward Family Photos website if I ever unearth them. (But do I really want those pictures of me floating around in cyberspace for the rest of time?) I have learned to just accept that at times pictures must be taken and if I really don’t like them I can choose not to look at them or share them much.

Now that we have a child there is more reason to get family photos taken with greater frequency. Last year we went to a department store studio. The pictures with me in them felt plenty cringe-worthy, so we chose one of just the photogenic Eli for the Christmas card.

Sears Photography, 2010

Sears Photography, 2010

This year my husband felt we should really use a family photo for the Christmas card, as it is no longer Eli’s first Christmas. So back we went to a department store studio. Eli has changed a lot since last year though. He is much more active, and quite wary of strangers. Not a good combination for a studio session. The stuffed bunny used by the photographer to elicit a smile brought forth tears and fright instead, and it all went downhill from there. We left without any photos to show for our efforts.

An acquaintance at church Mary Hurlbut,  is a photographer so I spoke with her about our dilemma. We made an appointment for a photo session with her using the church courtyard and alleyways in that neighborhood as a setting for the photos.

The first thing Mary did before we began was to say a simple prayer asking God to help her capture images of our family that will show us the way He sees us. What a wonderful thing to pray! I felt myself immediately relax.

We began with a few shots of me so I’d have a profile shot for this blog and for my Etsy shop.

Then we moved on to the family shots. Instead of trying to get Eli to sit nicely (which he NEVER does, even in the best of circumstances) for a carefully posed shot. She followed him around as he explored the things that caught his interest, instructing us how to jump into the frame and arrange ourselves around him.

Eli loves to play on the stairs.

Being tossed by Daddy!

Climbing on the fence.

Always on the go.

He is constantly on the move and she had her work cut out to keep up with him. Much of the time she was a bit out of breath! Instead of seeming annoyed that he can be a bit of a challenge to capture on film, she seemed to really enjoy him. What parent doesn’t like to see another person appreciating the little things about they so adore about their little one?

A hand full of stones.

Cell phones make him happy.


The end result is a profile photo that does not feel like a necessary evil (I actually think they are some of the best photos ever taken of me), a fun photo for our Christmas card, and many other pictures that wonderfully capture our family at this stage in our son’s life. I would not hesitate to recommend Mary to anyone else in need of a photographer. She is a joy to work with, and she takes photographs that will be treasured for a lifetime.

Thanks, Mary!

Mary also has a blog where her most current post features some seriously breathtaking nature photography.

All photos in this post are by Mary Hurlbut Photography, unless otherwise attributed.



  1. November 12, 2011 at 10:24 pm


  2. November 12, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    Thanks, Susan! Hope your arms and knee are on the mend 🙂

  3. Dr Sonia S V said,

    November 13, 2011 at 2:21 am

    Wow what amazing photography– this is pure talent!!

  4. Chris Linder said,

    November 13, 2011 at 4:58 am

    What a great photo session! You have a beautiful family; Eli’s personality really shows through, as well.

    • November 13, 2011 at 7:35 am

      Thanks, Chris! I enjoyed seeing that photo of you with your girls on FB a little while back.

  5. Mary said,

    November 13, 2011 at 9:25 am

    Thank you Karen for this lovely post! Praying before hand is my “secret weapon”. Your words encourage me to be more bold about doing it with all my clients

  6. Emily Roach said,

    November 13, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    We just did our holiday pics today as well! With two kids it’s even more challenging to get both looking in the same direction.

  7. Mary said,

    November 13, 2011 at 10:32 pm

    Here is one of my favorite blogs. Shanda is a wife and mom of 7 children back East

  8. Erika said,

    November 14, 2011 at 7:28 am

    Mary did a great job capturing a toddler in action! My mom gets so stressed because she wants my two (3 and 4) to have those ‘perfect’ photos. I just laugh.

    I featured your cute elfin hat tutorial at today’s link party.

    It’s a Wrap Link Party at Artful Rising

    • November 14, 2011 at 9:59 am

      Thank you so much for featuring me! I couldn’t be more surprised… or pleased!

      My sister-in-law gave me great advice about photos with Eli when I was worrying about having last years pics taken. He was newly mobile and always seemed to have some form of bruise or goose egg on his forehead. She told me that later the “perfect pictures” won’t mean much to us but those that catch him just as he is we will love to look back on.

  9. November 16, 2011 at 6:34 pm

    Those are awesome photos!! So natural and beautiful! It’s always great when a photographer works WITH a child, rather than makes them sit still.

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