Category Archives: Photo Tips & Classes

Recently I was asked what to do with printed photos. This mom had taken my online photo organization class last year and has been practicing my favorite photo taking party trick, but still had printed pictures that needed her attention.

Without batting an eye, I started to rattle off a list of things she could do with the photos on her walls. Ideas that would help her fill in her fading memory, but also help her kids learn and remember more about their childhood. And as I chatted, I realized that all of us could give these ideas a whirl.

Let’s do a little light work to give more meaning to our printed photos, shall we?

Best photo tips for kids

If you look at one of your pictures, you don’t just see a photo, you see a story… especially if you were the one who took it. Sometimes it takes awhile to fully recall what the photo true story. What were we thinking and feeling when we took it? What else was going on at the time that isn’t in the picture? And more importantly, what made us decide to take it in the first place?


Every photo has a subplot.


Let’s work on ways we can quickly recall it and help our children remember their childhood at the same time.


(1) What to do with the pictures already hanging on your walls:

Most of us hang up our important and meaningful photos. In fact, I’ve dedicated our hallway to our family pictures. I call it our living history hallway because it’s a trip down memory lane every time I walk down it. Many of our friends spend quite a bit of time perusing the land of photos and I so do my crazy babies. I realized that a little backstory would help them see more of what the photo means.

 Easy Tips for Organization of family pictures


An elegant (and simple!) solution is to jot down the location, people and year the photo was taken on the matt.

 Or for those into more detailed record keeping, how about including a little story about the picture in an envelope tucked behind the photo? It can be placed in such a way that you can easily pull out the note to read right there. Or maybe it’s a larger story, in which case a larger envelope can be secured to the back of the picture frame (be sure to keep a copy of the photo and story somewhere safe.

2) How to handle photos already printed and in albums:

Guess what? You can apply the same tips for framed pictures to your albums. Flip through the pages of your album and make note in the margins of names, ages and year. Or secure a letter detailing your thoughts and feelings about the pictures in the album. No need to address every picture, just a high level story will work perfectly.

Imagine your children or grandchildren flipping through these albums in the future. I know my heart flutters a little whenever I see my gram’s writing. I would be thrilled to find a letter telling me about all of the pictures in one of her albums.

3) Getting ready to print a new photo album? Try adding the story right in the album:

Not quite scrapbooking, but the next best thing. When printing up your albums (I like to use Blurb albums), take a little extra time to write a bit about the pictures. Not just what you see, but include WHY you took the pictures. Those are the stories people really want to hear!

Easy Tips for Organization of Photos

4) Create a Family Story album:

This is one I wish I had done ages ago. Design a family history book with a handful of photos from your past (include as many relatives as possible). Write a bit about each photo stitching together a story of your life for you kids.

And that, my friends, is how you infuse a little more meaning into your pictures. For you and your kids.

Be sure to sign up for photo tips and news right in your inbox. Not only will you get fancy photo tips, but you’ll also receive a complimentary copy of my ebook, “Take Control of Your Digital Photos” Sign up here.


Lifestyle family photographer Bay Area

P.S. Need more photo inspiration? Check out these other articles 5 Things I Learned by Organizing My Photos and Creating Meaningful Moments Not Photo Ops

Alright ladies. Are you ready to learn how to take everyday photos of your kids? More importantly, are you ready to learn how to find those magic moments hidden beneath the sawdust of your circus of a life?

If you answered yes, stick with me.

Starting February 1, I’ll be running a private group of moms through weekly photo themes and monthly challenges. (Yay! So exciting!!!)

My goal? To help you look at your family the way I would. To show you how amazingly beautiful your life is.

learn how to take creative photos of kids

I want to help you learn how to look past the LEGOs on the floor and dishes in the sink and shift your vision so it’s aligned with your heart and not your head.



For the next two weeks, I’ll have open enrollment for my Sticky Walls Facebook group. (Isn’t that the greatest name ever?)


Head on over there now and get in on the crazy goodness! Don’t forget to invite your mama friends (Dad friends are welcome, too. Just know that I’ll be talking to the moms, so if you’re cool with being lumped in with the ladies, then by all means, join us!)

Creative Family Photos

Taking the picture is the easy part. Learning to capture the right thing in a creative way isn’t, but I’ll show you how.


Cannot wait to see you all over on facebook! Let’s make 2015 the year of creative family photos!

Lifestyle family photographer Bay Area

P.S. While this group will cover a few of the basics of good photography, it is not a photography class. I won’t be able to help answer questions about the technical aspects of your pictures.



Years ago, my favorite part of the holiday season was getting Christmas cards from friends and family. I’d gather them all and put them in our Santa bowl and shuffle through them regularly.

Recently, I’ve found that I’ve been doing less shuffling and more recycling. Many of the cards that come in aren’t as sincere as they used to be. Sadly, it appears as though the holiday season has become the card competition season. People trying to outdo their friends and neighbors, or just trying to outdo themselves from past years. The holiday card bar keeps getting raised.  

When did it become about the card and not about the holiday or about connecting with people? Many times it feels like people are just going through the motions. And three years ago I found myself getting caught up in the flurry. I was sending out unsigned cards and putting very little thought into what I was stuffing into the envelopes.

But this year I’m making a change (and I’m taking you along for the ride)!


Here are my 5 tips for Creative Holiday Cards:


(1) Include a Print

Years ago I received a heavy card stock with a photo print adhered to the front. It was simple and beautiful. I immediately emailed my client and asked her where she got the cards – turns out it was a little boutique in San Francisco, but you don’t need to track down the shop to make your own unique holiday cards with a photo print.

  • You can do a DIY version with heavy cardstock from a craft store, or purchase a frame card like this one from The Paper Source. Play with the photo size, but to help keep things simple, print 4×6 photos and attach them to a 5×7 folded card or postcard.
  • Design one online. My personal favorite online retailer is Whatever company you use, make sure the design you choose is good for adding a photo and check the size! You don’t want to add a 5×7 print to a 5×7 card. You might need to email them to double check the available space on the card.
  • Once you have your card stock, use removable glue dots to adhere your picture. This way the recipient can will have an actual print to hold onto long after the holidays have passed!


Creative Christmas Card Ideas - Get your holiday cards noticed!


(2) Hand-written note

This is the easiest way to make your cards more memorable. It makes the list simply because every year about 75 percent of the cards we receive have no note, no signature and ultimately nothing personal. We wind up feeling like a number. To make your cards more thoughtful, sit down with a pen and sign them!

And If you want to make a bigger impression, write a little something on each card. Let them know they’re not just an entry in your address book.


(3) Creative Photo

Some of my favorite holiday cards have a goofy picture, or a candid one. But what really gets me thinking about the family who sent the card, is when the card includes photos from throughout the year, rather than the ubiquitous posed portrait of the family. I love seeing my friends out on their adventures… even if it’s a photo taken with their phone. It’s a wonderful way to feel a part of someone’s life!


(4) Real life details

About four years ago one of my clients sent me a Christmas card that has been forever burned on my brain. She wrote down random facts about each of her kids. Little things like what they’re favorite book is or how her youngest favorite food is “strawburs.”  These details raise the bar on the holiday card contest in the best way possible. It’s genuine and entertaining. And see, I’m still talking about that card years later and sharing it with the world!

5 Easy Christmas Card Tips - get your holiday card noticed!

(5) Multiple photos

Many online card companies have card designs with multiple openings – meaning you can really tell your family story in one card. Receiving cards that do more than show what the family looks like always make it to the top of the card bowl. has mini books and timeline cards that are absolutely amazing. Want to share with your what’s been going on with your family? Try these cards. Fill them with unique photos and fun facts about your family, and your card will be the card that someone will mention on their blog years from now. ;)


Bonus tip: You can also mix and match these ideas. Maybe use the multi-photo card with the details for family? And the hand written note for friends? So many options to help you connect and be remembered around the holidays!

If you have other ideas, share them on my Facebook page! If I get enough of them, I’ll do a follow up post and include your ideas!

Lifestyle family photographer Bay Area

P.S. another card company you can check out is Pinhole Press. They’re newer to the card game, which means their designs will be new, too. This means you’ll reduce your chances of sending out the same design as another family. ;)

P.P.S. you can save a little right now if you’re going with Click on the link to get the discount code:

My photos on


1)  Make it a game.

This is a trick I use in my professional family sessions, and it’s a favorite! Many times we parents get very serious about our picture taking. When this happens, our children start seeing the camera as a taskmaster and suddenly what seemed like fun is now a chore.  Instead, help build up the little photo shoot as a fun event. Give them an excuse to act the part and ask them show you how well they can zombie it up!

Play with them!  Don’t sit behind the camera the entire time. Grab a few pictures, goof around with them, and then grab a few more.

 The more they’re engaged, the more authentic your pictures will be.

Candid Halloween Photography Tips by Jennifer Chaney

Years from now, those candid pictures will likely be your most treasured.


2) Photograph them when they are their most excited about Halloween.

Often I see the thrill of getting a costume on loses its luster by the time Halloween night rolls around. With parties and parades, kids wind up wearing their costume several times before they go out trick-or-treating. Be ready to get pictures when your kids are at their happiest; I’ve noticed the excitement is at a high right after we buy the costume. If it’s not an elaborate costume, let them try it on and grab some fun photos of the enthusiasm! This will guarantee that you at least have some happy pictures of your kids in costume. On the night of trick or treating, you can focus on grabbing the details such as eating their first piece of candy or them setting off with their empty buckets and flashlights.


How to Take Creative Halloween Pictures with Jennifer Chaney copy


3)  Be ready to change gears.

We’re talking about kids here, so as every parent knows, it’s important to be flexible. Photographing your kids is the most important time to let things go. If you’re trying to get your little bee to sit still but she refuses, step back and think of a different way you can photograph her. Maybe you need to dance to make her relax and laugh, or simply ask her to help you find a good spot to take the picture.

How to Take Creative Halloween Pictures By Jennifer Chaney

Shifting gears is often the answer to getting the pictures you want. (Just don’t let your little bee know what you’re doing!)


4) Fill your photos. Think about what you really want your pictures to say. I like my photos to tell a story, so I always try to incorporate as much as I can into each frame. If I’m photographing Green Lantern’s glowing ring, I might have his cat sister dance in the background. Think about packing as much as possible into each picture. Group shots that focus on one person are a great example of layering a photo.

Easy and Creative Halloween Photo Tips by Jennifer Chaney

5)  Get in front of the camera with your kids.  Along with planning for crazy, this is my favorite tip. Figure out your camera’s timer or ask a neighbor to photograph the entire family. Maybe even hand the camera over to the first house you take your kids to trick-or-treat at and ask them to take a quick picture for you… what a great photo that would make! Especially if it’s your child’s first halloween!

How to Take Halloween Pictures By Jennifer Chaney
And most of these tips can be used for any day of the year! If you want more candid, natural pictures of your kids, try implementing a few of these tricks and see what happens. :)

Lifestyle family photographer Bay Area

P.S. Need for Halloween photo tips? Check out the tips I gave to People magazine: 8 Boo-Tastic Halloween Photo Tips

You know the drill. When it comes to getting our family photos taken, the stress starts the moment we book our session.
We worry about if our kids will behave for the photographer. We fret about whether our husbands will be up for another round of pictures. We triple check ourselves in the mirror, debating if we should wait until we lose that last 10 lbs.

But what causes moms the most anxiety is figuring out what to wear for the yearly family photo session.


Stress no more! I’ve broken it all down and have detailed my top tips for easy family styling right here!


1) Shop in your closet
I recommend that 70 percent of what my clients wear for their family pictures comes from their own closets. When you shop in your own closest first, everyone feels and looks more comfortable in front of the camera, because what they’re wearing is really what they normally wear. This point is particularly important for dads and older kids… both are quick to express their discomfort. ;)

Plus, when the majority of what you’re wearing comes from what you already own, you avoid looking like you’re trying too hard (which can easily happen with an overstyled, all new wardrobe). And, something we don’t think about enough, when your family dresses the way they normally do, every time you see the pictures, you’ll take a trip down memory lane… nothing takes me back in time like seeing my child in one of their favorite t-shirts or frilly skirts.

Pro tip: If you do wind up purchasing new clothing, be sure to wash it before the shoot to give it a little softness.


How to style your family for pictures graphic

In the photo above, the only thing new is a cute pair of shoes for mom. She shopped her closets first and found the one thing that would pull the whole family together!


2) Choose your clothing first
So many moms become quickly overwhelmed when thinking of styling their family for pictures.  The trick is to choose your outfit first, and then move from there.  Once you feel really good about what you’ll be wearing, creating everyone else’s outfits will be a snap.


3) Let other people do the work for you
When thinking about what colors to dress your family in, start by looking around your home.  What colors are you drawn to? It’s likely you’ll have a repeating color in your most lived in rooms.  Take this color and search on for an incredible selection of color pallets. Or, find a pattern of a pillow, dress or tie that you like and use that as your color pallet. Style experts have already combined and coordinated the colors, so why not use what they’ve already designed?

how to dress for family photosHere is a color scheme I found on Kuler. I searched on mint and coral (two colors of our living room). If I were to dress for family photos based on these colors, I would go with creams and corals with just a pop of mint. Easy peasy!


4) Color pop vs. color explosion
Pops of color can help a photo come alive, but the trick is to keep it to a minimum.  If everyone is wearing bright, cheerful colors, it can be distracting from the people in the pictures and date the photo (much like the white shirt with blue jeans on the beach that we saw so much of in the ‘90s).

The focus is put back on the people when you tone down the clothing – you could dress your  daughter in a bright green skirt and your son in socks with green in the pattern.  There are many ways to show color without wearing it head to toe.


5) Look at the whole rather than the parts
Even though you’ll have several actual outfits in the picture, consider it as one well coordinated outfit.  The key here it to not repeat the same outfit for everyone. For example, everyone wearing jeans and green or yellow shirt isn’t coordinated, it’s matching.

Instead dress each person using the color palate incorporated it in different ways. Play with texture, layers and a little pattern. For example, the color blue can show up in several ways: shoes, pants, a layering tank, a belt, hair clip, sweater, etc… By moving the colors around for each person, you can avoid that “color block” look that happens when families stick to one or two colors for shirts.

How to style your family for pictures

This family did nearly all of their shopping in their own closets and while the youngest’s outfit is more purple than blue, it still works because she’s got a red stripe on her skirt (I love the uniqueness of her faded outfit… it’s her through and through and let’s be honest, imperfections are more fun!). I love this family’s style! Everyone is an individual, and they look wonderful as a group! 


6) Ask your kids
Many children fight dressing for pictures. And who can blame them? We put a lot of pressure on them to not only act a certain way, but also dress in a way. Try asking them what they would like to wear. It sounds scary, but it can be fun! They’re very creative and you might love what they come up with. If not, maybe it can be a bottom layer?  Just knowing they have it on might make the difference between an uncomfortable child and a confidant one.


7) Location plays a part
As a general rule, you and your family will stand out more if you dress with the session location in mind. If you’re getting your pictures taken on the beach, and everyone is wearing tans and blues, you’ll blend right in. Likewise, if you’re posing in a park with a lot of flowers, wear muted tones so you’re not competing with nature’s colorful backdrop.


8)  Think beyond the holiday card
Make your holiday pictures work for you. In fact, why not consider it a family photo session that you *might* use for your holiday card? Ask yourself what else can you do with the photos.  You can create gifts from the pictures, family keepsake albums, and decorate your walls.

Pro tip: If you plan on hanging them in your home, use one color from your home decor in your clothing.

How to dress for family pictures

The family in the picture above wore blues, yellows and grays (with brown accents). This works perfect for them and the pictures they enlarged didn’t clash with their home decor.


9) Trust yourself
Once you have all the outfits spread out on your bed, and something doesn’t feel right, but you followed all of the “rules,” change things around until you do like it.  If you’re not happy with what you’ve put together, you’ll think about how it could have been better every time you look at your pictures.

Trust your own sense of style. I call this Style Feng Shui. ;)


Lifestyle family photographer Bay Area

P.S. Care for more tips? Check out my own personal battle with my style demons here: Hammer Pants, High Tops and Family Photos

P.P.S. Need help finding the perfect family photographer? I can help with that, too. Check out my 5 tips that will help you hire the perfect family photographer!

Your chest swells a little with that deep-in-your-heart feeling that your son is getting older. That time is moving too swiftly. Naturally, you grab your camera in hopes of documenting his birthday party and freezing time.

Two hours and 187 frames later, you set your camera down to help usher the tiny guests out the door, goodie bags in hand. You were an amazing hostess. You got the right Buzz Lightyear party favors and managed to make a Pinterest worthy spacecraft cake.

And then it dawns on you that don’t actually remember much of the last few hours.

You were so busy buzzing around that you didn’t get to really see what was happening. And now your recall of the event will be based on the photos you took, rather than the fun your child had at his party.

Wait wait wait! Before you sucomb to mommy-guilt and click off my blog, quietly cursing me (or loudly), I’ve got a solution! A few weeks ago I told you I was going to help you take fewer (and more meaningful) pictures AND help you remember your kid’s childhood by just being present.

(Read about why we need to try to put our cameras down here.)

Here’s the simple trick I actually use with my clients when photographing their family life. I call it my “party trick.”

birthday party photo tips for moms


Before I pick up my camera, I ask myself two questions:

“What is the reason for taking the picture?”


“Where will it live once I click the shutter?”


Before you walk into your child’s birthday party, take a moment and ask yourself these two questions. The answers might surprise you!


Earlier this year I did an online family photo album design class and shared with the students how I strive to capture the essence of a family or a birthday party, rather than every single moment. My goal is to tell the story in fewer than 6 photos. This makes designing my picture albums a snap. I use the six photos to create a spread (fancy word for “two pages facing each other”) like this one here:

How to take good pictures of your kids

You can use my party trick for any event or even daily photo taking. For these family vacation photos above, I asked myself what was important about making s’mores in the summer, and it was their sticky smiling faces, tiny hands, and how their daddy helps them. Five photos and done. (I would love to show you an album spread of the 5-6 pictures I take at a birthday party, but in the interest of our guest’s privacy, I’ll go with our sticky beach treats instead.)

And, according to fancy science, this little party trick of mine will actually help you remember life with your children far better than the photos alone!

Your turn. Try this trick and check in on my Facebook page to let me know how it goes. While you’re there, you’ll learn more unique photo tips that will help you tell your family’s story!


Lifestyle family photographer Bay Area

P.S. If you want to get the photos you already have organized, sign up for my Photo News and Tips email and you’ll receive a complimentary downloadable copy of my book, Take Control of Your Digital Pictures.