Today's guest blog post is written by Photosanity alumni Shayna Gehl.

When I moved to NYC and had children, I eagerly accepted the role of stay-at-home mom. I absolutely embraced motherhood. When I had our son (now 2 and a half years old) I was so moved by the love I felt for him, I picked up a hobby that allowed me to document every moment: photography.

It is safe to say 2 kids in 2 years, a Canon Rebel XS, and The Photosanity Workshop later, I consider myself a decent photographer. It is not uncommon to be “booked” for unofficial family shoots by friends or family members when hubby, the tots, and I travel to our hometowns. As a result, I have started to experiment more, have developed greater confidence, and become motivated to continue my beloved hobby.

On one of our recent trips home, my enthusiasm, (over)confidence, and motivation may have misled me to an overly ambitious idea. I decided to take a group shot of all eleven “Gehl” kids that attended a party hosted by my in-laws.

I had already completed a few very successful sessions with my sister, my sister-in-law, and a friend. Capturing beautiful moments between parents and children seemed to come easy to me. Plus, I was also able to constantly practice on my own kids.

I reasoned if I had been able to succeed with families and individuals so far, how hard could it be to throw a few more kids into the mix? They all like each other and their parents will be watching. With cooperation from the kiddies and help of the parents, I can surely capture the group with one good picture.

As everyone arrived and began buzzing around and visiting, the positive energy filled my in-laws’ backyard. It felt great. This is going to be a piece of cake. All the kids were playing together and everyone was thrilled to meet my 4-month-old daughter.

Had I noticed the warning signs, I may have been more prepared for the beautiful disaster awaiting me.

For example two (of 5) family dogs frightened and almost turned on each other. Naps were overlooked so the kids could have more family time since parties don’t happen often. Children were buzzing around everywhere; hanging off things, running around giddy, playing on a slip-n-slide.

Out of the corner of my eye the sun reflected off something. It was extremely bright. It was a toddler butt. This butt had taken it upon himself to go to his family’s car, get his clothes, strip down completely naked from his swimsuit, and get changed. He is a very well-behaved child, but the fact that there were so many children running around forcing ‘naked butt’ to take it upon himself to get changed should have been the most glaringly obvious clue. Things were getting crazy.

As time wore on people started preparing to leave. I needed to act quickly if I wanted to get my family shot.

I was determined to take ONE good picture of all the kids together. I shouted my request to round up the children for a family picture.

I hear people marveling at the idea. They have high expectations now. Everyone is working hard to get the kids around. I start to feel good. It is all coming together.

Shot 1- blurry…but the backdrop looks great. Awesome, ‘cuz that’s what I’m going for. Red shirt isn’t looking, pacifier (paci) is smiling, purple tank isn’t sitting quite yet. Grey and plaid tees are looking in the right direction, but not smiling. Biker tours (BT) tee is looking but not smiling while navy polo is nose picking like a pro. Pink onesie is going for my son’s snacks, which is going to be a problem. Blue dress looks like she’s pooping. It’s ok. This is only the first shot. Behind me, I hear “Hurry! Hurry! Take the picture!”

Shot 2- Red shirt looks hungry. Paci is happily staring at something off to the side. Purple tank is straining to hold a smile for me. Thank you darling. Grey and plaid tees need reminding where to look. BT and navy polo are probably closer to a good picture than anyone else with the exception of purple tank. Pink onesie is getting ready to deck my son. She would win in a toddler duel, no contest. Blue dress is gorgeous without even trying. This is only picture number 2, stay calm.

Shot 3- Red shirt has joined the shot giving us a stellar pensive look! Paci is game, purple tank is a rock star (still) and showing good stamina. Grey tee is upping his game while plaid tee looks like he is deciding whether or not to join the happy kids. BT is dazed. Navy polo obviously hasn’t found what he’s looking for. Pink onesie is actually winding up on my son while hubby intervenes to save him from a lifetime of embarrassing “remember whens”. Blue dress has potential. I think I can coax a smile out of her. Maybe I will just do a portrait of her. Again, I hear “Hurry, hurry! We good?” (It has been about 2 minutes). I am going to die.

Shot 4- Blue dress is out. I hear ya sister. Red shirt is ready for his headshot. Paci is golden. Love that kid more and more. Purple tank is dyin on me now. Grey tee is losin' it too. Plaid tee doesn’t even know I am still shooting, and I am wondering if he is aware he is still holding my 4-month-old. BT and navy polo are trying to work with me. Thank God, someone gave pink onesie a snack; maybe a nap is next on the list? My son seems to have just realized what’s going on. I have a headache.

Shot 5- Oh sweet Lord, blue dress is back! Red shirt is less than amused. I love paci and purple tank. Grey tee is now distracted while plaid tee is going to either kill someone or throw my 4-month-old. BT, finally in stride! Navy polo, really?! Pink onesie, trying to be the bigger toddler. My son is jumpin’ ship. I need a beer.

Shot 6- Seriously? I quit.

So it turns out taking one good picture of a group of kids is extremely difficult to do. I gave it a good effort and was able to capture memorable moments to say the least. However, I'm thinking I should probably leave group photos up to the professionals. Maybe I should turn my focus to other easier tasks I would be good at. Like blogging, or herding cats for example.

Alethea, any suggestions?!

Here's my response:

Shayna, your account of your experience here is absolutely hilarious! And I'm sure everyone, including the professional photographers amongst us, can relate. I know I can!

First of all, you did great to get so many shots with (pretty much) everyone in the frame! That in itself is an achievement, so I think you've got some potential here.

Here are some tips to try next time:

  1. Try to get everyone gathered together for photos early on in the event, before naps are missed and everyone is tired and cranky.
  2. I don't know if the other parents behind you were also trying to photograph this moment, but that can be really confusing for kids to know where to look. If possible, let everyone else get their shots first and then get them to step back, or let them know you'll be printing copies for everyone so they don't need to take their own. Another idea is to enlist one or two helpers and corale the kids into a location away from everyone else.
  3. Mostly though, the key is to get everyone's attention by making a complete fool of yourself! Don't ask everyone to smile or say cheese, but instead be as loud and crazy and silly as you can so the kids all look your way and start giggling naturally.

Overall though, I have to say that even without that perfect photo, you have some hilarious outtakes that probably show the personalities of the kids better anyway.

I say print up shot 5 and give each family a copy. Years from now this will be a treasured memory that you can all laugh over.

I hope that helps!

Shayna Gehl is a stay-at-home mom and freelance writer at the Daily National. You can read her articles at or you can follow Shayna at or on Twitter @dishevldparent.

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