Fun family photo shoot
Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017
Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

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Having Fun with Your Family Photos

A (Paint) Battle of the Ages

When I had kids they became my biggest security blanket when having my photo taken. Feeling uncomfortable? snuggle a baby and all is right in the world. My other favorite trick for making family photos much more fun is to well, do something fun! For my own extended family we opted out of the traditional nice clothes and chorus of groans and decided to have a paint war instead.

So how did it all go down? Here’s the ingredient list to set up your very own family paint war:


(1) All in White

Don’t forget to take “before” shots!

Dress everyone in a clean all white outfit. Choose items that you’re ok ruining- even though we used “washable” paint, it didn’t all wash out! Watch for sales and clearance items and shop less expensive stores like H&M, Gap, Old Navy, or Amazon. We also found some all white clearance shorts for the bigger boys at the Nike Outlet store! We played our war on soft grass, barefoot so that we wouldn’t have to worry about finding everyone shoes.

(2) Safety Glasses

No matter what type of paint or chalk you use, there’s no faster way to ruin a fun day than someone getting paint in their eyes. Protect the fun and the photoshoot with safety glasses for all! We bought these for adults and these ones for kids. We also made sure to set rules at the very beginning that we were not aiming for each other’s faces and to be careful not to throw the balls too hard, particularly at the younger kids. This was suppose to be fun, after all!

(3) Buckets of Fun

Strategically place buckets around your war zone. I purchased a dozen of these metal pails from Hobby Lobby on clearance in a bright variety of colors.

(4) Add a dash of paint, and a tiny splash of water

While I was buying my buckets, I also grabbed a bunch of paint in a rainbow of colors. I put one of these 32oz containers of washable paint in each bucket and thinned it slightly with some water. Note: It says on the label that it’s “washable” and perfect for finger painting….except we all had blue hands for a day or 2. For whatever reason, the blue in particular is very hard to get out of your skin. Still, we thought it was worth it, but if you have someone who is worried about it be sure to test your paint in advance and potentially look into other brands that truly are completely washable.

(5) Bring on the projectiles

Since we had a range of ages participating (from our 1 year old nephew to my 68 year old dad!) we wanted to make sure that no one would get hurt. We chose these water balls from amazon.  They were the perfect squishy soft, absorbed the paint well and didn’t hurt when you were hit. I bought 4 packs of them because we had such a large group, but really we had more than we needed. You could certainly get away with purchasing just 1 or 2 packs to save some $$$ particularly with a smaller group.


(6) Find a photographer you trust

If the goal is to just have a paint war with family or friends, then you can skip this step. But if you’re doing this for the photos, like I was, then it’s vital that you find the right photographer who can capture the mayhem.

You want someone that understands the technical side of how to stop motion, isn’t afraid to be in the middle of a painty war zone and can bring your vision to life. The other factor that was very important to me was the color of the end images- I wanted the end results to be vibrant and saturated so we could see all those brilliant white outfits and the rainbow of colors. Look for a photographer with clean, natural colors in their photographs to be sure they’re going to be able to capture the scene the way you’re envisioning it or is willing to work with you to create the look you want.

I looked around quite a bit to find a photographer local to this shoot, but ultimately was disappointed in my options. Instead I found a photographer willing to travel! Alex of @alexandra_star_photography took all these amazing photos within this blog and I couldn’t possibly be more excited with the results. She did a phenomenal job and I can’t thank her enough for traveling to my family’s happy place in Bellingham, Washington.

(7) Location Location Location

Which brings me to my next point- we took these photos on our own property. Be sure to check for permission before you go slinging paint in a public park! This is my disclaimer that you can’t sue me if you get fined because you didn’t check to be sure before getting “painty”!

I highly recommend an open grassy field if you’re going to be barefoot. Also, don’t make the war zone too big- you want your photographer to be able to capture the action and it’s much more difficult if everyone is spread out. Be sure to let everyone know the boundaries before you get started. 


(8) The Aftermath

Our war raged for about 15 minutes or so and just to make sure we had lots of fun images we played a few family games while we were messy. First we had my mom and dad hold hands while they called each of us over red rover style. Then we captured each individual family group and my parents with all of their grandsons as well as the whole group photo. I wish we would have also stopped to get an individual shot of each person, so I would add that to a shot list in the future! Finally we put all our hands in the middle for a final celebratory cheer.

(9) Time to Clean Up

This kind of goes along with number 7, but on top of making sure you have permission to toss paint, be sure you clean up the entire area (and yourselves!) One of the other perks of our particular lakeside location is we were all able to jump in afterwards to quickly rinse off. And of course, we had Alex capture that as well, which resulted in one of my favorite family photos of all time. (This one’s going big on the wall, folks)

(10) Remember to embrace the mess and mayhem

With all photoshoots, the images will be their very best when your family is genuinely having fun and engaging with each other. Not into paint and all the cleanup that comes with? Think about what lights your family up and create your very own fun family photoshoot.

All images copyright @alexandra_start_photography Written words by Paige of @gleanandco

lara and eric

After waiting 6 years after marriage to have children, I decided to invest in professional photos with Glean and Co. when I got pregnant. I always knew I wanted a special newborn photoshoot, but instantly all her life moments became so important to me when I knew that we were becoming a family. I’ll treasure the album and photos forever and am so grateful to Paige and Glean & Co. for the memories. 

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