How To Get Great Family Photos – 2 FREE Printables!


You know how hard it is to get great family photos?

Yes, I imagine that you probably do.  Let me just state for the record that it is NOT. STINKING. EASY.  Especially with wriggling little Oompah Loompahs who don’t like the whole sit still and don’t mess up your cute little outfit lecture.  Seriously, after half an hour of juggling and coaching and trying to smile for the picture, there are countless other activities that sound more appealing.  Like a root canal, for instance.  Or two.  Oy, vey.

Easter 2016

But then, I realize how ridiculously fast time is slipping by.  Seriously, wasn’t it just yesterday that I was the approximate size and shape of a beached whale 8 months pregnant with Malachi?  I am all about keeping the Oompah Loompahs little, but stacking bricks on their heads isn’t working.  (Yes, I am joking.)  The best I can do is savor each day and get some decent photos to look back on when I finally sit down in my old lady rocking chair with Superman.  (Keep reading for practical tips on lighting, makeup, and posing.)

I will miss the constant interruptions (or so I’ve been told), the cute mispronunciations (such as bee STINK, not bee sting, and DESTRUCTION site, not construction site.)  And their cuteness.  Oh, my goodness.  The cuteness melts me every time.  I want it frozen in time, and while I love candid photos, I want some frame-worthy portraits, too.  But family photos with wiggly small people and the non-wiggling small budget of a single income household is HARD.

A few months ago, when I got serious about re-launching the blog, I had the opportunity to meet with an amazing photographer, Carla Lyle.  She’s a wife, mom, Jesus-lover, and the owner of 4:13 Photography.  We began the day as acquaintances, but her easy smile and sense of humor soon landed us in friend territory.  Carla has an intuitive style.  She just instinctively knows what is going to work, without ever crossing the line into bossy territory.  If you live in NH or southern Maine, you’re in time to book for fall family photos.  She was a total blast, who cracked me up on multiple occasions during the shoot.  Give her a call: (603) 986-3962.  She’s agreed to give a FREE upgrade from the Joyful Package to the Lovely Package ($25 value) JUST FOR MY LOVELY READERS!!!


If you happen to not live close enough to take advantage of 4:13 Photography (message her to get the story behind the name), you can still improve the quality of your family photos.  I even made a free printable to help out (’cause who doesn’t like a cute little printable, right?) 🙂  I’ve been bugging nagging asking for a photo of her to include here so you can see her beautiful face, but no luck so far.  You’ll have to go on Facebook if you want to see her.

Great Family Photos - www.searchingformyeden.comAnd then, for those of you who can’t swing the cost of a photographer at all, I have a couple of tips to get some nice photos without spending a dime.

1) Figure out the details ahead of time.

Get your background figured out.  Set up a chair or two if you need it.  If you’re using a tripod, get it in place.  Snap a few practice photos to make sure the focus is good, and the flash is set to your liking.  But most importantly:

2) Timing is key.

Don’t try to squeeze in a photo sesh after a harried day of errands and running around.  Make sure that little tummies are full, it’s not nap time, and no one is past the point of exhaustion.  (You have about a five minute window if your family is like ours.)  🙂


Also, if you’re doing outside photos, be aware that strong sunlight is not your friend.  A slightly overcast day or early evening is best.  You need something to diffuse the sunlight, so that faces aren’t washed out.  If you’re doing inside photos, again, be aware of the lighting.  You may want to place a lamp close to the floor if the overhead lights are strong so that there aren’t harsh shadows (or pronounced dark circles under the eyes of haggard parents.) 🙂

3) Don’t Wing It.

Seriously.  Figure out the outfits a day or two ahead, iron or mend anything that needs it, and spend some time the big day putting yourself together.  I like to try to have us wear coordinating colors, but some people love to have everyone wear the same outfit, and some really don’t care!  My advice is to just be the best versions of yourself, without trying to be anyone else.  Yes, you want to have a great photo, but you also want to stay true to who you are as a family.

4) Some practical girly tips:

Be aware that lighting will wash you out, so go with a slightly more dramatic version of your usual makeup routine.  For me, this means dark chocolate eyeliner instead of medium brown, several coats of mascara, and a little extra blush and eyeshadow.  (You can wipe it all off as soon as you’re done, promise.)  Also, delicate jewelry is often not visible in a photo, so choose accordingly.  The color closest to your face should be extra flattering, so use a blouse, sweater, or scarf in a color that looks amazing on you.

5) Finally, posing to minimize flaws is a subject you can research, but here’s a few easy pointers that can benefit all of us:

  • Don’t hide your neck.  Keep it long (don’t dip your chin or lift your shoulders up.)  Good posture, without being stiff, is what you’re looking for.
  • Straight on is not the most flattering.  Turning your body even slightly will slim your profile, or you can have a little person standing in front of you (my favorite trick!) 🙂
  • For double chins, you can push your chin out ever so slightly, and it will minimize the issue.  Think loooooong neck!
  • If your arms are large, choose an angle rather than facing the camera straight on or completely profile.  Relax your arms, but don’t push them up against your side.
  • Smile big, but not huge.  A great smile is contagious, but don’t cheese it up so much that you lose your eyes.  And definitely, do smile with your eyes.
  • Lastly, make sure that you are connected with the family members – your hand in his, their head on your shoulder…something that shows how much you all really do love each other!  Communicate the family bond through the photo, and you will have a priceless portrait to cherish for the rest of your life!

To make it easy, I have a Posing 101 tip sheet for you!  Score!

If you found this helpful, would you let me know in the comments and share with your friends?  Thanks a million!

Preparation Is Key

Here at Searching For Eden, we’re all about the intentional life. Getting intentional about great family photos starts with preparation. Grab your checklist here!

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And just so you know, Carla gave me a photo session with her for free in return for my honest opinion here on the blog.  I can tell you, I hope that our family can book a paid session with her soon for family photos.  (She’s THAT good.)  I just want to keep things real here, and you need to know that there’s no behind-the-scenes agenda going on.  🙂 Xoxo, Kelly


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Rest: How It Keeps Me On Trail

Rest - How It Keeps Me On Trail -

On the phone this morning, a friend and I were chatting about scheduling a play date.  (Tiring out the Oompah Loompahs, chatting with a friend, and consuming iced coffee makes for a winning day in my opinion!) 🙂  But here’s the thing: I had to schedule it for the end of next week, and even then it’s going make for a busy couple of days.

Six months ago, I probably would have scrapped the idea.  I’m too busy, and all that.  Scheduling rest goes against every strand of my Type-A DNA.  Do you relate?  I’m a run-on sentence kind of a girl.  Stopping for something as boring as periods or commas just seems like a total cramp in my personal style.  And I’m not talking about writing, so much as I am about life.  Pausing just seems like a total waste of time.  I could be accomplishing something, for goodness’ sake!  In all the busy, I forget 3 key things:

1) God’s purpose is relational.

Because He cares so much about our relationship with Him and our relationship with others, He has placed boundaries to keep them healthy.  Obsessive behaviors, entanglements of sin, and yes, overloaded calendars and to-do lists – prevent good relationships.  Intentional rest is like the punctuation mark that divides up a too-long sentence into something beautiful and beneficial.  The 3rd commandment is really a weapon that will effectively keep us from vandalizing the other 9 commandments.  Punctuation marks protect us from breaking the Top Ten List of “Don’t Hurt Yourself.”  They provide the pause we need to keep from burning out and doing harmful, foolish things just because we’re exhausted.

Running on empty does more than make us snappy and stressed.  Relationships will turn unhealthy.  Appetites will become out of control.  Blessings will become fixations that ruin instead of enrich.  That’s why I’m thankful for the second truth that I so easily forget:

2) God’s Word is restorative.

Superman, I may have mentioned, is on the Search and Rescue team.  He was called out at 11 p.m. last night for some lost hikers.  Apparently they had one flashlight with a dying battery, no compass, and no map.  Not surprisingly, they were hopelessly lost.  They were unprepared for nightfall.

I don’t think any of us really starts out on a sunny morning thinking that we’re going to be lost.  But life doesn’t stay sunny and pretty, and darkness hits.  Shadows fall.  If we don’t have the light of God’s Word, the map of His desires for us, the compass of His unerring truth, we will become like those hikers.


God’s Word is the light, the map, and the compass when we find ourselves off trail.  Bible study, memorization, and MOST importantly, application of God’s Word is the remedy to getting back on trail.  There is a LOT that the Bible has to say about rest, but if we don’t read it and obey it and remind ourselves about it, it does us no good.  Lastly,

3) God’s ways are redemptive.

Out of control living is pointing us to something inside that needs fixed.  If we’re off trail, there’s a reason.  There comes a time when the run-on sentence has to stop – when there is no choice but to pause and punctuate.  I found myself there as a college freshman with an eating disorder that brought me to my knees.  The desire to control, the addiction to overdo everything – that’s me.  It took a crisis the size of an eating disorder to show me that I desperately need the boundaries that God offers.  I am a run-on sentence desperately in needs of some commas and periods.

When we pause, we have space to face the broken things within us.  Healing is always God’s desire.  He prioritizes it over success, accomplishments, and yes, even comfort.  Freedom is not found in unending work, impressive performance, or a long list of achievements.

Healing, restoration, and wholeness are found in Him alone.  He invites us to quiet for a moment.  Rest.  Put a period somewhere and sit, for the love of sanity.  Schedule a play date, pour some iced coffee, or lock yourself in the bathroom while the kids nap.  🙂  Get creative about it, but make rest and refreshment a priority…

…because run-on sentences have to stop somewhere or else we all suffer and then life becomes endless drudgery there is a reason for punctuation so use it pretty please! 😉

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Surviving Busy – Handheld Breakfasts For Crazy Days

VBS kills me every year.

I know, I know, I’m a terrible person for even saying it.  Now before I get a whole huge stack of hate mail, let me clarify that statement by saying that we believe in the value of our church’s Vacation Bible School.  We do.  Jesus + kids + fun activities, stories, and games?  No brainer.  Yes, please.

It’s just the whole feeding, clothing, and getting out the door before 8 a.m. with three kids under the age of 6 that gets me.

Working mothers and single moms, I bow in total respect.  I am not worthy.  You do that crazy shuffle, and I have not a clue how you survive.  (You have definite crowns in heaven waiting for you.  And chocolate covered espresso beans.  Yum.)

Without a doubt, the hardest part of getting us out the door on time is the whole “feeding frenzy.”  I know it’s important to feed the pack of Oompah Loompahs, but it’s hard enough just rolling them out of bed, getting somewhat decent clothes on them, and making sure that they have shoes and socks on.  That’s why I came up with some portable, nutritious breakfast ideas that they could devour in the car.  Oompah Loompahs happy, my sanity saved = win-win.

So, I know, you’re busy and ready to get to the ideas.  Ready to have your life saved?  🙂

Breakfast PosterGRAB YOUR BREAKFAST HERE, GIRL!  Fast food joints got NOTHING on a prepared, savvy mama with a minivan load of fully fueled kids. 🙂

Grace, peace, and everything bagels,Kelly

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Harvesting Hope

 Harvesting Hope -

The first draft of this post was written  and published almost a year ago.  I dusted it off and doubled the length since then! 🙂

Friends of ours are taking a vacation and invited us to pick the produce from their garden, visit their goats and chickens, and cut as many flowers as we wish.

Where to begin?  There’s spicy basil, decadently fragrant, practically begging to come to my kitchen.  Prickly, opinionated parsley.  String beans, softly velveted pods hiding amid the leaves. Sun drenched flowers, faces tilted heavenward in a silent invocation to worship.  Tiny tomatoes, golden orange globes stretched to bursting with the goodness of warm earth and sunshine. Joyous invitations to believe that God is a good giver.

It’s an easy truth to believe in the glow of a summer sunset.  It’s not hard to remember when life is smooth.

But in the icy cold of early spring, there was no color, fragrance, or feast for the senses.  There was only a handful of shriveled brown seeds, a trowel, and the cold, wet earth. A season before, some gardener took the dead remains and shook out a few hard, dried up husks. A fistful of hope for a coming harvest. It didn’t look like hope.  And it strikes me as I inhale the sweet fragrance of the herbs, that my life is full of shriveled husks, dead things that desperately need a resurrection.

God brings life out of dead things.  Isn’t that the keystone of our hope as believers in a dead Man risen?  He brings life out of dead things.  How much do YOU need to know that in the season you’re in?  There are things in my life that are glacier cold, and miles away from what I want them to be.  I have to believe that there is some hope of redemption, some light that I can’t even see on a spectrum too heavenly for my earthly eyes.  There are friends who are carrying pain so heavy, it almost crushes me, and they are holding tenacious to God in the face of darkness so thick and black, it’s nearly suffocating.  There is hope for you and me, and for the dead, shriveled things in our lives.  But it’s so hard to sow in faith.

The blinding pain of this cold earth makes me want to shrivel right up.  I’ve been afraid to ask the hard questions, afraid to point the accusing finger at a God who says He will make all things good.

Mass shootings, terrifying plagues, rampant suicide and divorce and sexual perversions and just plain evil…where is the good in this? Can’t I ask that?  Can’t we cry, like David, out of the depths of a pain too blindingly big?  Dare we choke out our questions with mingled anger and grief?  Babies dying.  Unthinkable tragedies.  The list can go on and on and on.  Just…why?  I have only to read the Psalms to know that the man after God’s own heart had all these questions and more.  God has an answer, but it’s not what we think.

He offers no pat answers, no simple explanations.  The truth is, there are none.  What He offers is what we need, far more than answers, far more than any explanation.  He gives Himself, wholly and without reservation.  When Moses was sent to rescue a people that had been enslaved, oppressed, and abused for generations, God sent more than deliverance from their circumstances.  He sent His name, an invitation to relationship.  I am the I AM.

He knew there would be questions.  We cannot authentically face the overwhelming pain of this life without them.  Aren’t You grieved, Lord?  I AM.  Aren’t You big enough to prevent this?  I AM.  Aren’t You big enough to fix this?  I AM.  Are You ever going to fix this?  I AM.

And I wonder, as my eyes scan the news of war, and famine, and death, and crippling circumstances…terrorist attacks, children abused and discarded and harvested for their parts…devastating diseases that suck the life and light right out…will You make these into seeds? Some day, could we dare to hope that what’s dead and shriveled and buried could burst into light and color and fragrance?

I don’t see it, or understand it…but could I believe it?  Could you?

Like the children of Israel, He warns us that there are some things that we just can’t understand right now. (Isaiah 55:9) I have resented that, imagined cold condescension. But God is our loving Father, and I think He makes the statement to calm our thrashing hearts. It’s an invitation to trust, to believe that what we see right now is only the ugly seed to something beautiful later.  He is always, always inviting us into relationship.  In the sweetness of summer sunsets, the joy of answered prayers, the painful reality of devastated hopes, the hand that won’t let go in the swirling tornado of evil and darkness and confusion.  In the midst of all that is desperately unfair, it’s hard to believe that God can be trusted.  Hearts bruised are shy to reopen.  Scabbed wounds make us more apt to flinch than trust.

It’s a hurting planet.  Scripture is very clear that in this world we will have trouble, but we don’t need to be overcome by it, because Jesus has already overcome it for us.  (Paraphrase of John 16:33).  In Him, we have hope.  Only He can deliver us, and only He is completely and utterly trustworthy.

David, and Moses, and you, and I…we cry out for answers, for a way out of the pain, for all the ugly to stop.  I think that’s okay.  God is tender to these cries, and I believe that we should never stop asking.  But like Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, we must always make the will of God our paramount request.  It’s hard to trust, hard to lay down what we can see for what we know to be true.  Let me put it this way: what if Calvary never happened?  If Jesus had never suffered, we would have no hope, ever.  The Messiah of the whole world begged for deliverance from betrayal, torture and death.  We can ask.  But if the answer is no, like it was in that long ago garden, then it is only and always out of love.  Like Jesus, we bury hope in the darkness, and water with tears, and some day – 3 days or 3 decades or 3 millennia later – it will bloom a resurrection.  And we will be glad we trusted.

On a blood drenched hill, a splintered cross and a mother’s tortured prayers are the seeds planted in the darkest hours of our history. Only this, what is unequivocally anguishing, could sow eternal hope.  In Jesus, we are given a frame through which to view the very worst of what this world can throw at us. Hebrews 6 reminds us that God’s promises are our hope, and hope is the anchor for our storm-tossed souls.  If the answer is different than what we wanted, then there must be a bigger picture, a better good coming.  Is there any other response possible in light of the cross?  Calvary, like the name I AM, is invitation to relationship.  A relationship with the living God is what will see us through the dark seasons, the wet seasons, the hot seasons, until the joy of harvest.

We are invited to believe in His goodness and love.  We are invited into the process – the hurting, messy, and sometimes ugly process.  And some day, what we have chosen to believe in the face of cold, painful seasons…will burst forth in riotous harvest colors and we will see.

Until then…could we trust that He brings life out of dead things? 

Grace and peace and dandelion seeds,



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Is This My Life?

Is This My Life -

Morning coffee wafts up the stairs and scents the cool air, teasing my tired head off the pillow.

It was a rough night.  A teething baby and a wakeful 3 year old needed me in the wee hours, and yet…I need Jesus time more than I need the extra sleep.  Is this my life?  Having to weigh the merits of 15 minutes of sleep against a few quiet moments with my Bible?  Creamer sloshes into my favorite cup, tinting the rich, nutty brew a golden hue.  I inhale the fragrance of clean morning air, relish the quietness of the sleeping house, and exhale thanksgiving.  Is this my life?  How am I so blessed, to smell?  To savor?

The Bible in my hands has stood witness to 20 years of my life.  I run a thumb over the scarred cover, and smile at the underlined pages, blistered with tears and steeped with memories.  Truth for the ages, as powerful today as 20 years ago.  It doesn’t change, but I have.  Is this my life?  So much different than I could have imagined as a young girl.  God is gracious…to me.  Even through the thorny places, the stumble-fall-and-gravel-in-my knees places.  He alone is completely, thoroughly, and utterly dependable.

Little feet come down the stairs.  I read faster, desperate for encouragement to carry me through the day.  The little hands that slide around my neck are so much bigger than they were last year.  My baby girl is growing up faster than I can believe.  She’s getting so big, but she still needs her mama.  Inadequate doesn’t begin to describe how I feel when I look into those precious little faces.  Is this my life?  Forever reminded of how deeply I need the grace and wisdom and love of Jesus to do this mama thing well?

The morning moves on, and so does my little tribe.  I fill sippy cups.  Change diapers.  Kiss Superman, snuggle sleepy children, and start breakfast and a load of laundry.  Pack a lunchbox and wipe spills and we all wave goodbye to Daddy.  Is this my life?  So mundane.  No lifesaving (unless you count the 5,982 times I prevented my daring 15 month old from tumbling, choking, being poisoned, impaled, lost, or run over.)  I love it.  And, I’m kind of desperate to talk to tall people.  Maybe that’s why I check Facebook 482 times during the day…

The day is filled with squabble reffing, sock chasing, dish washing, and Facebook peeking.  Lunch time presents only the age old question of PB&J or Mac’n’Cheese, and I wipe faces and I think, this is my life.  I don’t have even a moment of doubt when it comes to the question of whether I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, but it doesn’t feel enough.  I don’t feel enough.  This is my life, and I feel so inadequate to complete even such a seemingly inconsequential role.  Who in the world allowed me to be the mother of these precious children, the wife to the most remarkable and fun and kind man I know?  Don’t I have to pass some kind of test or something?  Insecurity and I go way back, and I feel nauseous with the weight of my own insignificance.  What am I doing with my life?  Is it all just a waste?

Herding cats has got to be easier than getting my tribe up the stairs and pottied, diapered, fluffed and tucked into their little beds.  I sink wearily down enjoy 15 seconds of quiet, eyes vacant and realize I’m a hot mess.  I’m still wearing my sloppy tee shirt and the shorts I tossed on this morning, and the ragged pony tail has seen better days.  Ick.  Is this my life?  I’m turning into a soccer mom, and not one of those pretty, pulled together ones.  (Please, Tim Gunn, I need an intervention.  I’m begging.)

Whoever invented the shower had better have won the Nobel Peace Prize.  They deserve it.  Rest time is over, consumed with blogging and a quick shower, but at least I won’t meet my husband at the door looking and smelling like a cave dweller.  Superman arrives and is greeted by the wild bunch, and I watch his eyes light up as he greets each one of them, tossing them high, kissing their loving little faces, and ruffling their hair.  He passes out hugs and tickles before making his way to me.  This is my life.  I’m in awe.  I love this man.  I love our life.  Dinner time comes with all the usual “please don’t put your feet on the table,” “I DON’T LIKE CHICKEN!!!” and generalized mayhem of feeding piranhas.  On my hands and knees under the table, sweeping up rice and cantelope off the floor, I think about how hard I studied through nursing school and feel a pang of regret.  All that work, and this is my life.  I clean up messes all day.

We reach bedtime like a marathon finish line and rejoice deeply.  Jammied little squirmy people snuggle up for bedtime prayers, and I laugh when JoJo thanks God again for big trucks and baby chicks.  Alaina, my serious little perfectionist thanks Jesus for our family, house, and friends.  Maybe I need to take notes from my babies.  They are thankful, every day, for the same things.  They need reminding, just as I do, to stop taking themselves so seriously.  And they have so much to teach me about living in the moment.

Yes, this is my life.  It’s a mixed bag, and I’m learning to be okay with that.  I am deeply flawed and incredibly blessed.  I am over my head most days and still figuring out so much.  I’m growing and learning and changing, and God is far from done with me.  There are pretty, shiny moments, and there are stinky, ugly moments, and mostly, there’s a whole lot of in-between stuff.  I’m learning to look for Jesus in all of it, because this is my life…but only Jesus IS life.

And oh, how I need His life shining in, and on, and through mine.

What about you?  Is your life different than you thought it would be?  Than you hoped?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Grace and peace and LIFE,


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