That magical time of year is coming. The leaves will change, the golden hour light will leave you glowing, and your heart will swell when you think of the beautiful moments you’ll have with your family. In fact, this might be the year, you decide, that you’ll be on top of it and send out holiday cards with beautiful professional family photos on them.

What sounds more lovely than a warm, fuzzy photo shoot with the people you love most? That’s the start of the emotional roller coaster you’re jumping on in your effort to capture those memories. You’re in for ups and downs and a weird amount of emotional work leading up to the shoot.

Family PhotosA Few Months Before

Now’s the time to choose your photographer if you don’t have one you love. You pore over photographers’ websites and Instagram feeds and Facebook group recommendations. They’re all so beautiful, how will you ever choose?

Yikes! Do they all cost this much? You know a good photographer is worth the money, but maybe you don’t need photos this year. You have an iPhone; that’s plenty.

But you see picture after picture of smiling cooperative kids, relaxed moms and happy dads. You can practically hear the family harmony buzzing from the screen.

Won’t it be nice to see your family glowing with love like that? Your babies have such beautiful smiles and bring you so much joy. You can’t wait to see that captured in frame after frame. How will you ever narrow it down to the 10, 20, or 30 that are included in your package?

One Month Before

You start thinking about what your family will wear. Start that Pinterest board!

The options are a little overwhelming. Clearly nothing you already own will work. Your kids need to look like catalog models, not feral beasts. And obviously the only way to make that happen is expensive boutique clothes that they’ll grow out of by Christmas.

Should you rent a ballgown for yourself? It’s not normally your style, but you like how other people look standing in the wilderness in their formal wear. You’ll probably start working out between now and then anyway, so you’ll be feeling your best. A month is plenty of time to get it all together! You’re on top of it.

One Week Before

Oh crap. That photo shoot is next weekend! Maybe you should have your kids try on the clothes you bought, just to make sure your Pinterest vision is on track.

Hold up, when did these kids grow? This does not look like the photos. It’s too late to order from anywhere nice online. You’ll probably spend the next five days scrambling to find something you can pick up in store.

Two Days Before

Everyone’s outfit is ready to go… except yours. It took your husband all of 30 seconds to pick out his jeans and button-up shirt he’ll wear. It’s totally fine that he gets to just show up to this photo shoot without putting in any effort. You’re not resentful at all that you’ve been planning it for months.

So what are you going to wear? You thought you’d have time to go shopping and try on some outfits, take pictures of yourself from different angles, hold it up next to the outfits you have picked for your kids.

But you ordered one dress from Amazon that didn’t fit, you can’t find the shirt you had in mind in your closet, and it’s too late to order anything else.

Guess it’s between the two dresses you find at Target that go with your color scheme or the one you already had in your closet this whole time.

Day Of

Today’s the day! You pump yourself up to make this magical day go smoothly! You start getting ready two hours ahead of time — and yet somehow spend it all getting the kids ready.

And no matter how long you’ve been a parent, you’re still surprised that your kids don’t want to wear what you want them to wear. I mean, sure, you knew that your son refuses to wear anything that doesn’t have a dinosaur on it. But how could he say no to the perfectly coordinated collared shirt you picked out for him?

Check that weather forecast. Will your autumn dreams come true? It’ll still be 90 degrees at sunset?! And you were going to wear a sweater dress. Back to Target!

15 Minutes Before You Need to Leave

Oh no, what shoes are we all wearing?!

The Drive

You definitely forgot something. It’s probably something that’s important to you and no one else.

Is that kid falling asleep in the car? KEEP THEM AWAKE. You don’t need an interrupted-nap meltdown right now.

Go Time

Of course you’re running late. Of course no one is listening to you. Feel like yelling or threatening? Rein it in, lady, because you need this family smiling. Channel your inner Disney princess and sweet talk them into doing what you want.

Everyone is whining and unhappy. This is not the time to follow the guidelines in your parenting books. This is the time to bribe, bribe, bribe. But nothing messy that’ll get on their outfits!

Well, your family is incapable of all looking at the camera at the same time. And no one is smiling. Will tickling work? NOPE, TICKLING DOESN’T WORK.

It’s Over

Family PhotosYou swear you will never ever take professional photos again. It’s not worth it. You’ve never been more miserable in your life, there’s no chance any of the photos are any good, you’re out hundreds of dollars, and you’re just so sweaty.

You need some time away from your family to rethink some life decisions.

When You Get the Photos

“Look at my beautiful family! I can’t wait to get our photos taken every year!”

Bethany Farnsworth is a human jungle gym, napkin, and personal shopper to her kids Peter, 5, and Lydia, 3. She met her husband at Baylor and moved from Waco to Houston to Dallas before finally settling in Austin in October 2019. She loves podcasts, iced coffee, uninterrupted bathroom time, traveling, coming home after traveling, and spending too much time planning activities that hold her kids' attention for 30 seconds. On a good weekend, you'll find her and her crew on a hiking trail or at a brewery -- you'll recognize them by the table full of toys and snacks. Read more at @austinwithkids or @bethanyfarns on Instagram.

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