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Monday Mom challenge: A family portrait

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Posed for posterity

When you look around your grandmother's house, I bet there are family portraits on the wall. Great uncle Joe and great aunt Jane and their kids, a remarkably glamorous looking Granny from decades past, maybe even your mother or father as a small child with an impish grin. When was the last time you provided your grandmother with a formal portrait of you and your family to add to the collection?

Snapshots - even posed snapshots - are great reminders of fun times with family and their value should never be dismissed. But there's something about a real formal family portrait that is different. It says, "We took the time to commemorate this time in our life." Yes, it takes an effort to find a photographer you like, make the appointment, get everyone there is good clothing and a good mood, but the results are often very much worth it.

Formal doesn't mean stiff

A "formal" family portrait doesn't mean rigid and forced - unless you want it to, of course. Photographers - as much as you! - want to see personalities emerge and will work with you and your family to make that happen on film...well, memory card, more likely. Photographs can be taken in a studio or outside, in your home or yard, on a beach or mountain. A good photographer will spend time with all of you and with smaller family groupings to get everyone from the best possible angle, and with no unfortunate shadows falling across faces or tree branches sticking out of ears.

Commemorate specific times

Portraits are great for commemorating specific times in your family's life. When your youngest starts Kindergarten, or when your oldest becomes a teenager, or just about any milestone. If your family is far flung and everybody happens to gather for your parent's 40th anniversary, that's a great excuse to find a photographer to get just everybody in a portrait - and your parents will probably like that follow up gift as much as the gathering itself.

An investment

Yes, a family portrait by a good photographer can cost, but consider it a small investment. Portraits, when printed and framed using high-quality materials and when taken care of, will last for decades. The snapshots may fade, but it's these family portraits that will live on. When your grandchild looks around your house years and years from now, it's these portraits he or she will see, just like you saw them in your grandmother's house.

If it's been a while since you had a family portrait, whether of your immediate family or the extended clan, isn't it about time to book one? You'll be glad you did.

More of our Monday Mom Challenge series:

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