...because home doesn't happen overnight.


Many of you commented on the framed photo of my kids above my dresser. It is my favorite picture of them all together and I took it myself. One day a few months back I spontaneously decided to have an impromptu photo session with them. My goal was to capture their individual personalities and how they look in real life. No fancy clothes, no staged props, no overpowering scenery.

We didn’t leave the house and I didn’t even attempt to tame anyone’s hair. I threw white undershirts on the boys and put Mabrey in a white onesie. I had the boys climb into Mabrey’s crib with her {the boys love hanging out with M in her bed} and then I started snapping. The only prompt I gave the boys was to lean their heads in towards Mabrey. Somehow I ended up with that shot above. It portrays each child how I see them everyday. Everett is comical, rowdy, LOUD, sometimes uncooperative but truly sweet. Mabrey always wants to be in the mix with her brothers. With them, she is happy and bubbly. Without them, she is bored and unimpressed. She has the most amazing denim blue eyes and pouty pink lips which can melt our hearts with just one smile. Layne is a thinker and a builder. He’s smart, inquisitive, honest and loves to read. Did you gather all that from the picture? Ha!

After a successful {and quick! – photo ops with kids never last long} group shot, I though I’d try some individual shots while everyone was still content. I started with Mabrey.


Mabrey loves balls {you know what I mean} so I let her hold one. When she’s really excited about something, Mabrey sticks her legs straight out in front of her and taps her heels on the ground. That’s what she was doing here. {These were taken back before she was walking.} I love her toes in this shot. Mabrey’s toes are all the same length and they’re all very long.


Those eyes.


With the boys, I asked them to tell me jokes while I snapped away. Here, Everett is scheming his joke.


…and animatedly delivering it. Dimples!


He is his biggest fan. Other than me.


Layne is thinking up his joke. Those eyelashes are going to charm a girl someday.


And the delivery…with missing teeth and all.

These pictures aren’t perfect. The lighting isn’t ideal. There are shadows and blurs. But these weren’t taken to capture perfection. I strongly dislike it when people try to make kids take “perfect” pictures. Sit this way. Wear this. Look here. Stop doing that. Hold this. Why would you want to capture them as anything other than what they are? Why would you want a picture of them in some ironed outfit they only wore once? And why only take pictures on special days at special times of the year? What about that one Tuesday at 11:12 a.m. when they were in their sister’s room telling jokes?

I feel so lucky to have these kids and these pictures of them. This is how I will remember them thirty years from now.

For the most perfectly imperfect pictures of kids, try letting them wear undershirts whilst telling you jokes from their baby sister’s crib. Or let them hold that one thing that makes them happy even if it’s not that pretty. Who cares? Their smiles will be perfect. And that’s all that matters.

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images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking



I may be biased, but I think there’s room for both. A special outfit is perfectly fine as long as it’s not out of character and you don’t torture the kid to be perfect throughout the shoot. There’s nothing worse than a mom who has stressed herself to the hilt picking out just the right outfits only to be disappointed throughout the shoot that her child isn’t cooperating. I tell my clients it’s just not worth it to build up this Pinterest-perfect idea in their mind of what the shoot should be like. Wear something cute and just plan to have fun. The photographer will capture it. And I agree, don’t plan for a marathon. A photo shoot with kids is more of a sprint. Any longer and you lose the spark. We shoot a ton of everyday moments at our house AND special occasions, too.

Such beautiful photos…I wish I had your photography skills!

I love these a million times more than “staged” photographs you pay for. Great job, Dana!


These pictures are really cute! You have three wonderful and beautiful children. I wish I had more children, too. But I am very grateful for my daughter and we were just not meant to have more.


Your children are absolutely beautiful!! And I totally agree, these photos capture real life and they mean so much more. I think the lighting is actually pretty good too, haha! :)


BEAUTIFUL!!!! You’re children are so beautiful.


Those are all adorable pictures. Love the idea of having them tell you a joke. Cute kids!

You’re right. These photos are the best because they capture each childs’ personality.


I couldn’t agree more! I love this post… and those pictures.


Fabulous pictures, and thanks for the awesome tips! When my daughter was younger, I took her to a mall photographer (yes, I know!) who used a feather on a stick to tickle her and get smiles. Worked like a charm, at the time. But since then it’s been hard to get that natural smile.

PS, I think that your pics look a lot like the natural-but-professional shots you see done by independent photographers that cost a lot more than the stuffy background, staged mall photos.


How sweet and precious are these pics! I would love to go back in time for just one day and have my children young again. Guess that’s what grandchildren are for! The boys are so handsome and Mabrey has stolen my heart.


Gorgeous pictures! Precious memories for sure! What kind of camera did you use?


I have a Canon EOS Rebel XSi.


Beautiful photos, beautiful family:) I love your thoughts on taking family photos…it’s a great idea, and you really can see their personalities in the photos!


These are SO beautiful! And I couldn’t agree more – photos should represent the kids how they are RIGHT NOW. Personality and all. Yours are just the cutest!

Such great photos. Mabrey’s eyes are so captivating!

I’m a big fan of natural photos too. Your heart fills in the details and brings you back to those moments that are captured. But just recently, we had professional family photos taken for the first time. They weren’t too posed and stiff and I found I liked them just as much as the imperfect photos – if only because I’m finally in the photos instead of behind the camera :)


What a precious post! so loving!

Oh my goodness! They are perfect! I think you did an amazing job in capturing their personalities (well it sounds like it since I don’t know them). Way to go in just trying to do something organic. Love it!


Imprompu shoots are the best way to see your kid’s personalities shine through anyway. Adorable!

I love when kids are in transition of baby teeth and adult teeth. It gives them such personality.


I love the pictures and you will enjoy them for years to come. I was/am a nerd with a camera and I took “perfect pictures” of my FIVE kids all the time. “No you can’t wear that until AFTER we get your picture in it!” was part of my parenting style. I actually did get both kinds of shots (Everyday and picture perfect). Each one of my kinds when they flew the coop had six scrapbooks a piece ( I also saved everything they did/received OR cherished). Sounds really obsessive, right? BUT the funny thing is… now that they are older… they tease me about it all the time. Who would have thought that it would be the thing they love about me? Sometimes, when they are home visiting… they will go shopping and buy a new tank top and then tease me the rest of the day about IF I wanted to get a shot of them in it first. OR if they wear it and spill on it, they say, “Dang, and mom never got a shot of me wearing it first”. BUT I know what you are saying about “perfect pictures”. My kids spend very little time on those pages and flip to the every day ones (with the messy room in the background). Do what makes you.. YOU. It is working!


Beautiful pics, but oh how sweet a delicate small bow clip to sweep Mabrey’s hair to the side. you know? I touch of femininity in the midst of all the boys.


Your children are beautiful! I agree candid shots are the best!!


These are fantastic! Thanks for the great tips.


You have a beautiful family!!


I completely agree with you about not liking “perfect” photos of kids. They look so staged and unnatural. I love these pictures of your kids! Since you are both their mother and their photographer, you know when you’ve captured their personality. Great job!


I LOVE the pics, but I think I may just love reading your descriptions of your children even more. It makes me want to squeeze my own kids that much more! I photograph kids and families (and weddings too) but ONLY if I can work in the same manner. Stiff and posed captures nothing. You can still dress the kids up, but isn’t it far better to capture them doing what they do best (even if it means getting those best shoes dirty?) Wonderful job.

Quick note, beautiful pictures of your children who are beautiful.