Don’t Forget to Take these 5 Happy Family Thanksgiving Pictures This Year!

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Don’t Forget to Take these 5 Happy Family Thanksgiving Pictures This Year!

Do you take family Thanksgiving pictures each year?  I was never very good at it, and I’ve worked hard to make it a habit.  Today, we’ll talk about why capturing your annual traditions is important and how to make it simple!

Every year, a day or two after Thanksgiving, after we’ve served the food, entertained the family, hugged and kissed the kids and grandkids, and eaten all of the leftovers, I have a moment of sadness.  I look back and note I didn’t get enough family Thanksgiving pictures.  Every year, I wish I had taken more.

You see, for me, all of the responsibilities of hosting the Thanksgiving dinner means it’s the one day of the year that I set my camera aside and miss capturing those moments.  As I have grown older, I’ve become more determined to capture these memories so I don’t have that regret after the holiday.

Family Thanksgiving Pictures – the Challenge!

I welcome you to join me in my annual Thanksgiving photo challenge.  I will be focusing on capturing five simple photos this year.  And I’ve given myself a list of additional photos I may look for if I get inspired to take more than these five main shots.  I plan to think ahead to spend less time searching for creativity during the busyness of the day and more time relaxing and enjoying my friends and family.

Family Thanksgiving Pictures #1 – Dinner Prep

When I look back on years of family Thanksgiving in the past, I always remember my mom cooking up the Thanksgiving turkey.  Then, in the last few minutes rush, she would whip up the homemade gravy from the turkey juices before serving dinner to all the extended family gathered around.

That, along with my grandmother’s homemade stuffing, a recipe passed down through the generations, is what Thanksgiving dinner is all about for me.  So, this year, I will make a special point to take a picture of someone I love doing something in prep for the day’s events.

Use creative thinking when you’re taking Thanksgiving family pictures.  Maybe for you, it will be someone setting the table just so, or the person making a toast and offering a holiday greeting or Thanksgiving wishes to the guests.  Maybe you want to capture your crazy uncle carrying in the pumpkin pies that he makes every year.  Whatever it is, capture your moment of food prep!

Bonus Picture – Baking with the Family

If your Thanksgiving prep is anything like mine, your prep and process begin before the big day.  In my home, traditional Chex Mix is a must.  I purchase all the boxes of Chex cereal, mixed nuts, bagel chips, and pretzels and use my old, beat up, and handwritten recipe for traditional Chex Mix to make a giant dining table full of Chex mix.

My family members depend on this Thanksgiving treat.  To be honest, I haven’t ever taken photos of this prep process.  While researching and getting ready to share this post with you, I got to thinking about that big pile of Chex Mix, and I know this year, I will be adding a few photos of that to my collection.

Chex Mix may not be a part of your traditional dinner, but it’s always part of our Thanksgiving table, and it’s a must at my family gathering, so I should certainly be taking that photo.  What is unique about your family table, and what should you be photographing even before the big day?

Recipe card with Chex Mix recipe hand-written on it.
The back of a recipe card, stained and hand-written.

Family Thanksgiving Pictures #2 – Carving The Meat

What is your meal made of?  Maybe you don’t eat roast turkey for your holiday meal!  Whatever you eat, I bet it’s a delicious meal that your family and guests love.  For us, turkey was a staple until a few years ago when our small ham became a large ham, and the turkey got smaller and smaller.

Forget the notion that it wouldn’t be an American Thanksgiving dinner without that turkey crammed full of grandma’s stuffing and mom’s homemade gravy.  We now make ham and salty ham gravy, and I still make the turkey stuffing in a separate dish.

a Man's hands carving the Thanksgiving Turkey, one of the Family Thanksgiving pictures you must take on your holiday

When I look back on our annual holiday dinner, I have great memories of the carving of the turkey in my Thanksgiving family pictures.  Now, in my house, we commemorate the carving of the ham.  The bonus in taking photos of the carving is that I get to keep a watchful eye on my husband, so I know if he sneaks a bite of the best part while he carves it.  Win-win!

Bonus Picture – Thanksgiving Traditions

Every family has Thanksgiving traditions that result in some photos that make us laugh for years to come.  What does your family do that is unique?  Some families all crash and nap after the big meal.  Some might run a local 5k Turkey Trot before the big meal.  In our home, the big game calls to us, and we turn on a little football when we’re done eating.

Whatever your tradition is, you’ll want to capture the holiday season with this tradition so you can cherish these moments.  You may even want to share them on your social media accounts after all the excitement of the day dies down.

Family Thanksgiving Pictures #3 – A Favorite Dish

At our Thanksgiving meal, we have some standard side dishes that we must serve.  This year, I challenge you to photograph one of those traditional family dishes creatively and beautifully.  Get low with your camera and take a view from the side.  Be sure to follow the rule of thirds when composing your shot.  If you’re using your cell phone, put it on portrait mode and stand back a little so you can get some lovely bokeh behind the star dish.

Is your favorite dish cranberry sauce out of a can?  No worries – those memories matter.  Go ahead and add that photo to your camera roll!  Your happy Thanksgiving Day is about what makes you smile!

If your festive table has finely curated and homemade dishes, go ahead and stage your dish in a beautiful serving bowl and take a photo from above.  Either way, food photography is a great way to bone up on your composition and focus.  After all, it is a stable subject that doesn’t move once you’ve got it right where you want it!

If you’re feeling ambitious, you can take several photos of different dishes until you’ve captured a lovely collection of your Thanksgiving dinner family favorites!  Don’t forget to try to get one large picture of your Thanksgiving dinner table set and ready to serve!  And maybe finish the day with a photo of the mess after the meal.

A crystal bowl holding a fresh veggie salad for Thanksgiving dinner

Pink background with "Hip Grandma Merch" available on front

Family Thanksgiving Pictures #4 – The Group Photo

Of course, a holiday would not be complete without a picture of everyone spending the day with you.  I set up the tripod and used the remote to capture my whole family around our big dinner table a couple of years ago.  It will not win any photography awards, but it commemorates the day and who was in the room.  Family photos are the best, aren’t they!?

When I look at this picture, I remember that this was the first year my son and his bride celebrated Thanksgiving as a married pair, and my parents had not left for their winter down south, so we got to enjoy their company that year, which is a rare and unique thing.

Some of our favorite old Tupperware pieces are on the table, and although they certainly aren’t works of art, they do bring back memories of dishes I’ve used for years at the holidays.  This picture makes me smile.  Sadly, it is a rare photo I commit to capturing again this year with those who love us enough to grace our table for the holiday.

Family at Thanksgiving dinner table

If you can’t manage to fit the entire table in your image, you need a wider lens!  I’m only kidding a little here.  You can most definitely add a wide lens to your Christmas List.  But if that doesn’t work today, take the opportunity to step outside and capture a beautiful group photo with a lovely autumn background.  After all, we are all thankful for the beauty of nature.

Family Thanksgiving Pictures #5 – A Genuine Interaction

This one might require you to take a quiet breath away from the busy chaos of the day.  Find a moment to step aside and watch your family and friends interact.  Even if you are having a quiet Thanksgiving with just a friend or two, make this your opportunity to capture a moment of connection.

Maybe it’s a happy moment or a poignant moment in remembrance of someone missing at this year’s table.  Maybe you can sneak a photo of someone holding hands or embracing.  These are the moments that make the memories.  An image like this can become more than just a snapshot but a tangible reminder of the day’s feelings.

a father and son making funny faces at one another in black and white

Once you’ve completed these five primary challenges, you might be in the photo groove and ready to conquer some extra shots to fill out that Thanksgiving mini-album.  So, as a bonus, enjoy this list of 25 photos you MUST take on Thanksgiving Day!

Wrapping it all up

However you celebrate your Thanksgiving holiday, photos can help you remember the moments.  And don’t worry about the camera you’re using.  The best camera is the one you have with you, so whether you’re using your phone or a fancy professional-grade camera, you’ll be glad you have some memories of the day!

At the end of your Thanksgiving celebration, consider printing your photos and sharing them with those at your dinner table.  You can even publish a little holiday memory book for your guests.  This project would make a super fun Christmas surprise instead of a card!  I love to use Snapfish for this kind of little project.  They have great prices and deals after signing up for a free account.  Click HERE to check out the Snapfish website.

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a father and daughter serving a Thanksgiving family dinner in a thanksgiving family picture

2 thoughts on “Don’t Forget to Take these 5 Happy Family Thanksgiving Pictures This Year!”

  1. I am the worst at capturing photos too! We are in Canada so celebrated Thanksgiving a few weeks ago. The only photo I captured was during prep before all the fun began. Each year I say I am going to do better and I always remember too late. Thanks for posting this reminder, here’s to trying to do better at Christmas!

    • I’m glad I’m not the only one! I find that if I give myself permission to take just a few photos and not capture every single moment, I at least get a few. I get almost none on Christmas. It’s really deplorable that I’m the photographer and I barely touch my camera on Christmas day.


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