There is something not quite normal about this family.

They had decided to do their family portraits at home, in their backyard. Mom met me outside ten minutes early, already dressed, and not looking the least bit harassed. Her husband and kids popped out of the house soon afterwards in coordinated clothing, apparently still getting along, and we started the session right on time.

Their backyard is absolutely huge and full of cool things to shoot. A park bench, porch swing, stadium seats, stools made from stumps, a wooden plank bridge–the list goes on and on.

Family on bench


But the thing that the kids were drawn to, that I had just walked around without even noticing, was the huge leaf pile under the tree. If they hadn’t pointed it out, I would have missed the opportunity for shots like these.

Kids in leaves

I let them just frolic in the pile, and neither of them ambushed the other in the face accidentally or deliberately. In fact, they quite spontaneously went into this:

Kids hugging in leaves

I tell you, that would not have happened with my kids. These kids even held the pose and smiles while I changed cameras and walked over get a higher angle. No one shrieked, “Get OFF me!” One didn’t tried to put a headlock on the other. They didn’t have to be broken up, still trying to get in the last cheap shot. Weird.

It was suggested by the kids that the parents needed a turn lying in the leaf pile as well. They didn’t object, but we got a “nice picture” of them first before covering them in foliage.

Couple standing

During this time, the kids asked if they could jump on the trampoline, but Mom told them not now, and they just accepted it without question. Amazing.

Then we did plop Mom and Dad into the leaves and piled the kids on top. Could they be any cuter?

Family in leaves

The kids were still pretty clean after that pose, since they conveniently had their parents to lie on top of. So we took a couple of individual portraits of each of them.

Girl on stump Boy in gray shirt

We were wrapping up, but someone remembered the Japanese maple in the front yard. I’m so glad they did, because it was a wonderful place to get some shots with that glorious autumn color.

Girl by maple Boy by maple Family by maple

And that was it. No melt downs, hissy fits, or complaints about jeans that felt like cardboard. There were no threats of losing privileges, and if there was a reward involved, I heard no mention of it. I’m still scratching my head over the whole thing, but I suppose it’s like watching a magic trick–it’s better if you can’t figure out how they did it.