Stock Photo Family circa 2013 | Source: Google Image Search (and dozens of sites). Credit unknown.
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Originally published February 18, 2013. Updated and added to the Greatest Hits on July 11, 2021. This old entry may or may not represent the current views of The Rock Father.

There’s a terrible problem afoot. As a writer in the family lifestyle space, I run across a lot of fellow parents through the usual social networks like Facebook and Twitter.  In making connections with these other folks who’ve chosen to display the fruit of their reproductive activities online, I’ve been saddened to learn that many of them – some of whom are great people – have been hit with one of our generation’s greatest tragedies: The Family Portrait in a Yard.

You’ve seen them. Perhaps you’ve even had the misfortune to have been involved in one. The set-up is simple: A family (generally of four, but any group of more than three people) is photographed in a well-manicured yard during the spring or summer months. The family is generally outfitted in the blandest clothing possible, generally plain, logo-less apparel, with dad usually wearing a polo shirt, while mom wears “mom jeans” and an equally-lame shirt. All tend to display their Stepford-best smiles, while just “hangin’ out in the yard,” as they’d most certainly never do in real life. There is no finer way to show the world what a boring family you have. Or, just make the world think that they’re a dull bunch.

Just like this SelectQuote commercial with “Jim, his wife Deidre, and their three Great Kids…”

Edit: the video has been taken down from YouTube, but you can still see a version of it from iSpot.TV

Look at the way the entire family looks like the life has been sucked right out of them – especially poor Jim, there. And what’s up with that half-assed game of ring toss? Neither Jim nor his kids seem to be giving it their all.

If you Google “family in yard,” you get a ton of great results from some of the finest stock photo companies and their customers. Do any of these families look like yours? If so, you may have fallen victim to the “Family Portrait in a Yard” plague.

I’m not a fan of most family portraits in general: they’re posed, fake, and just plain unnatural. Add a yard into the mix, and your family just looks like a boring bunch — a sad cliche that represents advertising for insurance and real estate. That’s not what you want to remember your loved ones like, right? Family shouldn’t be a stock photo.

I have a beautiful yard and a beautiful family. I try to avoid combining the two into a posed portrait but will admit that the occasional snap with the phone has been a thing. It’s when the phony-baloney gets into the mix that it becomes a problem.

If you’ve been a victim of a “Family Portrait in a Yard,” please get better photos taken, if not for you… do it for your children.

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James Zahn aka The Rock Father is the founder and publisher of The Rock Father Magazine, Deputy Editor of the Toy Book, and senior editor of the Toy Insider and the Pop Insider. Zahn is an Illinois-based writer, media personality, commentator, director, actor, adventurer, raconteur, and overall pop culture and toy enthusiast. James is frequently called upon for expert commentary on the toy industry and has been seen on or quoted in Yahoo! Finance, CNN, FOX Business, MarketWatch, Forbes, NBC, ABC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The NY Post, The Chicago Tribune, PopSugar, Fangoria, Starlog, and many more. He has been involved with entertainment and media for nearly 30 years, with a passion for music and film. Follow James on Twitter @TheRockFather. Email him: james@therockfather.com