When crowding into the yard with your best clothes isn’t enough, hand your youngest baby over to a snow yetti.

At least, that is one of the things that photographer John Keatley did using his well-honed professional skills. John takes family photos to a new level. He has imagined a whole host of worlds to plunge his family into every year since 2009, whether it’s the upper branches of the tallest tree in the forest, or in a prison cell complete with orange jumpsuits… and a real prisoner.

We contacted John to ask him about his wacky and brilliant family tradition. Check out our interview below as well as his photos, which are in order from 2009 to 2014.

Family Photos

How did you first decide to take a creative family picture?

I photographed my friends Brian and Jess for a funny holiday card they were sending out. We had so much fun shooting it and hanging out.  I was literally laughing nonstop for hours.  That experience got me thinking: I didn’t have any pictures of my family in my style.  I never get out the lights unless it’s a paid job.  So I decided it would be fun to do a yearly family picture, capturing a quirky or funny moment that our kids would someday find hilarious.

 How did it become a series?

One year at a time I guess.  It’s a lot of fun for us, and the excitement and encouragement everyone offers up makes it worth it.  People ask me year round now what my idea is for next year.

The costumes and sets of these can be pretty elaborate. How much preparation goes into these portraits?

Each year is pretty different, and some years are more involved than others.  I think I can say at the very least, every year we have some element of costume design as well as plenty of wardrobe shopping.  It usually takes a good week of prep and maybe up to a week of post work.

Family Photos

Is the whole family on board?

About as much as a 3 and 5 year old can be on board.  We have battled through sickness, tiredness, stress etc.  But we always get it done one way or another.  My wife and I have a lot of fun with it, and I think the kids enjoy it as well.

Do you discuss possible themes together?

Nichelle and I talk about ideas with each other quite a bit.  There is a lot of back and forth. Usually we know when we land on the right concept, and there isn’t much disagreement.  I find the ideas tend to come from a family experience or memory from each year.  Not always directly or literally, but inspiration usually strikes from some experience.

Who is the prisoner in the 2013 edition?

He was someone we met during the booking process at the King County Jail.  I believe his name was Tom.  Seemed like a nice enough guy.

Do you have the 2015 concept thought out yet?

I am happy to say the concept for this year has been decided on, and I am really excited about it.  I can’t get into details, but it is a bit of a departure from what we have done in years past.  It can be hard to reinvent something like this over and over, but I never want it to get stale, or feel like I am just repeating myself.

Thanks for all of your interest!!!

Family Photos

Family Photos

Family Photos

Family Photos