Flipping through old family albums is both a pleasure and a challenge for us. It’s great to revisit wholesome memories from our past again, but it can really hurt to see just how many embarrassing and awkward photos there are of us. It’s cold, hard proof that we weren’t as cool as we thought we were! Is that really how we used to dress? Oh, dear Lord, is that what we look like when we smile?!
If you learn to embrace that goofy and derpy side of yourself, you might realize just how much fun you can have in front of the camera when you’re not trying to come across as ‘perfect.’ And it makes it sooo much easier to deal with any awkward pics you might find in your archives.
That’s where the Awkward Family Photos project comes in. The brainchild of childhood friends Mike Bender and Doug Chernack, AFP features super awkward and cringy photos from the past that are incredibly fun to look at. Nearly all of us have some pics at home like this which makes it even more enjoyable.
Scroll down for the newest vintage awkward pics, as featured by Awkward Family Photos, and remember to upvote your fave ones, Pandas. Got any similar photos to share with us? You can post your pics in the comments. And if you can’t get enough of AFP, then hang on to your hats and check out Bored Panda’s recent articles about the project here, here, and here.
Bored Panda got in touch with co-founder Mike again to get his take on a few more things. Meanwhile, we also interviewed professional photographer Dominic Sberna. Check out what both of them told us, Pandas!
Mike, the co-founder of Awkward Family Photos gave some advice on how best to achieve that great sense of embarrassment and awkwardness that’ll echo through the decades.
“Well, as you know, we celebrate the awkward photos, not the normal photos… so we prefer that photographers make people uncomfortable,” he suggested that anyone feeling comfortable in front of the camera isn’t as interesting as someone oozing with character because of how unique they look in the frame.
“And here’s how they can do that—put them in strange poses, make them stare at one another, submerge them in water, or position them in front of a dog that is relieving itself in the background,” Mike joked, though those really are great ways to turn the awkwardness dial to the max.
According to Mike, the secret to an unnatural smile in photos is “a smile that says, ‘I love my family,’ when in reality, you want to strangle them.”
He told Bored Panda that the secret behind the AFP project’s long-lived success truly is its relatability.
“I think AFP has been successful because everyone shares uncomfortable moments with their families. It’s universal, no matter where you live or what language you speak,” Mike said that these photos go deeper than language and culture, hinting at what makes us all human.
Meanwhile, pro photographer Dominic shared his thoughts with us about how the person behind the camera might go about building a sense of trust with those they’re taking a picture of.
“Building trust comes by way of making someone feel comfortable,” he explained to Bored Panda.
“To do that, you have to be outgoing and make sure that the person(s) you’re photographing are free to be themselves. It will make for genuine images that they’ll love for a lifetime,” he shared.
According to the expert, one of the best things that you can do to make the photographer’s job easier is to be genuine. It also works for pretty much every other area in life, too.
“Just be yourself. This is also advice for life. Just be free and be yourself. You’ve paid someone (in most cases) to take your photo and you want to like the results,” Dominic told Bored Panda.
“Therefore, my grandma hired a professional photographer to take a family photo in the hot tub. For some reason they posed with wine and candles even though the children were not old enough to drink… and sent it out to 150 plus friends as a Christmas card.”
“The only way you’re like the end result is if you know that you acted as your true self and helped output the results you imagined in your vision.”
Meanwhile, when it comes to flashing those pearly whites in a natural way, it all comes down to who you’re with and what you think of in front of the camera.
“Having someone making you laugh or thinking of a happy memory. Some of my favorite photos from my own wedding day are when we’re laughing because I can remember by the smiles on our faces what was being said,” Dominic revealed to us.
Founded all the way back in the ancient era of 2009, Awkward Family Photos evolved from a simple blog into a massive social media project that brings joy to countless people around the world. Awkwardness unites us all, no matter where we’re from.
On Facebook alone, AFP has nearly 2.6 million followers. Meanwhile, another million internet users have liked the project’s page on Instagram. It’s clear that they’re popular, and it’s no secret why: they bring vintage, relatable humor right to our feeds.
The co-founder of Awkward Family Photos, Mike, previously told Bored Panda that the core mission of the entire project has stayed the same throughout all this time.
The project, according to Mike, is “a celebration of awkwardness especially as it relates to family. We are still laughing ‘with’ and not ‘at’ people. We have built a community of folks who are comfortable enough to laugh at themselves.”
As AFP has blossomed, the co-founders have looked at various ways of growing their brand. For instance, they’ve published a card game. It’s been so successful that they’ve even followed up with an expansion pack for it.
“We have streamlined our process and brought on help so that we can look through everything we get and post the best-curated submissions. At the end of the day, our community is everything so we appreciate every photo and message,” the co-founder shared his thoughts with us.
In Mike’s opinion, the very idea of ‘normal’ is pretty darn boring and superficial. “From our standpoint, the normal photos are boring. It’s the awkward ones that reveal the most about us and our families. But in general, posing, matching outfits, and feuding families always make for glorious awkwardness so please keep it coming!” he said.
Some people (like yours truly), have an awfully difficult time relaxing and letting go of that desire for ‘perfection’ in everything that they do. Naturally, these individuals can feel upset if someone gently makes fun of them for looking super goofy in old photos. It can make us feel incredibly embarrassed and, if we don’t learn to embrace these feelings, it can even morph into a sense of deep-rooted shame.
Bored Panda recently spoke about dealing with embarrassment to a couple of experts. Professor Suzanne Degges-White from Northern Illinois University, a Licensed Counselor, said that having a sense of humor and flexibility helps when aiming for success in adulthood.
“Being able to laugh at our missteps allows us to go easy on ourselves when we do something potentially embarrassing. No one likes to ‘lose face,’ and that is engrained to varying degrees across cultures. Unfortunately, our brains may be especially prone to catastrophizing events and so we might make something more out of something no one else really noticed and no one else will recall later on,” she said.
“When we are able to ‘get it off our chest,’ we actually feel better about the event. That’s a healthy response to an embarrassing moment. When our personalities are wired to feel that we must be ‘perfect’ in all that we do, we internalize negative feelings about the mistake we made and mistakenly assume that everyone else is judging us due to that one moment,” the professor suggested opening up about our embarrassment with others.
“Fortunately, our brains are designed to protect us from pain and many of us may suffer horrible humiliation at some point in our lives, but we can benefit from a brain that allows us to ‘selectively forget’ the incident, or else we’re able to rationalize it by reminding ourselves that ‘everyone makes mistakes,’ ‘it was just one time and no one will remember it,’ or similar healthy responses,” she said.
“The best way to embrace our mistakes is to acknowledge we’ve made one—or else no learning can take place. Then remind ourselves that everyone makes mistakes—that’s totally normal behavior! Then figure out a way to laugh at yourself before allowing someone else to laugh at you first. When you laugh at yourself, others laugh WITH you, not AT you,” the professor noted, adding that some parents raise their kids by demanding ‘perfection’ in everything they do which can lead to further problems down the line.
“As a test, the family had the grandkids pose by a garbage dumpster and sent it to his grandfather to see what he would do and he still hung it up on the wall. It then became a tradition to send him photos of the family by dumpsters.”
Meanwhile, psychologist and well-being consultant Lee Chambers stressed that laughter can be a great response to instantly make you feel better if the embarrassing situation isn’t anything too serious.
“If the feelings are intense, try taking a few slow, deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth, calming your nervous system and physiological response. In a similar way to laughter, smiling can be effective in shifting your state to the positive,” the expert told Bored Panda.
“I wanted a picture of my son and I for the scrapbook so was leaning forward to get closer to him. I had not been to the hairdresser’s in 2 years and had age inappropriate hair at the time. The candles took care of that and luckily, my husband managed to put out the flames with his bare hands once he realized what was happening. Of course, he missed the shot of me screaming my head off. I’ve been going for regular trims since.”
“There are times when playing down or even ignoring the feelings can be helpful in the moment, taking the edge off, but it is important that you accept them and express them if it’s something significant,” the psychologist noted that embracing these feelings is important.
“Because the feelings of embarrassment are generated from a past event, anything that brings you into the present moment can bring relief. Try to avoid saying sorry, as it will keep taking you back to the moment. You can even keep your biggest embarrassing moments top of mind, having reflected and realized that in hindsight, they weren’t as big an issue as you felt at the time,” he said.
“I’m the blond on the left burying my head in my sister’s lap while she gets in a cheap shot. The youngest is fish-hooking my other sister while my mother looks on and laughs. My father is letting everyone know what his future looks like with four daughters like these.”
“We can even reflect back on our blunders from the past, and with the emotion dampened, take some of the lessons and observations forward for next time we feel like we’ve messed up. By doing this, you will feel more courage even when the fear of embarrassment strikes, and sharing these stories will elicit others to share, quickly realizing we are not alone, and that nobody is perfect.”
“In order to perfect this aesthetic masterpiece, I put a massive amount of gel in my wet hair, then I bent over and swung my hair around and blow dried it upside down until the gel hardened completely… I got a little lightheaded each time, but clearly worth it!”
“Sonny and Cher stayed at the same hotel as them (Sahara) and were casually lounging by the pool one afternoon. Sonny obliged for a photo op with my mom and her cousin.”
“After grandpa retired, he started a side job as a clown, where he’d go to birthday parties and do magic tricks. He also often wore his boxing shorts from his days as a heavyweight boxer at Michigan State. He was dressing up to entertain the grandkids that day, and the boxing/clown combination certainly made for an interesting photo.”
“It was originally taken without my dad because my parents were having problems at the time, and so, in wanting a complete family photo, my mother added my dad – cut out from another picture – to it. In that one, his head was 3x larger than ours, facing the wrong way, and his shirt had been marked in with a sharpie marker. When my parents stopped having problems, she changed the photo of him to the one now there. This was also the time that my mom discovered MS Paint. She thought my sister was being disrespectful by wearing an Arachnophobia shirt, so using her paint skills, she whited it out. She printed this gem and put it up in our family home, where it remained on the wall for over ten years.”
“You select the engine you wish to be in the photograph, stand in the blue circle, press start button and stand for 5 seconds. But my son wouldn’t remain in the painted circle and so i held him in place at arm’s length so as not to be in the photo myself. When I walked into the souvenir photo shop, the staff were in fits of giggles and this was why.”
“I’m awkwardly in the hockey equipment on the bottom left. A family friend talked mom into having us all pose for this photo. It went on to win some sort of award in a Newport, RI photo show. It also hung in our house while I was growing up, which made for some awkward moments when friends came over.”
“When my first daughter was born we decided to take a family picture with the newest addition to the family with my cousins…and artichokes. I think it’s clear from the photo that my daughter was the only one who found it a little odd.”