In 2009, Mike Bender was horrified to find that his mother had hung a particularly embarrassing family photo.
"It was a vacation photo. It was my dad's 50th birthday. I was 13," he says. "My dad had my brother and I do a Rockette's kick with our skis. We were on top of a mountain, right by the lift, and I just remember feeling, you know, stuck in that pose: This. Is. Awkward."
But as an adult he realized that the photo was not only awkward — it was hilarious.
And so began the Awkward Family Photos blog. The concept took off, and Bender and co-founder Doug Chernack were soon accepting hundreds of submissions.
"Everybody has an awkward family photo somewhere — somewhere hiding in a drawer or in their attic, somewhere in the house," Bender says.
And with all of the togetherness of the holidays comes a wealth of opportunities for extreme awkwardness — thus, Bender and Chernack's new book: Awkward Family Holiday Photos.
"There is a running theme ... of kids who have peed their pants while on Santa's lap," says Bender. "That, I didn't realize was a thing, but it is apparently a thing."
There are also "bad" Santas, kids dressed in homemade elf costumes, and lots of babies imitating turkeys in roasting pans.
If you and your family want to get in on the awkwardness, Bender has some tips. First, he says, positioning is key.
"Usually, you know, you line up by height, you pile on top of each other, you do the arm shelf, which is where you actually lean on your hand, and your arm is down and you kind of create a shelf for your head. That is a classic."
Poses are also important. "Any sort of pose is going to make a photo awkward," Bender says. And keep holiday attire in mind.
"Matching outfits. You know, Christmas, for whatever reason, really brings out the matchy-matchy in everybody," he says. "So that means matching sweaters, matching red turtlenecks ... matching long johns."