Quick and easy tips for taking great holiday card photos of your kids

by DaniGirl on November 28, 2011 · 0 comments

in The Family Photographer

Last week, I hauled out the Santa hats for our annual Christmas card shoot. The boys recognize this tradition, and are wonderfully patient subjects. It was getting dark quickly, but the sun was perfectly screened by light cloud cover and the light on the porch was lovely when I got a few good shots. This isn’t the best of the lot, but it is my favourite of the outtakes.

336:365 Christmas card outtake

Here’s the official portraits from 2009 and 2010, too!

Merry Christmas 2009Happy Christmas

(Ha, I just realized that they’re in exactly the same seating arrangement for all three pictures — complete coincidence!)

With a little bit of patience, you too can take great pictures of your kids (no, really!) for your own holiday cards. Here’s a few tips:

– work with them when they’re at their best. Full bellies, post-nap, playful mood and nobody in a rush. Also, a calm photographer goes a long way towards making kids calm, so don’t try to cram a session in while the spaghetti is boiling over or you’ve only got 10 minutes before you have to leave for hockey practice.

– be playful. Tell the kids a knock-knock joke, and snap pictures between the responses. Make funny noises. Make funny faces. Genuine laughs are way more beautiful than what a six year old boy *thinks* a smile is supposed to look like.

– get in close. Fill the frame with the kids, or even just their faces. Also, try avoid shooting down at them. Get yourself to face level or even shooting slightly up at them.

– look for the best light – and turn OFF the pop-up flash on your camera. This is the dimmest part of the year, so good natural light is hard to come by — but it’s worth hunting for! Think about shooting with an open door or window behind you (but watch out for your shadow) or shoot beside a big window or patio door. Soft, diffuse light is better than direct light, though. (Oh, so many rules!) If you’re outside on a bright day, look for open shade with bright light nearby.

– try to capture catchlights in their eyes. Catchlights are those bright points of light that bring sparkle to the eyes, and are either a reflection of the light source itself or a large surface of light like an open window or bright patch of floor. Catchlights are so important that Photoshop books will teach you how to fake them, but it’s better if you can just and capture them.

– avoid having the kids look at the camera and say cheese. Nothing spoils a good photo faster, IMHO! Catch them interacting with each other, with a favourite toy or book, or even interacting with you — but no canned cheese smiles, please!

– give the kids some control. Tell them that once you get a couple of shots you’re happy with, they can do a funny-face one, or one with everyone doing rabbit-ears, or whatever it is that they’re trying to do that you don’t want to send to all 150 people on your greeting card mailing list.

– think about what they’ll be wearing and try to coordinate the colours. They don’t have to be matchy-matchy, but think about having a bit of one colour on each person, or complimentary colours. Or go for matching props, like with my precious Santa hats, or maybe matching mitts or scarves. Unity is good, cloning is not.

This year, I’m feeling mildly guilty that I chose to print flat, single-sided hoilday cards — preprinted with a greeting and our names, no less! — rather than the folded cards that I’ve personalized by hand in prior years. And I had even had grand designs of creating my own template from scratch at one rather optimistic point back in September, but have defaulted to one of Costco’s templates. I feel like such a slacker!

But at least I had the photos taken and the cards ordered before the end of November. I think that’s a new speed record for me! Now it just remains to be seen if I’m organized enough to send them out this year…

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