Why oh why does it take an entire day of fussing, fighting, squirming, crying, and threatening just to get one holiday-card-acceptable photo? It’s one of life’s great mysteries. The great Christmas Card portrait conundrum! Although we are fairly certain you cannot irradiate this annual pain in the keister completely, there are certain common traits every fantastic family photograph shares; and lucky you, we’re gonna’ lay ‘em out here for your next go-round!
1. Schedule the photoshoot when kids are at their happiest. It sounds like common sense, but how many times have you acquiesced to a photographer or studio’s schedule when you’ve known in the back of your head that the kiddos would be too (tired)(hungry)(cranky) to follow directions? You are either the photographer & the subject (in which case you can control all aspects of the timing) or you’re the customer; which means you’re paying for a service and can advise the studio of your availability. If they won’t accommodate you, find another photographer. There are plenty of businesses willing to accommodate your requests, especially in a difficult economy. Schedule the session when the kids are awake, happy, well-fed, not rushed, and bring something to keep them busy during downtime.
2. When it comes to the setting, think outside the box. The background is not the most important subject of your photo, the people being photographed are so keep your location simple. Many cities have beautiful parks and natural settings but don’t forget about your backyard. Other fun settings are school playgrounds, the beach, front porches, old buildings, fences, and even on your master bed – keep it simple, comfortable; let everyone play around and get goofy. Let the setting take second-chair and let the photographer capture those unplanned moments that often make the best cards.
3. It’s not Fashion Week, it’s a Holiday Card. Keep your clothing uncomplicated. The best holiday and Christmas card photos have the subjects coordinating, but not matchy-matching. If everyone is wearing white shirts and jeans for example the viewer sees a sea of denim and not your faces. You get lost in your clothes, and that often detracts from a fantastic photo On the flip side; avoid patterns. It’s okay if one family member has a simple stripe or a basic design, but too many intricate patterns will again detract from your faces. And, when possible, go casual. Especially if you have little ones. People enjoy looking at photos where the family looks relaxed, and like they enjoy the simple act of just being together. Casual does not mean sloppy. Brushed hair and teeth, washed hands and faces, and clean, unwrinkled attire are important – but leave the tacky-sweaters and matching dresses & suits back in 1980, for all of our sakes. And, unless you want to pick a fight intentionally, asking your family to sit still more than a minute at a time in ugly, itchy, or uncomfortable outfits is just plain wrong.
4. Closer, closer, closer. We know you think you’re close enough but do like the photogs do and get closer than you think. If you’re using a photographer or photo studio, please make sure to make this wish known to them, so that they will know you’ve done your homework! If you’re going to take the photos yourself with a timer, or when it’s just the kids (and this can’t be emphasized enough) – get much, much closer to faces than you think you should. Faces are what you really want to see – so get right up there. The beauty of digital photography is that you can edit, retake, retouch, and experiment in all sorts of ways. If you’re doing it yourself, you should start a tradition of having fun taking that family memento each year. And if you’re hiring someone; sit back, get comfortable, and keep light-hearted.
Family photos are no easy task! We’d love to hear your secret tips and tools to get awesome pictures. Feel free to comment with you best tip or comment below!
Author Bio: J.J. Morgan is a freelance writer for Parchment, a custom stationery boutique and online store catering to celebrity clientele since 1968.