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Okay, I hope you have already taken your photo for your card but, if you haven’t…here are a few suggestions.  I had a vision this year of the perfect card but I couldn’t get my family to participate.  It would have been my husband, son & I visiting Santa at our mall.  I was going to get all decked out – like “over the top” decked out, and sit on Santa’s lap gazing at him.  I wanted my husband to be off to the side kind of glaring at Santa and maybe raising his fist up like “keep your hands to yourself pops!”.  My son would have been towards the front of the image doing some type of goofball rapper pose that he seems to gravitate towards.  So yea, the vision was there but the actual shot was simply not to be.  My point in sharing that with you is that I love a card with personality.  So do most people.

However, I do have some opinions on what goes into a great Holiday card.  I will share some below:

1.  Let their personality shine.  Our kids don’t normally sit there with a plastic grin.  Nobody does.  Why do we insist on yelling “smile!  smile!  Say CHEEEEESE” to these poor little guys?  My preference is for a natural, goofy, spontaneous moment to be captures.  I know it’s tough – but loosen up and try to let it be fun so that your kids can at least look as though they are having fun.

2.  Get close up!  Don’t be shy.  What’s with the shot of the kids all teeny-tiny and the giant Christmas tree, mantle, sofa, chairs, drapes, etc taking up much of the frame?  Take out the background.  It’s about the people in the photo.  That’s what we want to see.  We know you have a lovely home but I’d rather see the family that resides there.

3.  Keep it simple and classic.  Simple colors.  Not a lot of fuss.  Patterns don’t always translate well and can clash with others in the photo.  Try to have a cohesive color palate if you can.

4.  Skip the Santa sweater.  Just do it.   A simple red cable knit or a white button-up is equally effective.  A burgundy dress on your little girl.  You get the point.  You don’t need to spend a ton on Holiday outfits – they have this stuff at Target.   Even cute PJ’s would work.

5.  Take a ton of pictures.  Tons more than you think you need.  It’s digital.   You won’t know what they really look like just by looking at the tiny display on your camera.   If your camera has a “burst” setting, use it.  That’s the one which looks like a rectangle with another rectangle behind it.  Try it out. This way a shot isn’t ruined by a blinking subject or a turned head.  You give yourself a ton to choose from, delete and narrow it down to some finalists and choose from there.

6.  Try out different rooms.  Do your traditional tree or holiday shots but also try some different things.  How about them sitting cross-legged at the foot of their bed?  Hanging out on the sofa?  By the window?  On your front step?  Swinging on a swing?  One leaning on a tree and the other sitting at the base of a tree?  Get creative and have fun with it.  You have nothing to lose.

7.  Think about lighting.  If you know how to shut off your flash, shut if off and take the photos near a window with the subjects angled towards the light.  You don’t want shadows but try to have the light directed towards their faces.  Natural light is so lovely.  You may get amazing results.

8.  Make it happy, light and fun.  Put on music.   Dance around.  Tell jokes and funny stories.  After all, this is the holidays.

9.  If possible, try to hold back from over-directing “smile!” “turn” “sit up straight” “move your hands”.  Oh God, the stuff we yell at these kids.  Make it fun and goofy.  See #8.

10.  Try to capture the chemistry between your kids or among family members.  Get them to interact with one another and then snap the photo.  You may like the one of one of them giggling helplessly as the other makes a silly face better than the one of them both cheesing at the camera.

11.  Do it early in the day when the kids are not tired or cranky or hungry.

12.  Use props.  Maybe some ornaments or candy canes or something to convey a holiday vibe if that’s what you’re going for.

13.  Get in the photo.  Add the pets in there while you’re at it.  I’m not opposed to pics which feature everyone.  In fact, I love seeing my friends as well as their children.   May as well do a few family shots while you have everyone looking all spiffy.  Put your camera on a tripod of a safe and sturdy table and use your self-timer feature.

14.  Keep a brush or comb handy.  And use them.  Use hairspray, hair gloss, etc.  Why do you think people look so great at photo shoots?  Hair and makeup touch-ups.  It’s crazy how quickly hair gets messy.  Take an extra few minutes to be sure everyone is smoothed out and that buttons are buttoned, shirts tucked, zippers up, shoes laced, noses are clean (and no I’m not kidding), etc.  How annoyed would you be to have this amazing shot and little guy’s fly is down?

And the golden rule:
** BRIBERY NEVER FAILS.  I’m awful for saying it but it works.  Remember, this is probably not their idea of fun.  Promise them a treat at the end.  A pack of M&M’s, Pokemon cards, whatever they are into.  It’s worth it.**


One Comment Post a comment
  1. Robinne Lee #

    Lovely suggestions, Illy! I actually take much pride in our holiday cards. Feel like it’s my one chance a year to let my inner photographer/stylist/art director come through.

    December 9, 2010

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