Ah the great American tradition of Christmas Cards. Love it or hate it, after you have kids, chances are you'll get on the bandwagon at least one time. Once you've committed to the challenge, it's time to drum up all of your holiday spirit and get that photo! Now, I don't know about you, but I like to keep the adults out of our cards and just focus on the kiddos. It's way less pressure and frankly, I can take the photo myself rather than having to rely on another photographer or the self timer.
So here are some tips I've learned along the way for mastering the holiday photo card (kids only edition).
#1 Plan Ahead, Plan Ahead, Plan Ahead
There are so many things that go into making a great holiday photo and I suggest you get your ducks in a row before you even get near your camera.
Start Shopping. If you're looking for a specific prop, outfit or matching PJ's, get them on order, washed and tried on before game day.
Think About Haircuts. If you're little one hasn't had a haircut since Spring, it would be a good time to freshen up their cut so they're looking sharp for the photo.
Get Some Inspiration. Start a Pinterest board for family photo ideas and try to come up with the type of image you want to take. This really helps give you something specific to focus on and it'll keep your shooting time to a minimum. Sometimes a Santa hat is all you need but other times you might get more ambitious and try for a full blown Christmas miracle snow scene...I say go for it!
Check Lead Times. Make sure you check the production times for the card company you're going to use. I always do my cards with Minted. They're not the cheapest but they've got great designs and top notch quality.
#2 Choose The Right Time To Shoot
Getting your kids dressed and set up for this photo is going to take some patience, especially if they're little. Make sure they're not starving and have had a nap or a good night sleep or you risk total meltdown.
Also, think about the time of day you need to shoot. If you're doing something outside, just before sunset or dusk is usually a great time for that golden light. If you're shooting inside, you might want to shoot in the morning or whenever you get the most light through the windows.
#3 Prepare The Shot Before The Kids Come In
Make sure you're all set with your camera settings before you bring the kids into the mix. I find that it's almost always the first few shots that are the best so you'll want to make sure you're ready. Set everything up and fire off a few test shots to make sure the lighting is good and your exposure is spot on. It'll give you a chance to edit the scene without worrying about the kids.
Here's a test shot I did before bringing in my little one (fancy setup...nope!). End result with both of them is below.
#4 Give Them Something To Fidget With
Holiday photos are all about capturing a magical moment. Sometimes kids need something to hold on to or focus on to make them relax and give you some genuine smiles. If you set up a scene and force them to sit there with nothing to do, I can promise they'll be bored and frustrated before you even get started.
#5 Enlist Some Help
You're job is to be the photographer so you're going to need some extra hands to help with styling and entertainment.
And just to prove you don't need fancy lighting to get a beautiful image, I'll share the setup for the photo above. No expensive lighting here...just a patient husband with our table lamp :)
It may take a few tries but eventually you'll come up with a keeper. Once you've got that photo you can spend the rest of your time pouring over the ten thousand card designs out there (it's a job in itself) so make sure you factored that into your timeline!
When you take the time to really plan and execute these photos, you get rewarded with beautiful cards that are a pleasure to look back on year after year. Good luck and Happy Holidays!