The year was 1984. I was five and my little brother was one. It was then we were put in matching outfits and subjected to our first Christmas photo shoot. For the next 32 years, my mom has upheld this annual tradition, with our photographs including the entire family, with spouses, kids, and pets being added as our clan has grown.
While there were times in my teenage years that I wasn’t the biggest fan of taking part, I am so thankful we now have a collection of images from Christmas seasons past. Because, while there are birthdays and other momentous occasions throughout the year where photos may be taken, getting one done at the same time each year is key. It also is great to look back at the changes in fashion, hairstyles, and development over the years.
Of course, I had to start the tradition with my own little family. To my husband’s and children’s dismay, we usually have professional photos taken each October or November. Sometimes we takes ones of just the kids and others we include my husband and myself. Then, at the beginning of December (or in some years mid to late December), the photos are used on an annual Christmas card that we send to friends and relatives.
While you don’t need the photos to be done professionally (in fact, many of my family photos growing up were taken by our neighbor), there are some things to keep in mind when planning and shooting with young kids either way:
1) Choose your timing wisely. We usually try for right away in the morning when the kids are fresh or after nap time. This doesn’t guarantee a meltdown-free event, but it definitely increases your odds. You will also want to consider the amount of light at the time of day when you are shooting. For we all know, the more natural light available, the better the photos will turn out.
2) Consider your outfit selection. While you by no means have to match, it is a good idea to stay in the same color scheme and stay away from shirts with characters or distracting prints. One year, the shirt I chose for my son ended up being very distracting when I was selecting the Christmas card it was going to be on.
3) When it comes to photographing kids, bribery is key. I often pack special treats or even bribe my kids with a toy at the end. If you are paying someone, you want to get a good couple of shots to pick from. One particular year, our photographer even documented the end result of my bribery…and these still are some of my favorite shots!4) Don’t aim for perfection–my husband will tell you I am still working on this. Some of our most memorable shoots involve kids crying or have shots that are candid and real.
5) Relax. Again, this is something I am practicing myself. When I look back at many of our pictures over the years, several photos have hit the editing floor because I am sweating and smiling awkwardly while the others look great. This is the result of me rushing to get everyone ready and trying to get the kids to focus in the right direction and perhaps even smile. Of course, we can usually get one good shot, but there would have been more to choose from if I had just relaxed. Easier said than done!
So if you haven’t started this holiday tradition with your family, I highly suggest it. In any case, happy photographing this holiday season!
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