Whether you're hiring a professional for Christmas pictures or taking them yourself, I have some great tips to share with you that will help keep everything Merry & Bright.
As a mother of two and a professional family photographer, I have lots of experience with children in front of my camera.
I can totally relate to the stress of a professional shoot, both being in front of and behind the lens! There's something about trying to coordinate outfits, multiple family members, and camera settings that can make even the most patient mom want to pour Jack Daniel's into her spiced cider and throw the holiday cards out the window!
Even a "simple" in-home photo session by the tree can stress everyone out!
But before you give up on the adorable tradition of yearly Christmas pictures, read my tried and true tactics for successful photos!
1. Let the kids choose their own clothes. Even if it kills you. Even if they end up dressed like this. When children feel they have a say in something, they are a lot more likely to cooperate. Along the same lines, give them posing options. "Do you want to stand by the tree or lay down on a picnic blanket by the tree?" It's totally okay to let them feel like they're getting to express their autonomy - all you want is them, happy, somewhere in the general vicinity of those twinkly tree lights, remember?
2. Have at least two different noise-makers in your back pocket. I usually have a rattle and a party blower. Kids get bored easily so each loud noise will probably only capture their attention or really get a giggle once or twice. I like to get my camera completely ready, get the kids in position, and then get silly... I will [insert sudden loud noise] and then I squeal "WEEEE!" And between the noise and my shrill voice, I usually get eye contact in the very least, if not a smile of delight!
3. Go for massive quantity and you'll end up with at least one quality. When shooting kids, over-shoot. They move so fast that sometimes it seems I only get about ten great shots for every 50 I take, and I'm a pro! If your camera has a "burst" or continuous mode, use that. It amazes me how many more of those true smiles I can capture when I am able to fire of three shots in a second. It could be the difference between a laugh and a grouchy scowl!
4. Be flexible. The kid wants their favorite stuffed animal or action figure in the photo? Let them! They want to wear a billion hair accessories? Go for it! They want to sit down in front of the tree? Sure thing! Don't stress or bribe or threaten just to cram them into the stuffy dress Gramma sent or the "picture perfect" pose you saw on Pinterest. Those photos will be anything but picture perfect.
5. Think outside the box. Who says you can't blow bubbles by the Christmas tree? Or color in a coloring book with Christmas lights in the background? Or play a toy guitar? Kids do better in photos when they have a prop to play with. For obvious reasons, it feels more like play to them and less like work.
6. Ask them a crazy question that will make them smile... "OHMYGOSH is my camera on FIRE!?!?" Or "Do you want to go eat ice cream on the moon tomorrow?" It won't always gets you a smile (especially with very young children) but at least you'll get some eye contact!
7. Be respectful. Children are people, too. And their right to be respected is more important than your desire for a perfect Christmas pic or Aunt Suzie's desire for an updated photo with the Christmas card. If your child is fussing (or even throwing a blasted tantrum!) remember that they're kids and if they were more mature they might be calmly saying, "Mom, I'm feeling really tired and I don't want to do this anymore. Can we try again another time?" There's nothing wrong with including an "older" photo in your card so go into your Facebook timeline to remind yourself of some of your favorite candid family memories from this past year. Aunt Suzie will love to see a collage, too!
8. Make it fun and have a reward ready. I'll admit, sometimes my rewards morph into bribes toward the end of shoots, especially with my daughters because they get assaulted by me camera so frequently. But hey, a Christmas movie and some cookies and hot chocolate sound like the perfect end to a quick family photo session to me! Make sure to throw in some extra marshmallows and thank them for helping you get some great pictures to send to Gramma!
So now you're armed and dangerous. With these tips, your kids won't even realize they're having a portrait session done cause they'll be having so much fun!
And before you can say "deck the halls", you'll have some fabulous shots to mail to friends and family with your cards.
Merry Christmas and happy shooting!
Guest post by Jessica from There & Back Again, an Air Force Tale