Starting off our Christmas Season Photo Inspiration This Week.
Do you need some tips on how to take better Christmas photos of your kids? Thinking you need a big expensive camera to get it done? Think again.
As a professional wedding photographer I have dealt with dark light, bright light, high maintenance brides, interfering great aunts, squabbling newly weds, irate in-laws, bees, ants and more. Nothing, I repeat NOTHING, compared to trying to get my wiggly toddler to take that Pinterest inspired photo.
I’ve got a few tips for you that will hopefully help you get a beautiful shot lined up for your Christmas card.
Preset the stage.
This is one that seems like it should be common sense, but as mom’s we know that our kiddo is the focal point. I used to have her get in the shot before I was all set so I could work around her to ensure it was balanced or something…. It is in your best interests to let them be the last addition to the photo. If you have your heart set on a staged photo with a tree and a hot cocoa, get everything in there first.
Need some Christmas Photo Setup Inspiration? Check out my Christmas Photo Inspiration Board Here.
Pre-set with a bear, or better yet a doll, so that you can create a stage for them to be center field in. If possible, set while they are napping or someone else is watching them. No matter how much they want to help, it will make you CRAZY if they are mangling your set before you even get a chance to snap a couple photos.
Find a theme and stick with it, but that doesn’t mean everything has to match. Is it rustic and plaid, silver and twinkly, monotone smattered with some green? Find a theme and put it together first. Or find a local rental company that presets their studios for a small hourly fee you can rent. Here in the Fort Worth area, check out Borrowed Treasures in Weatherford and Gold Dust Vintage in Mansfield.
Think beyond the red wagon and sled theme if you don’t have them? Is her party dress a pink color? Grab some pink shiny ornaments with some silver tinsel. Does she love blue? Find a blue scarf and hat set with some fake snow for some winter charm.
Everything is cuter when it’s small.
If you can afford it, head to the craft stores and gather a mini tree or a mini chair. For an adorable look, include pint sized items that create the awe factor. Think beyond the traditional tree, with small stockings, a small garland, head outdoors for a small wagon or small truck or sled.
For cocoa or milk, think small drinkware and do yourself a favor and don’t fill them with real drinks. You can fake a milk bottle with acrylic white paint if it’s only going to be a prop. For cocoa, fill the cup with mini marshmallows. These double as a treat (read bribe) for smiles.
Most craft stores will have some mini trees and mini decorations. Even if you don’t want to splurge on an entire tree having a close up of your little man checking out a miniature red truck ornament would be precious.
Make it fun.
Don’t get caught up in the idea that it has to be perfect. Your family isn’t and people that love you know that. Cut yourself and your little one some slack. If you are blessed with the .09% of the toddler population that will sit still indefinitely for photos, more power to you. If you, like me, have an amazing and adventurous child that loves to explore find ways to focus that energy that fit your theme.
Do they love crafts? Have a mini string of popcorn or tinsel for the tree. Include them decorating their mini tree in the session for adorable results. If they are book worms, a photo of them reading the Night Before Christmas would be perfect.
Outdoors is always more fun when you’re little. Photos of them bringing home their mini tree would be perfect. Holding a mini wreath or running through the Christmas Tree Farm. Maybe tangled up in some lights as if they were helping decorate the house. Remember when shooting outside, that mid-day sun is not your friend. Plan your photos for late afternoon or early to mid morning for best lighting results.
Snow is magical even if it’s fake.
Stage a fake snowball fight with some giant pom-pom’s. Fake snow can be found at most craft stores for inside. (Not recommended for outdoors). Think about what some of the most basic traditions are for the holidays and include those. Can you capture your toddler wrapped up in a mess of wrapping ribbon? Making cookies or reading about the Grinch stealing Christmas?
Even if your ultimate goal is a cute staged shot, make the entire shoot mostly action. Have your plan in place before hand. Glitter for a snowball fight, trees for trimming, cookies for eating, jumping on the bed, acting out your favorite story. Never underestimate the power of a puppet. Bring out a Christmas puppet just for the shoot.
Pull out the Christmas decorations early, include some fun advent calendar treats, even if it’s just a single M & M in each one.
Let Someone Else Do the Work
Christmas lights on the town tree can be stunning if done right. Most people try to get the shots when it’s already completely dark. Your best time for Christmas Lights in the background is the half hour directly after the sunset. Maybe the local park gets a fun setup, ours has a train that gets lit up with Christmas Decor. Our zoo gets decked out in twinkly lights and downtown is charming in December. Get dressed up and head down there. Get the kid’s close to the camera to block out anyone in the background. Afterwards have a hot cocoa treat and enjoy the winter charm.
The best photos are the one’s that express emotion. Can you grab your kiddo gazing with wonder on the lights or meeting a live reindeer? If that is your intention, get them dressed in the outfit ahead of time so you won’t be caught unawares.
Never underestimate the importance of a professional photographer in your family life. If you cannot get your toddler to sit still chances are that someone else can. The magic that is a professional children’s photographer is amazing. Even if you can’t afford it for every single holiday (and why would you want to?) Make it a part of your budget for once a year or put it on your own Christmas Wish List. Then, utilize the tradition of holiday cards to gift your photos, rather than sending out a separate mailing.
Photo Magazines Instead of Photo Books?
What should you do with all of those photos after the Christmas Cards are sent out? Why not make them into a magazine and gift them to Grandma? Better yet, make 2 and keep one for yourself. (Not an affiliate link, I just loved how it turned out.) We all struggle with all of the cuteness after a photo shoot, and there is only so much wall space for that adorable little face. Now I don’t have to choose as they are all in a magazine on the shelf ready to be loved on.
I created these magazines after our birthday trip to visit Grandma. They turned out so great that I have since created several more. They are quick and easy to setup, a fraction of the price you would pay for a photo book (think under $10 depending how many pages you choose).
The photos are gorgeous and well balanced color. Honestly, the most time consuming aspect is the initial setup of your layouts. Just drag and drop. I have used the same layout for each magazine I’ve created so the next ones went much quicker.
While I am a firm believer in ordering your prints from a reputable photo lab. (I choose Nations Photo Lab). I have been known to DIY some photos if I’m using them for background or decor. But they could totally be gifts as well.
Simply order a magazine layout from blurb, and create a layout with a 5×7 in the center of each page. When you get the book you will need to use a paper cutter and you instantly have gorgeous matte photos to gift. If your list of photo recipients is extensive this could save you some cash.