It’s hard to believe that the holiday season is already here!! When I look over my kiddos' childhoods, the memories that quickly flood my mind are images from this season: messy flour faces from making cookies, proud grins with a Thanksgiving craft, and oodles of images as a family around the tree. It can feel like a lot of pressure to capture this season perfectly, and while we can’t capture everything, we’ve got some tips that will help!
Tip No. 1 - The best camera to use is the one that you already have. Do you primarily shoot photos on your iPhone? GREAT! Do you love capturing images with your DSLR camera? Excellent. Whatever camera you’re using is the one to keep using this season! I absolutely love shooting pictures with my Canon camera, but smart phones are rapidly improving their camera capabilities to where you are likely taking photos of great quality with little photography technology know-how! Don’t feel pressured to get a “better camera” or even a “better phone” to have excellent photos this holiday season. Whatever camera you’re currently using is so much better quality than the cameras our grandmothers used to use!
Tip No. 2 - Prepare your camera now. Right now is the time to get your camera ready for the holidays!
If you shoot primarily on a smart phone, take some time to get rid of unnecessary apps and photos on your device so that you don’t have a “sorry, your phone is too full to take another photo!” warning in the middle of present opening. Back up your photos! TIP: if you have an Amazon Prime account, you’re already paying for Amazon Photos service and can download an app to automatically back up your images straight to the cloud. This app runs in the background and works great!
If you shoot primarily with a DSLR camera of some kind, take the time to charge your batteries and download photo cards prior to when your holiday social calendar fills up! Once your cards are clean and batteries are charged, keep your camera in a place that you will regularly use it. I keep mine on my kitchen counter so I grab it often to take photos! Other ideas include on the entertainment center in the living room, in the camera bag next to your door to grab on your way out to festivities or on a bookshelf in your family room.
If you enjoy using a Polaroid, video camera, GoPro or other camera, be sure to do the same thing! Have fully charged batteries, empty photo cards or fresh film and keep your camera in reach!
Tip No. 3 - Your kiddos don’t need to be smiling at the camera for every photo!
In fact, make it your goal to take photos where they are NOT smiling at the camera each time! Capture ordinary moments, like when your oldest is helping you do dishes in just the glow of Christmas lights, or when you catch them mesmerized by the tree, or when they’re lighting a holiday candle or when they’re wide-eyed at their full plate of holiday foods! This sort of variety will help you remember the emotions behind the season and not just Kodak family moments. And, your kid will likely appreciate the break from having to stop what they’re doing to smile at the camera!
Tip No. 4 - Give your kiddo your camera!! Hear me out on this one. Hand your camera over to your kiddo. If you’re using a really expensive camera, perhaps set it up on a tripod for your kiddo to use safely. But, you’ll be so impressed at the images they’ll take for you!! Sure, you may end up with 27 photos of their favorite gift they opened. Or you might end up with a camera roll comprised of mostly the carpet, up their nose or some other odd angle. But! You might end up with some true gems of this season from their eyes. The way the tree looms so largely from their vantage point. The photo they get of a sibling smiling back at them. An incredibly flattering image of you taken as only a toddler can do. If you have older kiddos, this might even be a great job to pass off for a specific event! Have your teen take all the photos while caroling. Ask your teen to take photos of the decorations while you put finishing touches on getting the holiday meal on the table. Make documenting this season a family affair. (And if your kiddo is not yet old enough to manage a family camera, consider getting them their own Bannor Toys camera to document Yuletide cheer in their own way!)
Tip No. 5 - Don’t make your family miserable for the sake of perfect family photos.
Don’t push the moment. And when you have less-than-ideal reactions in photos, those can be memory makers too. Our goal this holiday season is to document our families as they are IN this season of life. And sometimes that means our families are not quite picture perfect as we wish they were! Don’t force this with them. They’ll hate it. You’ll hate it. The photos will prove that they hated it. Instead, take photos as the moment unveils itself. One Christmas my daughter was NOT having being in a cousins photo. We encouraged her to sit down for just one picture, snapped what we could, then let the rest go. This is now a classic kid crying Christmas photo for our family, but it was more important to take one photo and then let her have a more enjoyable evening than it was to get a photo of everyone smiling. So we took the crying photo and moved on!
One Thanksgiving, my girls would NOT look at the camera for anything. I remembered our goal : capture our family as they are today in this season. And with a three and one year old, not looking at the camera can be par for the course! So we snapped the photo and I chuckled to myself that of course that’s the only photo we were able to get of them that day.
Let your family lead. If you don’t get that perfect family photo with everyone smiling and looking at the camera, it’s okay. Capture them as they are today.
Tip No. 6 - Holiday Card Photos aren’t the ONLY meaningful photos of your family during the holidays. But they are a priority to so many mamas and I want to help you love them!! I LOVE any Holiday Card! Whether your family sends them out at Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Valentines or any other Holiday, I want them on my fridge!!! I love photos of your family smiling together or a classic one where the kids are crying and everyone’s trying to hold it together. Love it. LOVE IT. It’s totally okay to prioritize these photos if they’re important to you! If they’re not, skip on down to the next tip. Having a photo session done of your family can be a lot of stress! You want everyone to look good together and for kiddos to be on their best behavior and to get at least ONE photo that seems to represent your family well. Here’s a few tips to make that happen!
Want to dress for success? As a baseline, think of color families and not matching outfits. Want to dress in traditional holiday colors? Instead of putting everyone in red & green, consider one outfit first - say, yours - and then build colors around that. Wear a hunter green, put a someone in a dark evergreen, someone in white and someone in a red that compliments the greens you’ve already chosen. Once you’ve got a baseline idea of colors, consider mixing in a pattern or two. Maybe the red shirt is a plaid one and the green dress has a little hint of a pattern to it. Lastly, think of layers - could the plaid shirt be left unbuttoned over a white shirt? Could you wear a white sweater over your green dress? Could someone have knee-high socks that tie the outfit together?
Consider reaching out to your photographer for outfit input if you are paying for a photo session. It may be helpful to start out with a photo of the outfits you are thinking of. Your photographer may LOVE having a little creative input to say “hmmm I don’t think three kids should be in plaid and two in stripes” or they might prefer you to just choose the outfits on your own. It never hurts to ask!
Let the pressure go. YES, these photos are meaningful and we want them to turn out beautifully, but they are not the only photos representing your family this season. If they don’t turn out like you’re hoping and dreaming, it’s going to be okay.
Tip No. 7 - Mama, make sure you’re in the photos!! Susie at Busy Toddler calls these photos a “Proof of Mom Photo” and I’m here for it! Any chance you’re able, jump in the photo. If you’re seeing Santa at the mall, consider jumping in a photo with your kiddos after theirs is done. If you’re at an ice skating event, ask a stranger to take a photo of you out there with your kids. On Christmas morning, set up a timer and make sure you’re in several photo too. On the way out the door to a holiday service, a kid’s music concert or the Nutcracker, when you’re snapping a photo of how cute your kids look, snap one with you too. These memories are important for our kiddos to have, but also for us to have too! These are really good days, mama.
Tip No. 8 - Take photos of all of the other moments and mementos that make up the holidays. Be intentional about taking a photo of Aunt Betty with her family famous macaroni and cheese. Take a photo of grandma and the grandkids around grandma’s tree. Take a picture of Great Uncle Bob carving the Thanksgiving turkey. Don’t forget to document a favorite ornament your kiddo made this year or when they accidentally knocked over your nativity and now the shepherd’s staff is broken and he is using a candy cane for a staff. Take a photo of your house with lights on it in the dark and take a photo of your tree with presents underneath it. All of these moments are like a nest to the season and are the foundation for all of the beautiful memories you’re building with your family.
Tip No. 9 - Don’t be stressed over the technical aspects of taking photos, just start taking them. If you enjoy taking photos of your little ones, just enjoy time with your camera and them! Take photos from their perspective down on the ground. Take photos from your perspective so you remember how little they were lying on their favorite blanket. Take a photo of just their eyes, with their eyelashes dusted with snowflakes. When in doubt, farting noises, silly jokes and playing annoying songs are all great tactics to get a kiddo to smile at your camera, and when they don’t, that’s okay too. Photography is an art and you are the artist and your craft will change along with your kids. Keep doing the good work of documenting today, and before you know it those todays add up to a delightful story of their childhood.
Tip No. 10 - Don’t take any photos. Clearly, I’m passionate about documenting family through photography, but it’s not the end goal. Being present is. Snap a few photos with your camera, and then set it down, and snap a few more with your heart. You can have tens, hundreds or thousands of photos on a camera roll and still miss the moment if you’re not careful. As much as you’ll love photos of them tearing into gifts, it’s much more meaningful to give yourself the gift of being fully present with them.
Wishing you a beautiful season of capturing your family one photo and moment at a time.