The most wonderful time of year for… Holiday Photos!
Halloween and Thanksgiving are safely behind us, here just one week into December, so you are legally permitted to play Christmas music if that is your thing. It is the most wonderful time of year, they say, and in fact it is a wonderful time for that holiday tradition: photos for your holiday cards to send to your friends and family.
The thought of taking holiday photos might fill everyone with dread: toddlers, teenagers, parents, grandparents, the photographer. Who needs the stress of kids in full meltdown, family members not smiling, making goofy poses, blinking eyes, having to go to the bathroom. There is already so much stress and pressure to have the perfect Christmas, right? Why add one more expectation? It could just make us all wish for January 2 when we go back to school and to work, for some peace and quiet.
It need not be that way. Perhaps the best way to avoid stress during holiday photo shoots is the same way to avoid stress throughout the holidays: Relax. Lower your expectations. Let people do what they will do and be what they will be.
Kids making wacky poses? Let them. Mom or dad standing too stiffly? High schoolers rolling their eyes and secretly checking their phones? Maybe holiday pictures are just a snapshot of who we are and what we do throughout the year. We are perfectly imperfect, and that is what makes our family pictures so memorable.
With the completed photos we will print them onto cards, stuff into envelopes, address and mail them. By “we” I mean “Charla”. My expertise does not lie in things like addressing, stamping and stuffing envelopes despite my many years in public relations doing just that for professional clients. I will do my part by cooking dinner, pouring wine, and staying away from anything resembling a pen. Our friends and family who are inflicted with my unfortunate penmanship skills may have second thoughts about writing us back.
It wasn’t always this way. While, as a kid, my family did its share of photos it was not a regular, annual thing. Or if it was then my adolescent impatience did not help me bring out my best. For many years even as an adult, I had found something like a formal, posed photo to be so alien, so unusual.
Sure, many other photos of holidays, birthdays, travels, and summers documented time passing by. But the holiday photo is different. If holidays are not your thing, then call it “the annual photo”. The annual photo is a special way of marking the time as it passes by. The first photo session I did in many years, last winter, still bears witness to a precious moment that is mine forever.
Things to do when preparing your holiday photos.
Who is in your photos. Bring your family! Are you not with your family this season? Then bring your roommates. Friends. Neighbors. Co-workers. Your barista at the corner cafe who serves your perfect latte every morning. If nothing else, just bring yourself.
What do we wear? Whatever you want. What you wear on a casual, chillout Saturday. What you wear to church on Sundays, only not so much. Something that doesn’t make people look so stiff and formal. This isn’t an 18th century funeral, it’s the holidays! If the kids insist on orange Crocs, let them, even if you think they will clash with your cobalt blue jacket and tasteful leather shoes.
When to shoot. If you are shooting anywhere other than inside a studio then consider late afternoon, about one to two hours before sundown. Photographers call this “the golden hour” when the light is perfect and we look our best. During the post-daylight savings of December, that is about 3:00 – 5:00 p.m.
During the shoot. Again, relax. If the kids are getting close to meltdown, take a short break and let them run around. Bonus tip: Take ample shots of them running around and you will be rewarded with prize shots that may be some of the best of that day. Bring snacks.
After the shoot. As parents, we are not above bribery, so after the shoot, order pizza, get ice cream, do something fun. If you are not with kids then go out and hit some happy hours or otherwise enjoy holiday celebrations adult-style.top