It’s that magical time of year, the time when every mom (and some dads) scramble to take the perfect Christmas card photo.
The more kids, the more chaos. Ever try to get six people to look at the camera (happily) at the same time? Of course you have or you wouldn’t be reading this with drink in hand thinking “how the hell am I going to get it done this year?”
I feel your pain. I called in an expert, my friend and fabulous photographer Andy Mann of Brilliant Studios in Turks and Caicos. We did a family photo shoot with him a few years ago and in JUST ONE HOUR he captured images that have been used for our Christmas card, enlarged and hung on the walls, and made into a coffee table book. So I guess you could say I’m a fan of his work. Before our shoot I got this note from one of the boys:
Here is Andy’s advice on how to get reluctant children (and husbands) in front of the camera to capture the perfect family photo for your Christmas card. Oh, and being in Turks and Caicos helps.
Let’s start off by saying I have almost a “philosophy” about family pictures based on being a dad/parent/business owner etc etc….let’s not add more stress to our lives….keep it simple, short, and as fun as possible.
Taking pictures is never really a “fun thing” for people to do. We don’t wake up dreaming of a photo shoot..unless you are a Kardashian.
In many ways it’s rather like exercise. You “hate” the idea of doing it but once you are in it, it’s OK and then afterwards its all “that was not so bad” and you LOVE the results !!!
Here is the note writer, Wilson, early in the shoot, and then after about 45 minutes with Andy.
KM: What should everyone wear, should they match?
If grandma wants white and khaki go with the flow…it’s easy and probably will cause less family strife. If it’s just your brood then go with a. what you know you look great in and b. what is comfortable and suitable for the location. I tend to use the word coordinated rather than matching…going to the beach? No tight cocktail dresses for teen girls despite how much they want to wear them… go a little more dressy than you might think or would do normally. Class never goes out of style. Maybe bring accessories too, hats, sunglasses, scarves, frisbee, football to throw. Who says we all need to be sitting on the ground like a soccer team picture?? Bring fave story books for little kids? Rug to sit on?
KM: When is the best time to get a good group photo?
When the youngest members are at their best. So if you have little ones probably early in the morning. Trying to schedule toddlers to fit around the grownups needs for a stiff cocktail before the shoot is going to mean grumpy kids which then leads to grumpy parents and so on….
KM: How do you get reluctant kids to sit for pictures?
Typically its more about the parents than the toddler. The toddler has picked up on the fact that the picture is important to mom so they can often be difficult as is their way at the 2’s and 3’s. So “deescalate'”, get the parents out of the way, play with them – if they are into it go for it otherwise then ignore them, shoot older siblings, shoot parents alone first, shoot dad. Nothing gets a reluctant toddler more into pictures than being left out and ignored. They run back into the group !
As above, then shoot them alone and off to one side and be really quick about it. Treat them as an adult. Show them the results. 9/10 they will work with you to give you the shot you need and then get in the group and make that work too….
KM: How about reluctant dads?
Shoot them first, let them see how painless it is. They will want to show “willingness” to their wife and earn brownie points. Going first gives them less time to resist and think of excuses, plus they see their kids looking at them watching -so pressure to put on a good show. Put dad in the middle of a group and give him kids to hold, sit on the knee. They like being made a fuss of (really), like being centre stage and kids can hide flaws etc.
The more you can plan ahead the better- pick a nice location with a simple background that is 15-20 feet away. Think through seating (people sitting on chair arms), steps, logs. Is the light nice and even and not too bright? Grab a kid and do a test picture of them alone at the same time of day, same location if you are “DIY”.
KM: What’s your best advice for getting a Christmas card worthy photo?
Take a lot of pictures – all year round. Save them off your iPhone . Actually use a real camera too if you can. Take more pictures. I mean LOTS.
For the “shoot” – stack the deck in your favor:
Location selected – right time of day with even soft light, background not busy and distracting. Seats or chairs or somewhere for people to hang out and not look like a sports team picture.
Outfits coordinated – a little is fine.
Do smaller groups first, individuals, couples – work your way up to the big shot so people are warmed up…
Take more pictures of just your kids together.
Look for smiles, laughter, fun not the perfect pose….
Andy’s Plan for Christmas Card Photo Success
Plan A – you have a great shot of everyone from the shoot and can use it.
Plan B – that pictures of just the kids will probably work instead if you need it.
Plan C – make a collage of the best 6 pictures you took all year – sort of a “year on a card” – plenty of collage online apps out there.
Plan D – take a selfie of the family- post it on Facebook and apologize to all your family and friends…give your kids and partner a big hug – it’s just a card.. and head for the eggnog
PS if you did make it…remember to send it off now not in January 😉
If you want to reach Andy or are interested in booking a photo session, you can find him at: Brilliant Studios.