Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Christmas Card Photo Shoot

A few weeks late....

Rich and I both like to have a holiday themed photo on our holiday card. We have discussed this over the past few years. When we returned from Disney, Rich started asking me when I wanted to have a photo shoot with the girls. "Ah, not now. Emily has two black eyes." Rich then suggested that we use one of the Disney pictures because some of them did have some holiday inspiration in them. Minnie wearing a Christmas dress. Goofy in a Santa suit. Christmas decorations in the background. "Blah! The lighting in those is horrible and the girls are wearing shorts and tee shirts."

I know Rich was thinking of the multiple photo shoots from last year and my frustration at not being able to get the perfect photo. He was dreading a repeat performance. But we were smart this year and so I pass my tips along to you. (I promise this post is still cute even if you aren't interested in having photo shoots with your kids.)

1. Know how to use your camera

I am a better photographer now than I was a year ago and that helped. When dealing with kids, you really don't have time to mess around with settings or changing lenses. Practice, practice, practice ahead of time until you have a better feel for what you are doing.

This doesn't mean that you have to own a fancy nancy camera either. If you have a point and shoot that you use in auto, that is fine. As long as you know how to fire off a bunch of pictures. Photo shoots with children are not the time to try out new settings on your camera.

2. Don't try anything new for backdrops or poses

I think that this was one of my downfalls last year. I wanted to try new things, which turned out to be not good poses or set-ups. We wasted precious time. If I had casually tested it out beforehand, I would have known what would work and what wouldn't.

3. Trick your kids

I went to Target and purchased three giant lollipops for a $1 each. The girls knew nothing of the lollipops. Rich made a good point ahead of time and suggested that I not use the term "photo shoot" when describing what we were going to do. Instead, we told the girls that we had a surprise.

4. Plan and be quick

Because I had used this backdrop many times in the past, I knew how long it would take to set up. It is basically a fuzzy blanket from our bed with a piece of plexi-glass over it on the floor. I had everything sitting in the family room ready to be set up. Along with the girls' Christmas jammies (from last year.)

We told the girls that we had to quickly change into the jammies so that we could do the surprise. They were all excited and I couldn't believe my luck that all three were cooperating until Allie announced that she was going to go pick out different jammies. I hope this is just a phase but all three of them need to pick out everything. And when I say everything, I mean everything. Bowls, forks, spoons, cereal, cups, shoes, socks, all clothing items, pony elastics, all food items, everything. I told her that the surprise would only work with the Christmas jammies.
As soon as they all started changing into their jammies with Rich supervising, I quickly set up the backdrop. Presto chango - we were ready to go.

5. Easily accept changes

I wanted to put the girls' hair into ponytails because I think it looks adorable that way. Emily said she didn't want any and when I heard, "I want to pick a pony," I quickly dropped the idea. I didn't want to waste time fighting them over hair. I made the best of the situation and decided that having their hair down would be okay especially since they were wearing jammies.

6. Provide entertainment directly behind the camera

As you will see in the photos to follow, having someone standing next to you will throw off the subjects' attention. It will be obvious in the photos that the subjects are looking next to you and not directly at you.

7. Stay at eye level

Yes, there are certain photos where you want to stand above your subjects but I see people make this mistake all the time. They stand while taking pictures of children. For these photos, I was sitting on the floor so that I could maintain an eye level position.

The Results

I only snapped off twenty pictures for this photo shoot. I had to ditch three or four due to closed eyes - I don't believe in head swapping. (That could be because I don't know how to do head swapping.)

Here's how we started off.


You can see how they are all looking at Rich, who was standing next to me. Allie, who is in the middle, had pushed back a few inches and looked shorter than her sisters. Overall, these are still usable though.

I actually think that they are looking at the television in this next one.


Television and Rich. And Allie still looks too short.


I thought about using this one on our card with "Hark! The herald angels sing."


Best friends.


Here's the winner. I did chop off part of Anna's feet when cropping. If I hadn't, there would have been too much wasted space for a card photo. My secret was to move Rich directly behind me and then scream, "AHHHHH! THERE'S A SPIDER ON MY HEAD!"




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hsw said...

Love the backdrop tip and the treat idea! Great job!

Samantha said...

The best friend one is my favorite!

Tracey's Life said...

Your pictures are great and your subjects are simply adorable. You did a great job!

Souza Sisters said...

LOVE these pictures! Your girls are so adorable!!

Mary said...

As always, another great photo shoot. Thank you for sharing all your ideas. The lollipops were a good distraction, and went well with the holiday theme. Another good treat idea are the mini marshmallows. They are small (hardly seen) and not messy and if they are used only for photo shoots, the kids will look at them as a special treat, much like your little ones did with the lollipops. Keep up the good work.

Jen said...

These are adorable! I struggled with one during our shoots, I can't imagine that times three!

Wendy said...

Good tips :)

The Carpenters said...

Absolutely adorable! I, too, am a photographer and love to read up on other mommy photog blogs!