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Pumpkin Spice, Already?

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If you’ve ever been to the beach, at some point, usually late in the afternoon or early evening, you may have seen a family dressed in matching outfits with a professional photographer in tow. The white sand and blue waters provide a perfect backdrop for family portraits, many of which will grace the family’s annual Christmas card.

Then, there’s the mother who somehow managed to get the family dressed and down to the water’s edge during the hottest part of the day. She is her own photographer. While trying to keep one child from digging in the sand, she’s rushing to keep the other out of the water and in the process, she gets soaked herself. The children aren’t cooperating, and the whole family is squinting into the sun. Mom’s ideal photo shoot for this year’s Christmas card has turned into a less-than-perfect experience.

She quickly realizes that sometimes it’s worth it to spend those extra dollars to get the photo you want. If you are more of the DIY type, a point-and-shoot camera or even the camera on your iPhone will work. Here are a few tips that might help you capture the perfect Christmas card photo.

Location, location, location

If you would like to take your Christmas card photos at a venue – a Christmas tree farm, a museum, a public building – get permission before shooting. Most places don’t mind, but as a courtesy, always ask first. You don’t want your photo shoot to interrupt any events taking place or daily business activity.

Use a tripod

Find a friend or family member who might be willing to take the picture for you. If you can’t find someone to take the phone, then try a tripod, which will provide stability, and your camera or phone’s self-timer. A tripod which fits both an Iphone and professional camera can be purchased for less than $20.

Find Good Lighting

Some people prefer natural light. If you’re shooting outside, aim for what is referred to as the “golden hour,” that magical hour before sunset or after sunrise when the light is soft, golden and makes all the colors and shapes flattering. If you’re shooting inside, select a room that gets lots of natural light and get as close to the big, bright windows as possible. If it is sunny outdoors, find some open shade and face the sun. But, if it’s cloudy, try and figure out where the sun is hiding and face it. A trick is to hold your hand in front of your face and rotate it slowly to find the shadow side. You can also download an app like Sun Tracker AR. This will help eliminate harsh shadows.

Color Coordinate

The days of everyone matching in jeans and a black shirt are long gone. Today, it’s all about coordinating, not matching. Plan your whole family’s outfits in advance to ensure the color scheme works and everyone’s outfit complements the others. The most important thing is to make sure you feel good and comfortable in your choice of clothing.

Let the Kids Be Kids

Posed pictures and sweet smiles are adorable, but don’t force it. You’ll more than likely get an unhappy child. Don’t stress about getting the “perfect” shot. Candid shots can be just as wonderful.

Consider Your Surroundings

If you’re inside, make sure the decor aligns with your vision. If you are taking photos in the fall, you may want to temporarily swap out any seasonal décor (pumpkins and fall leaves) for some holiday decor or find a more neutral backdrop. Keep the backdrop simple. If you already have a design picked out for your card, make sure your photos will blend in or match. Lamps and indoor lights can distort colors and create harsh shadows so turn them off. Also, make sure all clutter is removed from the background of your photo.

Take Lots of Photos

Take as many photos as your family will tolerate, both horizontal (landscape) and vertical (portrait). The more the merrier. It’s always good to have options. Sometimes the outtakes end up being better than that perfect shot, too. And no judgment if you have to bribe your kids to get dressed and in front of the camera. If it helps, have your child hold a favorite toy or let their favorite grandparents, aunt or uncle hold them.

When should you get Christmas card pictures taken?

You will want to give yourself time to choose the best photo and prep your Christmas card design. So, it looks like the fall, between October and the first of December, is the best time to schedule your next family photo session. Take into consideration your photographer’s turn-around time, mailing, and arrival by the mail service.

If you can’t get all the family together in time for a Christmas card, then wait and send a card out for the New Year. The sentiment is still the same.

Have fun! Don’t let picture taking turn into a grudge match between family members. And remember to always save a copy or two of the card for your files. You may want to put them together in some type of book to have for many holiday seasons to come!

Now, say CHEESE!

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