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Archive: Tips & Tricks

Holiday Greetings: Sharing Your Smiles

Holiday Greetings: Sharing Your Smiles
10 tips for getting the perfect photo for your family’s holiday cards

For many families, the holidays bring an annual tradition: the family photograph. You know the one- the perfect card photo, with everyone looking right into the camera and smiling their biggest, brightest smiles. The one you mail to family and friends around the globe so they can see how the kids have grown since last year.

With the popularity of digital cameras and affordability of digital SLR cameras, many families are opting to take their own family photos. These tips will help your family capture a photo that’s uniquely you. With a bit of planning and some basic camera skills, you’ll have a picture you’ll be proud to share.

Hawaii family playing at the beach

1. Location, location, location
Choose a spot that’s meaningful for your family. Your home or yard can make a great backdrop. Think of the activities your family enjoys- the beach, hiking trails, etc. can make great places to take a photo. Churches and places of worship are another option.

Candid shots can make beautiful greeting card photos as well. Your family, hand in hand, walking along the beach; everyone sitting in a tree happily chatting with someone else; or engaged in an activity together such as paddling.

2. See the light
Avoid photographing people at midday because it will create harsh shadows on faces. Earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon are the best times to shoot.

For beach portraits, photographing within an hour of sunrise or 45 minutes before sunset will give the best light. You don’t want to be squinting into the sun, so make sure the sun is behind you. You may need to turn on your camera’s fill flash, especially if you are shooting just at sunset and want to capture the beautiful sunset sky.

For other locations, look for shaded areas near sunny spots and position your family in the shade facing the light. Keep your camera’s flash turned off for a natural look.

3. What To Wear
Unless your family usually dresses in matching aloha wear or white polo shirts, skip those and instead opt for clothing in coordinating colors. Soft greens and browns look good on most people and lend a seasonal feel. Avoid T-shirts with stripes, large text, or graphics, and use bold colors like red sparingly. Make sure your clothes fit well and are not too loose, short, or revealing. Have fun and don’t be afraid to be creative- kids in holiday pajamas make cute photos!

4. Enlist a friend
Even if you can figure out your camera’s self-timer, rushing back to jump in the photo at the last second is difficult! Ask a friend to help. Having someone behind the camera can help direct attention and ensure that all faces are toward the camera.

5. What’s your angle?
When photographing your children, get down on their level for the best angle. Families should stand or sit closer to one another than usual, to fit everyone in the frame and because a small space between people seems larger in a photograph.
For more flattering portraits, shooting from slightly above is slimming. Turn your body at an angle to the camera, lift your chin slightly and stick out your neck. When smiling, try to open your eyes a little to avoid a squinty look. If you’re sitting, remember to keep your knees together. Put your arm around the person next to you or keep your hands at your side or in your lap. For larger families, posing on steps is a good way to get everyone in the frame. Try shooting from a few slightly different angles – straight on, slightly above, etc. Depending on the number of the people in the photograph, it’s probably best to have the camera about 6-10 feet away for best focus and composition. If you’re photographing one child or two children close together, 3-4 feet is a good distance for close up head shots.
Honolulu family on the beach
6. Watch your back
Leave some space between you and your backdrop- don’t sit or stand right against a wall or greenery. Keeping a few feet away will help blur the background and ensure your family is the focus of the photo. Before you press the shutter, look for distracting background elements such as cars, rubbish, and other people nearby. Make sure there aren’t any trees, telephone poles, etc appearing to stick out of someone’s head.

7. Smile!
Don’t say cheese! For babies and young children, a noisemaker such as a colorful rattle or train whistle can get kids’ attention. Have everyone tickle someone else to get natural expressions and laughter. Adults should look at the camera and keep smiling to make it easier to get a good photo with the kids looking at the camera.

Hawaii children holiday card

8. Murphy’s Law: Kids and Pets
Use bribes and treats sparingly and only when necessary, as their effects are short-lived. Lollipops, large plastic ornaments, and Santa hats can make good props and help hold kids’ attention. If all else fails, you can try for one good shot of each child and look for card templates that include more than one photo.

9. Check it twice
Take two photos in a row to avoid getting the perfect picture.. where someone blinked. If blinking or squinting is a problem, have everyone close their eyes, count to three out loud, and tell them to open their eyes. Check your camera’s LCD to make sure the photo looks good. If the pictures are blurry, or the background is bright (overexposed) but the people are in deep shadow (underexposed), try turning on the flash.

10. Fit to print
Costco, Wal-Mart, and Sam’s Club all offer premade templates. Either upload your photo online, or take it in to the lab to design and print photo paper greeting cards. Folded cards and mailable postcards are available through VistaPrint and online photo lab MPix.

Lisa Hoang is the award-winning founder of Windwardskies Photography in Kaneohe, an on-location photography studio specializing in child, family, and baby portraiture. She has photographed professionally since 2000 and is a member of the Professional Photographers of America (PPA). Her work has appeared in local and international publications.