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Say cheese! Tips for shooting your holiday photos

By Staff
Michelle Blaylock, Mom's Corner
Hello! This week I have a riddle for you. What do you get when you cross two rolls of film and six children? Answer: If you're lucky you get one picture that you can put in your Christmas cards! This happened to us one year. Of course, now there are digital cameras, which make the episode much easier. However, you still have several hurdles to jump.
Here are some things that I've learned about pictures and kids.
It's so much fun to dress them up in their best clothes and even have them all "match." I used to make matching outfits for the kids, but as they got older I soon discovered they didn't enjoy this as much as I did! Therefore, now I just shoot not to have them clash with each other. You're not going to get a good picture if the kids hate what they're wearing. They'll be irritable and it will show in their faces and body language. So my first rule now is let the kids be as comfortable as possible. Nice shirts and jeans will make a very cute casual picture. However, if you're really wanting that special portrait, then try to pick out several outfits that you can live with and then let the child make the final choice. They will be happier if they have some say in the matter.
Location, location, location. Where to take the picture? Well, of course, if you're working with a professional photographer you don't have a problem because they have sets ready. They also have an "eye" for a great background. As for us amateurs, we have to work a little harder.
Here's what works for me:
1. I try to get a fairly close shot so that I don't have to worry about a lot of background showing in the first place. Make sure you're on their "level" so your not getting a picture that will show too much ground (if you're looking down) or too much sky (if you're looking up).
2. If I am going to try to show some background, I look at it through the camera lens first without people in the picture. That way I can look at only the background and look for things that I don't want to show. For example, I was taking pictures of one of my daughters and I wanted to place her on some steps. Great in theory, but when I looked at the background, I saw that a really ugly outside water faucet would be right next to her. I still took the shot, but from a different angle to leave out the faucet. You also have the option of "cropping" or cutting the pictures to have the look you want.
3. Just because you've carefully checked the background doesn't mean that you're home free. One year at Christmas I sat the kids in front of the Christmas tree. It looked wonderful when I checked it without the kids. However, once I put the kids in the picture we developed a problem. The way a couple of the branches where placed made it look like one of my daughters had horns on her head! Obviously, I repositioned the branches!
4. If you've got several people or children in the picture make sure there's room for everyone and they're not too crowded. They need to be close, but too close is not good. Speaking from experience. I wanted to get this really cute picture in front of a sign when we were on vacation with friends. All together we had seven children ages 3 to 14. At first I tried to fit all of them into one picture. The result? Let's just say we ended up doing two separate groups. It worked better, was still very cute and there was less arguing. I also try to make sure the kids are in a fairly comfortable place. If they are trying to teeter on the edge of a banister so you can get a great picture of the wreath on the wall behind them, they aren't going to look very natural in their expression.
Ok, how on earth do we get that natural expression I just mentioned?
Well, I've found every photographer does it differently. My first suggestion is very obvious, don't do it when the kids are tired or hungry. Pick a time that is best for them. You'll get a better picture. As to how to get that natural smile. We usually say something silly or tell a joke. You have to find out what tickles your child(ren), and then be ready to snap the picture.
As for pictures with multiple subjects, take your time. Encourage the older children to hold still, and not pay attention to the younger ones. It's so hard for them to do because they want to help. I tell mine the best help they can give me is to make sure they are ready when I get the little one to smile. This is where digital cameras are so nice. You know immediately if your picture is satisfactory. As for digital photography, I haven't got to play with it much, but what I have done has been so much fun. We don't have a great digital camera, yet. (Hint, hint husband.) However, I have taken our 35mm pictures and scanned them into the computer then played with them. I love it. You can change so much and fix so many boo-boos. It's great. Nevertheless, after talking to friends with digital cameras, they say the better the original shot the easier it is to work with on the computer. (Makes sense).
Another option for taking pictures is not trying to "make" a picture. In other words don't try to "stage it." Simply catch the kids doing what kids do! These type of pictures are often more meaningful and show much more of the children's personality. If you do happen to get something in the background that you really didn't want to show, usually you can "crop" it out of the picture. I was taking pictures of our girls playing outside at their grandma's house. They were climbing a tree with the bright sunshine and beautiful green leaves. They just looked like happy children doing what children should do. After I developed the pictures, I realized that in the background was my mom's trash cans! It kinda spoiled the picture. My solution was to cut the pictures in various shapes leaving out the trashcans. These are now ready for the scrapbook!
My final suggestions for pictures including children are simple. Patience and humor. Especially if it's around Christmas. The kids are excited and we are usually tired and want everything to be "perfect."
Well, it's probably not going to be. At least that's how I "expect" it and then if it does come out perfect, I have a nice surprise.
Basically, my goals are to have everyone's eyes open, have at least a pleasant expression on their face, and finally not to have anyone covering someone else's face! (That's not as easy as it sounds!)
I hope these tips help you as you get ready for the holidays. If you have a tip to share please send it to: Mom's Corner; P.O. Box 1496; Hartselle, AL 35640. or e-mail: moms-corner@juno.com.