Christmas is my favorite time of year. The (oh-so-wonderful, oft-dreaded, sometimes family drama-filled) holidays thankfully also bring to mind the fresh smell of pine, yummy peppermint hot chocolates in festive Starbucks cups and the snow-covered and decked-out homes, (which, to be honest, I’ve only seen in pictures). It all really, seriously makes me happy.
But, what doesn’t make me happy is the knowledge that so many families are taking that same old, posey, cheesy holiday photo at this very second,(Christmas tree in the back, hands neatly folded, painfully fake smile), and they’re not even trying to be ironic or funny! Here are some easy tips to help you switch things up and get some awesome photos that will make you smile more than cringe. (Always a plus.) And to prove just how easy it is to do these things, I’m only going to use Instagram to show you what I’m talking about.The best part is that these are holiday tips that you can use throughout the year. A gift that keeps on giving. You’re welcome.
Why is it that people are able to let loose and have so much fun in those wedding photobooths, but then when it’s time to have their picture taken elsewhere, they inevitably revert to the posey baloney? (Excuse my French.) Why not bring the photobooth fun to your holiday party? Bring in some props- Santa hats, chalkboard signs, or even grab a present from under the tree or bring in an outdoor light-up reindeer decoration. The playtime really starts when you challenge people to come up with something different for each shot, with at least four pictures taken quickly, one right after the other, just like in a photobooth. About a second or two in between is plenty; too much thinking time takes the fun out of it. And if you are working with digital, (film is fun, yes, but more expensive and challenging for instant gratification addicts), then you really have nothing to lose- why stop at four photos in a row? People get sillier as you allow them to get warmed up. Funny faces, ironic faces, serious faces – anything goes.
Some people have a family member whose role as ‘Official Family Photographer’ has been cemented in family law since the beginning of time. While I was growing up, that person was my dad. Now, it’s definitely my husband. How do I know? When I look through my family albums and current Facebook wall photos, these fine people are pretty much 100% NOT in them. They are hardly in any pictures at all; it’s like they don’t even exist. How do we fix this unacceptable dilemma?
It’s nothing new to use a camera’s self-timer, but here’s the twist: Set that camera to the lowest timer setting. On purpose. Make it close to impossible for that person to jump into the photo easily within the time allotted. Maybe include an ottoman-blocked, (but still safe!), pathway for an extra dose of excitement. If it takes a couple tries, that’s ok, and maybe even better! Most people will get such a kick out of having the “Family Photographer” actually in the photo, and watching,(hopefully rooting for), that person race to get into the group. Unless your family’s last name is Addams, or you have the most sullen teen in the history of the world, your family should at least be smirking, grinning, giggling or cheering… or at the very least, trying really hard not to. In a photo. All together. During the holidays.
How many times have you snuck up on people (especially kids) and they are completely engrossed in what they’re doing, they don’t even notice you’re there? Creepy? Sometimes. But, it can also be such a golden opportunity to capture a tender moment between Grandma and Grandpa, or little Johnny intently trying to figure out his latest game, or even all the Christmas p.j.-wearing kids piled up on the family dog for a post-gift opening snooze. If you keep your eyes peeled and your camera ready, you might stumble upon some pretty magical stuff.
Take a cue from Flo-Rida. Get on the floor. Sit. Lie down. See how different the world looks when you’re little? Take a photo of the first person or pet to come figure out what you’re up to, and you’ll get a kid or pet’s eye view of the world. Or, take a photo of your kid towering over either his bigger (seated) sibling, a small present or your family pet and I guarantee you’ll get some giggles out of them as soon as they see it. Then, get photos of those giggles while you’re at it.
Fair Warning: Objects are larger than they appear when you shoot like this. Focus on children, pets, landscapes and decorations, and you’ll be thankful you did. Save the ladies’ group portrait for when you’re safely on your feet, and hopefully just a smidge taller than your subjects’ eyeline.
Be honest, fellow entertaining/home decor lovers. How much time and effort did you spend on that whimsical tablescape and chalkboard “Welcome” sign? What about your holiday mantle? Be sure to take photos of all your hard work! At the very least, you’ll have good stuff to share on Pinterest. Best case scenario, you might end up with some pretty fantastic, inexpensive and festive wall art for decking those halls, or even gifting!
If you want to take it to the next level, turn off your flash. Either use natural window light during the day, or use a tripod and cable release or timer at night to capture all the twinkle lights. Play with your depth of field- try focusing on one thing, while everything else that’s farther away is out of focus. Get in tight and get that detail. Back off and capture the whole scene. Explore! This is supposed to be fun!
Bonus: If you want to get absolutely crazy, combine the Photobooth props with the ‘Race Against Time’ idea. Then add some spiked libations at your own risk. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
To be honest, the last ‘Race Against Time’ tip could also be another tip. The ‘Race Against Time’ is also a challenge to make the best of the time we’ve got while we’ve got it. 2012 has been quite the upside down year for our family. The reality is, we never know how much time we’ve got with the people we love. Absolutely yes, they can be annoying, and no, we definitely don’t agree all the time, but we still love each other. Most of the time. If there’s nothing special to nurture or celebrate in our family or friend-family, then what’s the point of capturing it with a holiday photo?
Make it count and make it fun!