Photos and text: Kristin, Media Manager
It’s that time of year again when we start thinking about (aka dreading) the holiday family photo. I’m wondering when the obligation to add photos to the holiday card began. I’m pretty sure we never did this in my family. My mom bought generic cards and signed each one, maybe adding a personal note in a few cards. But since I’ve had kids, there has always been an expectation to add a photo. This was in the pre-iPhone era too when taking photos meant using a film camera, which involved taking a roll of 24 exposures and then waiting a week to see if you got at least one good one out of the bunch (I’m seriously dating myself). That took the challenge level up a notch with all that was involved compared to the ease of digital now.
It’s always a struggle to get the whole family together and capture a photo worthy of sending to 100 of your closest friends and family. Even for myself, someone who takes photos for a living and has been taking photos of my family for 16 years now, it never gets easier. Until the year I decided I didn’t want canned photos anymore. I wanted photos that showed some fun and energy and revealed my family’s true personalities. And that I could look back on and not cringe thinking of all the pain that went into getting that photo.
So began our adventure to get the ultimate holiday photo. We started at the Public Market where there is a painted wall that I just love. Vibrant and graphic and a perfect background for our photo. It was cold. Very cold. So we set up the tripod and started out by taking photos of just the kids. Boring. And they were bored. And uncooperative.
We added in the family to try and get just one of all of us. It’s like the shoemaker that never has new shoes. I never have family photos because I’m always taking photos for others. So at holiday time, I want just one. Boring again. Posed and unrepresentative of us. And we were getting cold.
Lightbulb moment! I have always liked jumping photos. If done right, they can be really fun. Since we were using a tripod, this type of photo proved a bit challenging. It took us at least 20 or more tries before getting a winner.
We were either jumping too soon. (above)
Or too late. (above)
Or at different times and with scarves in our faces, eyes closed or blur. (above)
Until… Ta-da! A winner! Harder than it looks! Luckily all the jumping kept us warm and we had a lot of fun in the process. It was the one holiday photo that everyone agreed was worth the effort. After we got the shot, we walked around the Public Market, shopped for our wreaths and garland, warmed up with some hot cocoa and headed home satisfied with our morning. The kids even had the great idea of getting a shot of them looking through our wreath (photo below), which was just too cute not to include in our holiday card. And it was taken with an iPhone in 1 or 2 clicks on the way to the car. You never know when those moments will happen and when they do, they are gold.
My advice to those of you that struggle with family holiday photos…let it go. The expectation of the kids all matching, with perfect smiles and not a hair out of place is too unrealistic and will just make you (and them) crazy! The more pressure you put on them the more they will refuse to cooperate with you when you want to take photos of them any time of the year. When I let my kids be themselves and have fun in the photos, I get more from them and the photos are more memorable to me when I look back on them later. And be open to your kids ideas. I would have never thought of peeking through the wreath and I just love that photo so much. And be sure to incorporate some fun into the day you set aside for photos as well. They will associate good memories with the annual taking of the holiday photo instead of the usual moan and groan and complain routine.
Here’s a recap with some helpful tips:
- Let go of your expectations of the perfect photo. It doesn’t exist.
- Find a fun location and background that will bring your photo to life.
- Make your photos relaxed and candid rather than posed and boring.
- Get input from everyone in the family and come up with a collaborative idea for the card.
- Make a fun day of it so there are good feelings associated with family photos.
- Most of all… Enjoy the process!! That’s where the memories are made.