This post is brought to you through a partnership with Shutterfly. All opinions and ideas are my own.
With the holidays right around the corner one thing that’s probably on your mind is making sure you can get some great photos of your kids or family. Being a photographer myself this is the absolute busiest time of the year for me and the number one thing everyone wants are photo filled holiday cards. I don’t remember these being so popular when I was growing up, but these days it seems like photo cards are the standard. It’s a great thing, but getting professional photos taken is a bit of a luxury that can sometimes stretch already tight holiday budgets a little *too* far. With entry level DSLR’s being more accessible than ever (you can even rent one for the weekend!) and anything you might want to learn how to do at your fingertips, I thought I would share a few tips on taking your own fabulous holiday photos without breaking the bank. And then once you capture the perfect shots you can easily make them into adorably trendy holiday cards too!
Set The Scene
When choosing a location for your photos make sure you are picking a scene that will look great as a backdrop. Outdoor photos are ideal because they give you a natural look and the abundance of light works best with any camera. If you do go outdoors keep in mind that you don’t necessarily have to hunt down a pristine magazine spread-like location. A cluster of trees or bushes in your backyard works just fine, or even a small area of brick on the side of your house will look more appealing than a driveway with cars or a chain link fence behind you. Once you find your location, properly frame your subjects by making sure there are no trees sprouting out of body parts or feet or heads aren’t cut off. See this? There’s a tree growing out of my kid’s head. No bueno.
Don’t have an area outside to use? Don’t worry, you can also create a great scene indoors! I’m sure you have seen those “twinkle lights” photos popping up all over the internet where a child is standing/sitting in front of a sparkly blurred light background like this:
Isn’t it lovely? You might think they take a professional to produce but that’s not the case! All you need is a bare wall that has ample window light coming to it (NOT direct sunlight that shines on it), a long strand of holiday lights (white is my favorite but color works as well) and a camera.
These work best with DSLR’s, but you can also use a point & shoot or even your phone. Hang up the light strand with tape or tacks to where you have a nice uniformed background and turn them on. Next, have your child sit or stand at least two feet away from your light strand wall and focus on their face. If you have a DSLR, make sure you aperture is set to at least f/2.8 or below. What results is a wall of sparkles behind your child!
I know this seems like a no-brainer, but sometimes we get SO wrapped up in trying to capture the perfect pose or smile that we forget that our children probably don’t want to stand there looking happy while their mamarazzi snaps away for 2o minutes. Kids get bored. They get squirmy. And then they get mad. For those that are five and under even a few minutes can be too much for them. So, how do we make it fun? What works is different for everyone, but here are a few of my favorite tricks:
- Rewards – When I’m trying to get my own kids to stop and smile for the camera I sometimes have a bag of small fruit gummies in my pocket and give them one after each post. It works well, but only if they are in a peaceful mood, and even then I like to make sure they are only getting a few of them.
- Games – If I see that my kids are especially active during a session, we’ll do the yell game or the running game. Basically I say “1,2,3 then snap the photo. After I snap they get a count of five to run, scream, jump or whatever they want and then it’s back to a pose for another 123 snap and so on. They really like this one!
- The invisible mom – So, there are times when they just don’t want to do what I’m asking. Being a blogger who works with brands means that I often take photos of my kids with children’s products. I’m usually on a deadline and when the kids don’t want to cooperate I still have to take the shot anyway. So you know what I do? Just go with it. I let them do whatever they want and snap along silently in the background. And guess what? I’ve gotten some of my best images this way!
Don’t worry about perfection.
I can’t even tell you how crazy of a perfectionist I am when it comes to photography. I analyze the heck out of each and every image that crosses my screen for focus, detail, composition, balance and color. It’s my job. It’s what I do. But you know what? You don’t have to do all that. All you need is a cute smile and a fun card and your friends and family will love whatever photos you choose. So just be yourself, let your kids be themselves, and the fun will shine through!
Cards: Choosing the right one.
Now that you’ve snapped the winning photos it is time to choose a holiday stationary suite so you can spread cheer to your loved ones! You already know how much I love Shutterfly. I use them for all kinds of things – cards, stationary, photo books, you name it. When shopping for holiday cards, make sure each design fits your photos. Make sure colors don’t clash and sizes aren’t going to cut off heads or feet. When you are editing your photos before this step you might even want to save a few different sizes and alternates of each image so that when it comes down to card creation all of your options are covered in case there are fit issues. Next, find one that fits your style. I personally adore the ones with the darker backgrounds that lets the photos stand out.
Shutterfly makes it super easy to customize their cards, and you can choose layouts, number of photos and sizes for most of their designs. You can even rotate, crop and enhance your photos with their own editor! For myself I chose three vintage chalkboard styles that I thought flowed nicely together. I love making collages for photo gifts so I had a lot of fun choosing each image for my cards!
Aren’t they cute? And those photos are bursting with our personalities too. Besides our card trio I also ordered a few sheets of custom address labels and stickers to seal the envelopes with when I send my cards out.