With the holidays approaching, you’ll likely be snapping pictures faster than anyone can say “cheese.” But to really capture the moments that you’ll want to frame and keep forever—or to make that killer family card you send out every year—check out some of these “photo recipes” from Me Ra Koh, author of Your Family in Pictures: The Parents’ Guide to Photographing Holidays, Family Portraits, and Everyday Life.
Thanksgiving: Rather than staged shots, Koh suggests snapping shots when people are doing holiday meal prep, lounging on the couch watching football, or playing games—whatever your family does to enjoy one another’s company.
Pro Tips: To get a perfect “cooking together” shot, frame it horizontally so that you get both people and the action, and stay at eye level so that the viewer feels like part of the scene.
Christmas: Just like Thanksgiving, try to mix up the predictable a bit. While everyone likes a shot with the Christmas tree in it, no need to have everyone dressed in their Christmas sweaters, standing in a line. Instead, Koh says to try having adults kneel down facing the tree while kids stand up and reach for an ornament. You might be surprised at how much more magical it turns out.
Pro Tips: The combination of daylight and the twinkling lights can be a photography disaster, so wait until after sunset when the tree is the only light source in the house. Also, a vertical shot works best because of the height of the tree. Frame your family so they occupy two-thirds of the frame, with a small amount of foreground to help set the scene. Focus on the child or family member closest to the center of the frame.
The Family Portrait: We know, you can’t resist sending out a card each holiday with your lovely family looking their best—and grandma and grandpa would be disappointed if you didn’t. But make yours stand out from the pack with these simple tricks.
Pro Tips: For starters, Koh recommends taking your shot months before the actual holiday so it’s less stressful, and people look more relaxed. Go for late afternoon or early evening when light is softer and golden. Have Mom wear what she feels most beautiful in, and have everyone else’s outfit complement hers (which doesn’t mean it needs to be perfectly matchy-matchy; similar colored accessories is a good option). Horizontal framing works best when family members are lined up, but the key is to close gaps between bodies—cozying up lends more intimacy to the picture. Try having Dad stand straight in the middle while everyone else is angled or leaning slightly. If little kids want to hug or cuddle, let them go for it, while more serious children can stand straight and tall. Focus on the parents in the middle, and make sure there is equal space on both sides of your family, and a little space above heads and under feet (in case you need to crop for a card).
Ideas for More Creative Family Shots: The traditional group shot can be great with the tips above, but some families really want to break the mold. Here, Koh offers a few less conventional ways to capture your family at its best:
• Have kids and parents on opposite sides of the frame (with Mom and Dad smiling as kids spontaneously jump and play on a beach or at a playground, for instance).
• Hold little children (particularly those that have trouble standing still) and choose a background with depth and texture, like a grassy field.
• Have parents put their backs to the camera with the kiddos peeking and smiling over their shoulders.
Photo Credit: Evgeny Atamanenko/Shutterstock