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With all the family gatherings around the holidays, it’s a great time to organize some formal or informal group portraits. Here are some tips for both the family shutterbug and those being photographed.

1. Think about clothes

Make the effort to choose outfits that are comfortable and attractive. If you’re a sassy bunch, try to use coordinating colors with bold accent pieces such as scarves or hats.

Think about how the colors relate to home décor. If this is hanging in your house, does it go with your color patterns?


2. Eat well, sleep well

For families with small children, it is important to schedule around normal nap times or bedtimes. The best time for natural lighting is the two hours before sunset and after sunrise, but it is easier for good photographers to work around lighting issues than to try to photograph screaming kids.

Eating before a shoot is also key to keeping morale and energy up.

3. Give yourself and your subjects enough time

Even if it is just a quick get together shot in the backyard, giving people time and space to feel comfortable is important.

If you’re being photographed in a more formal session, leave plenty of time for showers, baths, dressing and grooming.

Arriving at a shoot feeling happy and confident is an important first step to a great session.

4. Cheer up, Dad

It’s the holidays, you’ve got days off from work for the first time in ages, and now your precious time off is being chewed up by a photographer who wants you to pose.

Keep in mind that these photos aren’t just a chore – they’ll be something your kids will look at one day when they have kids of their own. You bringing your own smile and an upbeat attitude will add smiles for everyone – especially your wife.

5. “Cheese” is just an hors d’oeuvre

Yelling “cheese” and ordering your kids to look at the photographer is a path straight to unflattering photos. Let the photographer interact with your kids and build a rapport – that’ll make it a lot easier and less stressful than trying to drag smiles out.

6. Have fun

The best photographs are never the standing-still formal portrait. Those are nice, but smiles, laughter and playing bring out the real personality of your family.

Is it snowing out? Get that snowball fight started (but don’t hit the photographer!) Snuggle, laugh, embrace and play. That’ll bring out the emotions that catapult photos from good to great.

7. Bring an activity that your family enjoys doing together

What does your family love to do together? When families are engaged in doing something they truly enjoy, the resulting photographs are beautiful.

For photographers, having some advance notice about props and a Pinterest board can help create some great family photos.

Do you love to read? Bring some books. Do you like to ski? Find a small local ski hill and shoot there (It’s easier than getting permission to shoot at a major ski resort). The possibilities are endless.

8. Bribery is your friend

Parents, try to bring a small toy, treat or other incentive for the photographer to use to help keep the kids’ attention during a portrait session. Kids need far less prompting, and are much better at candid expression than adults.

If the photographer gets to say if your family gets a trip to have frozen yogurt, the kids will be far more apt to cooperate.

9. Plan ahead

If you’re the family photographer, make sure you plan ahead. The last thing you want to have happen is getting everyone there and realizing a) your batteries are dead or b) your memory cards are full. Keep a spare, fully-charged battery and empty memory card in reserve. And if you’re giving a camera this holiday season, charge up the battery and load it with an empty memory card.

10. You don’t have to look at the camera

The spirit of a family can become much clearer when they aren’t looking at the camera, but rather when they are just enjoying each other’s company.

Try taking a family photo where everyone is looking at one family member, especially if it’s a child. Kids eat that energy up and often give the cutest, most unexpected smiles. You can try that with different poses for every member of the family.

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