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Better Holiday Portraits

6. Let the kids be kids.

If that means they’re silly, smiling, happy and having fun, even if they’re not sitting quietly, it’s okay. Kids having fun makes the grown-ups smile, too. And try to encourage those grown-ups not to worry about the kids; leave it to the parents and the photographer. Don’t let the whole family work on pleasing a child mid-tantrum—otherwise, you’ll end up with a bunch of frames of everyone in the image focused on the kid, including in the single shot where the kid is finally smiling happily and looking at the camera.


7. If you’re shooting smaller family groups, maybe Mom and Dad and a new baby, there’s no need to shoot as wide as you do for the big group.

Yes, we want to see the Christmas tree—but we don’t need to see the whole thing. Getting in close is always good advice, and in this case, holiday decorations subtly sneaking in to the background offer plenty of seasonal context.

8. If you’ll be making prints for the family, maybe even as gifts, plan for your final crop when you’re posing the group and composing the shot.

A large group can become quite horizontal; if you’re hoping for 8x10s, make sure you compose wider than you think necessary to be sure to allow enough room for the final print’s proportion.

9. Would you care to be a part of the family photo, too? If so, you’ll want to utilize a tripod and a self-timer.

Simply leave a spot at the edge of the group for you to get in and out of. Check the LCD to make sure all looks good, and shoot away!

10. Shoot, shoot, shoot—and then shoot some more!

The more people in the family photo, the more frames you’ll need in order to minimize the chances of screaming kids, closed eyes and moving lips. A good starting place is to shoot one exposure per person in the frame. You may want to shoot more for smaller groups, and you may not get the opportunity for so many exposures with larger ones. But it very likely will take 10 frames, for example, to get a great one with 10 people in the shot.

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