Surviving the holiday family portrait session

by Julie Snyder

Surviving holiday portraitAh, the holidays. Relatives from across the country gather together to eat, make memories and rejoice in everything family.

Then it happens. Someone pulls out the point and shoot camera and in a click of the shutter, you're forever immortalized with half-open eyelids eating a sausage ball.

While we can't guarantee you'll avoid these snapshots altogether, getting a professional photography session reduces the chances you'll be seen in that Christmas sweater! Take our fool proof tips to heart and get some brag-worthy portraits this season!

Holiday family portraits

Price rules!

You get what you pay for. The old adage is true for photography as well. Skimping on price may leave you disenchanted with your end result. You can find a bargain, though. Search beyond the department store studios. Look for budding photographers via Craigslist and your local want ads. Ask your friends on social media for references or suggestions.

Location, location, location

No matter how much you love your family, the thought of cramming everyone into a small, hot studio may dampen your holiday spirit. The smaller the space, the more yoga poses everyone must master to get the whole family in the picture. Work with your photographer, respect Mother Nature and try to shoot outdoors. If the weather isn't cooperating, choosing a larger indoor space keeps everyone patient and calm during the session.

For the love of Christmas sweater

Don't play the match game with your clothes. 15 people all in red plaid overalls may seem fun at the time, but imagine seeing those pictures 20 years from now! Find colors that complement one another and avoid patterns or bold colors. Dressing in neutral allows faces, poses and personality to shine through. Patterns and bright colors cause your pictures to look busy and loud.

Timing matters

Little ones have a small window of cooperation. Choosing the right time to take photos makes for happier children and much happier adults. Choose a time when the kids are at their best, either early enough that they don't need a nap, or after they've had one. Avoid late evenings when most children hit their crabbiest.

Like and trust your photographer

Great pictures happen when there's a synergy between the subject and the photographer. Select someone feel comfortable with or you may find your session long and uncomfortable. Between booking, brainstorming, the session and the editing you'll be spending a lot of time together. Everything runs much smoother if you can have a few laughs!

Be flexible

Life happens and typically happens even more during the holidays. People cancel, get sick and get stuck in traffic. The only thing you can control is your reaction. The rest occurs whether you like it or not.

✓ Have a backup plan for the location
✓ Inquire on more than one photographer
✓ Bring extra clothes for the family, just in case

If it still falls apart, take a deep breath and start over, even if that means next Christmas! Getting a group together, large or small, usually causes a bit of a frustration. Keep cool and remember -- it's just a short period of time! Soon, you'll all be printed and hanging quietly on a wall.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.