Cooking & Entertaining

A Plan for Better Holiday Portraits

Written by Amy McAloon

You know it’s coming, and sooner than you think. The Holiday Season. And with the holiday season comes family holiday photos. Stuffed into envelopes, mailed and then stuck onto Great Aunt Enid’s fridge with a dusty old magnet. If your Aunt hosts as many kitchen parties as mine does you may want to read on for a few tips on how to make sure your family holiday portrait doesn’t end up getting heckled by your relatives’ friends.

Think before you shoot. Some families inject humor into their seasonal portraits, while others opt for a more whimsical image. Whether you choose to force your loved ones to pretend to enjoy roasting marshmallows by the gas fireplace or stuff them all into matching pajamas, taking the time to come up with ideas will make a difference in the end result. The portrait is a great way to showcase your sense of humor and creativity as a group. If you need a little creative boost, the Internet is a great resource — just type “family holiday picture” into Google and see what comes up! (Beware – you’ll have to endure loads of ugly sweaters…).

Clean the scene. Clear away those stacks of magazines and piles of “to be filed” papers. It may seem like a picky thing to do, but trust me. You’d rather find that old abandoned sock under the couch before you take the perfect shot. Making sure the background of your photograph isn’t too busy is also an important part of cleaning the scene. You want the focus to be on your family, not on the collection of tattered maps on the wall behind them.

Take it outside. There’s no rule that states your picture has to be inside, especially if you have a huge family. No need to cram everyone into a tangled mess of elbows and knees on the couch when you can have fun outside. Why not take a family walk and bring the camera along? Who knows, maybe you’ll get some good family shots during a walk in the park.

Family portrait in the park
Photo via Flickr: [ab.plan.alp] photography

Be creative. How many times have you seen the classic family holiday portrait? You know the one: Everyone lined up, wearing the same color, bored and anxious to flee the scene. Being creative with your portrait ideas can make the experience fun for the whole fam. Find inspiration in the good ole days by dressing up in vintage duds. Just don’t go overboard with the campy Christmas sweaters. Are different family members known for different personalities? Have each member personify themselves–tastefully, of course. And planning ahead always helps. If you don’t find the perfect fit in time for this year’s card, be more cognizant of your photographic intentions early on in the year and you might find inspiration comes easier.

Be one with your camera. Whether you’re using a simple point-and-shoot or a pimped out digital SLR, it’s important to know how your camera works. Nana’s patience will wear thin while you fumble with the dials and settings. Read the user’s manual before your photo shoot because who knows, maybe there’s a setting to help keep the kids well-behaved.

About the author

Amy McAloon

Born in Montreal, Canada, writer and artist Amy McAloon discovered photography when she was 13, after her father bought her a little point-and-shoot. Eventually the automatic was tossed aside for an old Nikon FE, and the two have been best friends ever since.

Amy went on to study writing, fine art and black and white photography in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. After a few years spent traveling through Central America with her battered Nikon slung over one shoulder and a notebook tucked away in her camera bag, Amy enrolled in a photojournalism program in Victoria, B.C.

Since then, she has lived and worked as a writer, reporter and photographer in New Mexico, Florida, California and Belize. She now makes her home in Montreal with a loving partner-in-crime, a beautiful baby girl and a hot new Nikon D7000 DSLR.