Sincere Snapshots | HOW TO.... Holiday Edition

HOW TO.... Holiday Edition

November 24, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

With multiple holidays upon us, family photo shoots book up! Here's some recommendations for getting photos taken, and for taking some of your own. 



My strongest suggestion is to steer clear of everyone wearing black (or white) tops and blue jean bottoms. It tends to wash people out in photos. There used to be a rule that you didn't wear "hot" colors and definitely no patterns. I don't follow that rule. If it looks good on your family and photographs well, then go for it! I do suggest going with a color scheme and spreading it throughout the family members. For example, this family chose yellow and blue. Everyone picked an outfit that was different, but the same shades, and it looks great! I also love that they chose clothes that fit each of their personalities best. It's not worth getting in a fight over clothes with your kids or significant-other before your photoshoot (even a pajama photo shoot can be fun if that's more fun for kids to wear). Here are some guides I found online to help you if you need it:



Both! The picture above is a nice pose of the family. This is good because you want to see each person's face and how they've grown since last year. There's nothing wrong with some posed photos, but it's always more fun to add some candid's in. They may start as a posed shot, but then something cute or funny happens and you're ready to capture it. Here's another example of a shot that started posed (on the left) and turned out to be a nice candid shot. The image on the right, same thing. I asked Jonah to give his mom a kiss. I did not expect him to hold her face, but am so glad that he did!


You don't have to be in a studio or lug around massive props for a good photoshoot (though some props are worth the lugging). Sometimes a simple prop does the trick. For example: a blanket, a stool, some balloons, a teddy bear, etc. Be as simple or as intricate as you want. 



This is a "rule" in photography that I love and appreciate. Imaging a tic-tac-toe sign across your whole image when you're about to snap a shot. Placing your subjects in the center of that isn't bad, but doing that for every one of their photos is somewhat boring. Use that imaginary guide (some cameras show it on your screen while you take your pictures, check your settings) to place your subjects on the lines or at their connecting points. I have a few examples below, but it is something that you will start to notice when you look at pictures now. 



One of the great things about shooting digital is that, not only can you see your images immediately, but you can take just about as many as you want and it doesn't cost you extra to develop them. I do want to throw some caution to going "snap-happy" though. It may not cost you actual dollars for taking a million shots of the same pose, but it does cost you your time. You will have to go through them all to find the best ones and, most of the time, there will be such a minuscule difference between the images. You will see the difference and drive yourself crazy trying to figure out which one to choose, but no one else will even seen a difference. I encourage you to take your time in getting the best shots and then taking a few of that same pose. Try multiple poses and appreciate that you will not waste film. Experiment and have fun! 


Studios are great because the climate is controlled, it doesn't matter if it's raining or a gorgeous day, the lighting can be manipulated and the photographer is in their comfort zone. I am all for studios, but you don't have to go one to get nice shots if you don't want to. A nice background of hills, trees, a meadow or the beach is always nice. In the photo below on the left, I made a temporary studio in my garage. I clicked together some Pergo hardwood floor pieces, hung a piece of fabric and clipped it tight to the stand, and added a piece of baseboard. It's my favorite way to have a studio because I don't have to pay for overhead. I also used this to take the photo of the same little boy above with the blanket prop. 

Sometimes in the home or backyard is the best place to do a photo shoot because kids, pets, etc. are in their comfort zone. This can make for nice candids, and for some wonderful lifestyle photography. If you are wanting the photographer to come to your house, ask to be sure that they do that. Some photographers may need to see the lighting situation and what they have to work with first. 


Don't be afraid to try different angles, zooming in, and moving out.

Get down to the level of the kids and see the world from their perspective. 

Try angling your camera to get an artistic angle.


Get in nice and close so the subject is the only focus.

Scoot back and see how things look from far away. (rule of thirds, anyone?)


If you're taking the photos of your family, don't be afraid to use a tripod and timer, or a remote. You want to be in the photos too! Just be sure that your camera is secured so it doesn't fall and break!
If there is a dog or a baby in the photo, ALWAYS look at the camera and let the photographer get the baby or pet to look at them. Murphy's Law states, "The moment you look at the dog, the dog will look at the camera, and vice versa." Even if it's awkward for the moment, tell your family to just look at the camera no matter what. 



This was one of my favorite photo shoots to do and I am more than happy to share with you how we did it!

I did this shoot on my bed. There is a window to my left and I shot this in the morning before the sun blared in for the afternoon. You can use a car sunshade, or a piece of white poster board or foam board to reflect light and manipulate the light to be where you want it to be.

I used a strand of white icicle lights and clear tape to keep them positioned on the wall (be careful not to pull of the paint on your walls)

I laid a white blanket across the bed and randomly put red ornaments around the foreground and background. 

I bought the Santa Hat at target for a dollar. 


I got myself down at his angle and had his mom stand right above my head to get his attention. To get the bokeh (the blurry effect, you want to adjustyour aperture, or f-stop, which controls your Depth of Field (DOF). There are two parts that change the light and clarity of your photos: shutter speed and aperture (f-stop). If you have a faster shutter speed, you'll let less light into the camera and get a darker photo. Longer exposers allow more light to come in for brighter pictures. 

While shutter speed changes how fast or slow the shutter opens and closes, aperture/f-stop affects how wide or how much it opens and closes. A larger aperture (smaller f-stop number) gets you a shallower DOF and vice versa. An easier way to remember this is, the smaller the f-number, the smaller the DOF. The larger the f-number, the larger the DOF. If you want to blur the background or the foreground, you need a shallow DOF. If you want more clarity in your photos so you can see the whole picture, you want a deep DOF.


If you have any questions, please let me know. I love teaching photography and am happy to help how I can.


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