November 10, 2011

Photography is a Good Thing.

'Tis the season to send out Christmas and Holiday cards! Or maybe just start compiling the mailing list? Okay, who are we kidding, not everyone's a crazy design obsessed fool like moi. (Our Christmas cards have been designed, printed, stuffed, addressed and ready to stamp. Like I said, crazy—I get it from my Mom.)

Well, now is the time to start thinking about it—and not just because if you wait any longer your friendly designer will be booked to custom design them for you, and not because the online holiday card factory will charge you up the WAHZOO with rush fees if you're running late. It's because you need to get a great photo! 

So many gorgeous holiday card designs flop because of crap-tastic photography. And lots of gorgeous holiday cards are made even more incredible because of beautiful photos.

And while the best way to ensure getting a few lovely shots to choose from is hiring a professional photographer—that's not always in the budget. (Especially, when you're saving up for the Cars-2, World Grand Prix Mega Set!)

So, I've asked a few of my favorite photographers to lend some tips for capturing that perfect shot of  Billy, Sue and Snowflake.
 • Use flash outdoors.
• Soft warm light, best found late afternoon. NOT direct sun if at all avoidable. 
Where there's good natural light, turn flash off indoors to give pictures a softer feel.

 • Encourage vibrant wardrobe choices. Coordination is important, but the days of black or white tops with jeans or khakis are long gone. I also like to welcome accessories (scarves, hats, etc.) Accessories like this can jazz up your photo and make it a little more festive. You can also create more photo ops this way!
A thought out setting like fence, pile of leaves, cool tree, old barn. 
A "prop" or two, even if it is just some cute socks, cool boots, hot chocolate mugs and a blanket, quilt and a picnic basket.

 • Composition is key. Whether I am capturing a small or large group, positioning is important. Try and create mini groups and always encourage the subjects to stand close together. It depends on the lens, but sometimes certain ones can make people appear farther apart in a photograph “Act like you like each other!” is generally what I say to encourage people to squeeze together and it also serves as an opportunity for some natural smiles/laughs!
Avoid windows in the background when using flash indoors.

When you're shooting kids, get down to their level. Some of my favorite shots that I've taken of kids have involved me squatting, kneeling, and even lying down on the floor with my camera. Play around and go with the flow. It can be hard to make kids pose, and luckily, I think candid shots of kids and families are often the best ones.

• Go off-center. Don't always place your subjects in the center of the frame. Changing your composition can make photos more dynamic and interesting. (And I'd like to add—makes a perfect place for designers to drop in type for a card, announcement or invitation.)

Fill the frame. Your loved ones want to see your growing family up close! Filling the frame also guarantees less editing in the end, which insures a better quality photo.

  • Aperture—If you know how to control the manual settings on your camera, bring the aperture/f-stop down to a low number, like 2.8. The lower it goes, the shallower your depth of field will be. That's what gives that nice sharp subject/blurry background effect.)  

Resolution—set it at the highest resolution (megapixels) for cropping. 

• Take LOTS of pictures...shoot, shoot, shoot!
• I'd like to add—Retouching is awesome. Don't throw out an almost perfect photo over a zit or booger. I can probably retouch it out or find someone who can. 

While we had a photographer shoot our family for this year's Christmas card, that hasn't always been the case. McMuffin or myself has always shot the photos for our Christmas cards. And don't be all, "that doesn't count, Andrea, you went to art school". My favorite card includes a photo that McMuffin shot in the hospital of brand new Li'l G.

Great photo right? And McMuffin doesn't do anything remotely creative for a living. So, there. 

Thank you so much to my expert photographer friends for contributing: Courtney Aliah, Erich Camping, Kate Neal and Sophie Mathewson. Click on their names to see examples of their gorgeous work.


  1. Great ideas.....and thanks to all your Photo-artists for all their helpful suggestions. We love your blog!