By Libby Abbott
My fridge, come the holidays, is covered with adorable photo greeting cards and the cheerful smiles of bright-eyed children. They find places of honor over our fireplace and decorate our whole house for the holidays and usually long after.
While it’s a joy to receive these cards, they always invoke a slight sense of terror because I want my family to have their beautiful faces decorating the fridges of my family and friends. With two children under 3, this is sometimes easier said than done. And because I’m a stay-at-home mom who’s finally getting to chase her dream of becoming a photographer, I feel like the pressure is really on this year!
So if you’re starting to feel the pinch of holiday pressure for an amazing family portrait and it’s making your eye twitch (just a little), here are some tips that will help calm your nerves as you head out in search of that perfect photo:
Let go. This is very hard for me, because as a mom I want my children to be smiling just so and looking cute as can be! But, speaking as a photographer: Let go. If you have small children, let go of the idea of that perfect family portrait centered on the fireplace or couch. Some of my favorite shots (from my own kids and other families) have been taken simply following the kids around. Kids are often cutest when they’re exploring on their own and having genuine interactions with their family.
Let the photographer have control. Sometimes a reminder from Mom and Dad to smile will have the opposite effect. Many times all it takes is someone “new” to ask them and they’ll be all grins. The best thing you can do as a parent is keep that happy smile plastered to your face so that when the photographer catches your child in the moment, you’re ready, too!
Wear what makes you feel good. It is understandably adorable when the whole family matches a theme, but if you don’t feel comfortable in it, or like how you look in a certain pair of pants (like me) then that will come through in the photo. Generally speaking, simple clothes work best. Solid color shirts in whatever shade you look great in will let your smiles and the setting do their job and really shine through.
Try to find a photographer that has experience and a good rapport with children. They’ll know how to make your child smile and when to ease off a situation that could lead to tears and tantrums.
Keep your nap and meal schedules in mind when you pick the time for your shoot. Cranky kids are not going to be interested in saying “cheese.” Thankfully, some of the best natural light is available in the morning (after the kids wake up well rested) and in the late afternoon (after the kids have had a nap). Bring a snack if it’s OK with your photographer. Most of us live with wet wipes always at hand, so a few crumbs are no big deal.
Have fun! Yes, this ties in to No. 1. Enjoy your family and the experience to get genuine smiles that will outshine even the brightest Christmas lights.
Libby Abbott is a stay-at-home mom chasing her dreams and her two young boys with a camera. Before signing up for full-time parenthood she taught in early childhood with some of the best kids in Champaign-Urbana. For more information on her and her photography, visit Abbott Images or find Abbott Images on Facebook!