Holiday Time = Family Time = Picture Time

We’ve all seen those family Christmas pictures where Uncle Fred stuck his finger in front of the lens or Aunt Sally lopped off three of your cousins’ heads.
Just because you’re not a professional doesn’t mean you don’t care how your photographic family keepsakes look. Here are some tips from a few area photographers to help you do a more artistic job of preserving those memories than Uncle Fred and Aunt Sally did. (You do still have to keep your finger out of the frame, though.)


For kids, get down to their level—literally. Don’t be afraid to change things up and change your perspective when photographing kids. Get down and crawl around to get your photos, and even lie on the ground if you need to, says Lindsay Arbach of Lindsay Kaye Photography (

Plan—Sometimes photos just happen and you click away. But sometimes you have time to think ahead. If that’s the case, Mitch Highman of mJoy Photography ( suggests checking out the area where you’ll be taking pictures a day or so before. And check it out at the time of day when you’ll be doing the actual shoot because lighting changes over the course of the day. Think ahead about the shots you want to try to capture.

Be flexible—Even when you can plan (see previous tip), stay flexible. You may not get the exact shot you want or planned, but with kids (and people in general), there’s always the chance you’ll get an expression, pose, or activity that’s more natural for them anyway, Highman says.

Unpose the shot—Capture your children just doing what they do, Arbach says. Portraits can be great, but that’s not the only way to get a solid photo. Capture images of your kids playing outside, with their favorite toy, or whatever they like to do.

Compose the situation—Think of the viewfinder of your camera (the part you look through) as a tic-tac-toe board, says Shane Mercer, who maintains the “Pictures of Fargo” website ( Then place your subject (i.e. the thing/person you’re photographing) where the lines in the board intersect. Those imaginary lines can also help you in other ways. Google “Rule of Thirds” for more about this basic technique.

Be aware of the lighting—Avoid full sunlight where eyes can get squinty and shadows are harsh, Arbach says. If possible, move into the shade of a building or awning. When photographing indoors, move near a window for some great light!

Have people face into the shot—Generally, you don’t want the people in your photos staring off the edge, Mercer says. It just looks strange.
And don’t forget to have fun. After all, a picture doesn’t have to be “great” to be a great keepsake.
Thanks to J. Shane Mercer for compiling these tips.
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7 tips family

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