How to take a better holiday card picture

Sad as it makes me, the truth is that not everyone will be hiring me to take their holiday card photos.:-)So, for those of you who will be corralling the family members or kids yourselves this year, here are a few tips that might make the end result a little nicer than last year’s attempt.

1. Go outside. If you go outside, you probably won’t have to use the flash. No flash = better picture.

2. Now that you’re outside, find some shade. Make sure it’s a good chunk of solid shade, and not patchy shade under some sparse trees. Open shade is great because it provides nice, even light so your subjects won’t be squinting into the sun with shadows all over their faces. Overcast days have the same effect.

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3. Got everyone in the shade? Great! Now position your subjects so that they’re looking out at the light. That’ll make their eyes good ‘n twinkly.

4. Don’t line your subjects up against a wall. Seriously. So, so boring. Yawn.

5. Put your camera on the “portrait” setting. Most cameras, be it point-and-shoots or entry-level DSLRs, have a portrait setting — it’s usually a little drawing of a head. This makes the camera use settings that will isolate your subjects and blur out the background a bit.

6. Speaking of backgrounds, pay attention to what’s behind your subject. Try to find a spot that’s uncluttered, and where your car or something equally unphotogenic isn’t hanging around.

7. If your camera has zoom, use it. But only if it’s actual optical zoom, and not digital zoom (all digital zoom does is crop your picture inside the camera). You’ll need to back up if you zoom, but it’s worth it — more zoom means more nicely blurred background and more emphasis on your cute kids.

8. And speaking of your cute kids, they sure are cuter if they’ve got nice, natural smiles on their faces instead of the fake CHEESE of despair. Try to make it just a little fun for them — ask them to jump up, or make some funny faces. Once they do that, you’re a lot more likely to get actual happiness instead of that awful forced grin that’s the bane of photographers everywhere.

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9. If you’re taking a photo of kids, squat down and get on their eye level. This makes a huge improvement over a basic snapshot.

10. Don’t wait until the last minute! Nothing makes this process more unpleasant than feeling rushed and stressed.

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