Holiday Photo Tutorial:: Tips to making it fun with kids

by Tina on December 20, 2013

in DIY, family, photography

traveling mama christmas kid photo

One of the biggest challenges in the world is trying to get children to pose for photos at the holidays, but with today’s holiday photo tutorial, I am sure that you will walk away with some helpful tips.  Most kids tend to fight getting dressed up, but if you have a special holiday party, whether it’s Christmas or New Year’s, it is nice to have them dressed for the occasion and a photo, too.

My older two have never minded dressing up (my middle guy, Parker, loves wearing a tie!) but the littlest, Landon, well, he is a whole different thing.  He hates shirts with buttons.  period.  He is that “no button” guy.  I have learned to choose my battles, so I save the days for his “button” shirts for days like these when I really want photos of him in something nicer and tell him that he can take it off if he will just smile quickly (he forgot after the photos and wore it the rest of the day.)

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But, once they are in their clothes, hopefully without too much of a battle, how do we get them to stand still and smile?  This is a challenge with one kid, but as the number goes up, so does the difficulty.  There is usually one kid looking the wrong way, another trying to run away, and maybe another who closed his eyes.  Anyone nodding their heads right now?  You know what I’m talking about!  Don’t despair.  Here are a few things you can do to get photos of the kids in less than ten minutes.

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The first thing we do is place our kids where we want them and tell them to just stand there.   By the time we say, “smile!” though, the littlest was on the move…

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Big sister may be able to step in and help since she is standing right there.  Hailey has listened to us for years, so she is telling him all of the things that we usually say at this point, such as, “You only need to stand still for a minute.” or “Put both of your feet on the floor and look at mom.”  She is super patient, which is another key aspect to taking photos with kids.

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But sometimes a big sister is not going to be able to get a littler one to stand still and that is perfectly fine.

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Everyone was getting a little tense at this point, but rather than losing ground, we changed our method.  Rather than keep them in that stiff position, we told them to get close and just have a big family hug.  This relaxed everyone, though the photo was not exactly what we wanted.  (Landon’s face is dark from his brother’s shoulder blocking the light.)

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We told everyone to freeze frame, then instructed Parker to move his shoulder back just a little so we could get more light on Landon’s face.

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Since this position was working, I got a little closer and took a few more shots very quickly.  Sometimes taking a lot of photos with kids is better because out of the eight I took here, three were blurry from the littlest moving and two had someone’s eyes shut.  It’s a little bit like a reflex test… Can you snap quickly enough when everyone is in position, with eyes open, and smiles?

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I knew that I still wanted a photo where the light was better on all three of their faces, so I told everyone to try to just stand up again, but even though we had only been shooting for a few minutes, everyone was getting tired of the whole thing.  I noticed my son, Parker, making his “Parker G. in tha house!” face and soon we were all laughing.

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To lighten the mood and take the kids’ focus off having a formal photo taken, I told them all to give me a “Parker G. in tha house!” face.  Photo taking became a bit of a game and they were eager to play along.

traveling mama christmas kid photo-14 Then they all made a silly face. traveling mama christmas kid photo-15 Just as I was asking them to stand up one last time, the littlest, Landon, starting begging for a “Landon G. in tha house!” photo (We cannot seem to make him understand that his middle name does not start with a “G” like his brother’s but we did not bring that up right then).

I think at this point in the session a lot of parents might be tempted to push the kids to just hurry up and stand up, but we indulged him and kept the mood light.

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Then we asked everyone to go back to standing up with their feet together “Oooone last time! aaand smile!”  We finished in about 10 minutes without tears and now we have a series of shots that really show off their personalities and one for their grandparents where they are all smiling.

I hope this holiday photo tutorial will help you over the next few days leading us into the New Year.  Just remember to stay calm, enjoy the moment, and snap quickly!


Photography: Tina Fussell

Clothing: All provided by Tea Collection.  (Sign up for their e-mail list and receive 10% off your first purchase!)  Besides all of the gorgeous clothes my children have one, I also love their pi’s for boys and girls that help give to the Global Fund for Children.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Papou December 20, 2013 at 3:13 pm

Really love this!


Tina December 20, 2013 at 4:33 pm

So glad! We were thinking of you!


Juliette December 20, 2013 at 4:21 pm

ha, they are so cute!


Tina December 20, 2013 at 4:34 pm



Sara Spencer December 20, 2013 at 10:48 pm

Love this! I wanted some photos of my boys for our Christmas card this year and I resorted to bribery :). “Just a few pictures and then I’ll film you when you goof around”. They love watching themselves on film so this worked! And sometimes I like the “out takes” better than the “all smiles” shots because they really show their personalities. Just like the photos you showed. You are a wonderful photographer!


anastasiac December 21, 2013 at 6:28 am

gorgeous photos – your kids have grown so much! They have the same beautiful smile too! I also did a blog post about taking our Christmas photo for 2013…


Celena December 22, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Thanks, Tina!! 🙂 I plan on using this during the holidays!!!


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