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Master Class

How the Pros Shoot Holiday Cards

Three photographers had one recurring piece of advice: Embrace spontaneity. Bribes don’t hurt either.

Written By Olivia Villanti

Nailing the right image for a holiday card is a delicate balance: fun and festive, playful but presentable and above all, personal. How can you express something sincere about your family in a single shot, especially when your kids’ ideas of a good time do not include dressing up, standing still or pretending they like each other? We asked three photographers (some whose work you’ve seen right here on Maisonette) and gleaned some helpful tips.

Victoria Will
Mother of Walker and Emmet

1. Shoot in natural light — somewhere shady without direct sun so you don’t complicate the image.

2. Embrace spontaneity! The perfectly posed photo is stale and doesn’t show character.

3. Don’t delete a single frame, and consider using one that shows the beautiful in-between moments and chaos involved in raising tiny humans.

Mimi Ritzen Crawford
Mother of William, Jack and Cole

1. Try to start fresh in the morning. Young children are unpredictable, and if you don’t get what you want in the morning, you may be able to revisit later in the day.

2. Natural light is always the best. If you can shoot outside, do it. If inside, shoot near a big window.

3. Shoot horizontal, not vertical, and then crop vertically within the frame. This gives you far more options down the road.

4. Get down on their level – sit on the floor even. And don’t be afraid to get silly.

5. Don’t overlook the iPhone! You always have it with you. You can crop, lighten, add contrast in Afterlight. (Download this app if you don’t have it!)

6. As for what to wear: Don’t overlook pajamas. They don’t need to be matching, but they should be in a similar palette. My favorite brands are Petite Plume and Oso and Me. The right clothes make these crazy kids seem much more presentable for candid photos —even if they are wrestling.

7. Avoid shoes. I’m a big believer that kids — and adults! — should be barefoot at home.

8. Appreciate the downtime — candid shots are wonderful. Everyone does not need to be looking at the camera and smiling. Kids are squirmy, and letting natural moments and movements happen can create magic.

Claiborne Swanson Frank
Mother of Wilder and Hunter

1. It's hard, so you’ll need a lot of bribes on hand.

2. Try to have them dressed and ready to go with a clear location in mind.

3. Honor your bribes! Reward them.

4. Pray for the best. If it's horrible, wait for a few days and try again.