Tuesday, November 15, 2011

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas (Cards)

I have an article over at GalTime titled Plan Ahead for Perfect Holiday Photos.  I am currently in shock that in about a month, my Christmas cards need to be in the mail, unless I default to doing sending New Year's cards AGAIN.  I feel like Halloween JUST ended (I still haven't put away all my decorations) and now it is time to put up Christmas stuff and take a family photo!    (Have I mentioned that I am SWAMPED at work with the new TN state teacher evaluations). Anyway, the GalTime article was all about ideas to help get a better family photo, should you want one for your Christmas cards.  You can read the whole article on the GalTime website, but here are some of our pictures to illustrate the main points.
Have a color scheme in mind, and don't feel like you have to stick to red and green. Plan coordinating clothing in that color range, but don't go over board with matching.  The first family Christmas picture we did featured the pedal car that PJ painted.  ( I like to plan on "stuff" to interact with, climb on, lean on, sit on, etc.  Especially with kids, I think this helps give a more relaxed and less posed feeling to pictures)  The car had tons of colors in it, but we all had clothing in the purple range, which accented the car better than something green might have.  
That same year I also wrapped up some boxes like presents to use as props.  As long as I was buying paper, I bought some that matched our outfits.  Lydia sat on her Bumpo seat inside the box and we put a tutu around her to hide it.  The pictures were taken early, so the boxes were all empty.  It actually made them easier to transport as I left the bottoms open and they stacked inside of each other.  Weeks later, as I did my Christmas shopping, I just slid the gifts in through the bottom and closed the boxes up.  
 The next year, I did my own mini photo shoot at home.  That was really the point of the Galtime article.  If you are hiring a photographer, you may need to think about wardrobe, but they should be helping with the setting and the props.  With the bad economy, I think more people could take their own pictures at home, but then you really need to know a few things about creating a great moment (my current GalTime article) and about taking a great photo (my next GalTime article).  I got lucky on this photo shoot because I hadn't really planned it.  Lydia just happened to be wearing a cute Christmas outfit, and we were setting up the tree, and the afternoon light was shining on her really nicely.  So all of that is important (the lighting, the setting, the wardrobe) but then you just have to shoot and shoot and shoot.  I set my camera to "sports mode" to capture quick toddler movements and I delete TONS of pictures when i am finished, but i usually get a few good frames.
That year, we also went in for a professional photo at JC Penney's.  I usually HATE the studio fake living room setting, and I won't lie i am not crazy about it here.  I know what my house looks like and that isn't my house. I also know that lots of people have the identical Christmas photos and that bugs me.  We did bring some of our own accessories to add to the fake scenery.  That is Lydia's real stocking hanging on the fake mantle with one of her toys peaking out.  I wish I had brought my stocking and PJ's stocking too.Oh, well!
In the above picture, I knew I wanted a close cropped image and needed to get us closer to Lydia's height.  My sister suggested buying a Christmas book and letting her read it.  This is a "scanimation" version of The Night Before Christmas, so the pictures moved when you moved the pages.  It was GREAT for keeping Lydia smiling during the pictures
Last year, our photographer friend Sean came to our house to take pictures.  This is the pose that I had planned on, our entire family (dog included) gathered on the steps.  It is OK, but nothing special.  Something about having to hold Lydia (great for hiding some extra winter layers) meant her head is level with mine and we sort of got jumbled.  I wasn't feeling it.  At least this is MY house and MY tree in the background.  We all wore variations of black and white with maroon accents (even the dog got a maroon ribbon around his collar)!
A last minute suggestion was to gather around Lydia's little leather chair.  PJ and I were kneeling for a LONG time (and I think I did something permanent to my knee) but I wasMUCH happier with the grouping.  AND, we were in a part of the living room that gets better light so they are much brighter too.  AND, we are all looking UP at the photographer and that usually makes for a good shot.
And then there is the HAM picture.  We had ham on hand to bribe the dog, only then the toddler wanted ham.  Then PJ started begging for Lydia to give him ham and we all started laughing and the dog is about to leave because he was not getting any ham at that point!
This picture was also unplanned and is my FAVORITE.  Lydia playing with her American Girl "Nelly" during a quiet moment. Nelly's Christmas dress just happened to match Lydia's dress, without me having to make anything special to match.  I also really like that the ornament behind Lydia is one that she made in day care, because that is OUR tree and those are OUR ornaments.

So, now we have arrived at the planning stage for THIS year's photos.  I saw this birthday card on Pinterest and immediately got the idea to incorporate the 1967 Chevy Impala station wagon that PJ is restoring, lovingly refered to as "The Daddy Wagon".  Unlike the drawing above, our station wagon is teal and white, but I do like the idea of loading it up with packages, just using Christmas packages instead of birthday stuff.

I think we can have some fun posing on, and in, and around the daddy wagon. Since it is not painted a Christmas red like the wagon above, I think we will all wear jewel toned winter layers, hats and scarfs.
This isn't a wagon, but I like the idea of a wreath somewhere in the mix.  I don't think I will pile the roof so high with boxes, but I like the idea of us trying to add more boxes to the stack.  Maybe we could have Lydia on our shoulders or something?  Time to start wrapping some packages and scouting a location!

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