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The holidays are finally here and it is a time for family, friends and fun. Having all of your loved ones in one place can often be the recipe for chaos, but if you take a moment and do a little planning, the chaos can also be the perfect backdrop for some of the most memorable photos. We asked heymama member and family photographer Victoria Schaefer to share 8 simple tips for creating beautiful family photos this holiday season and beyond. Get your camera ready and read on…

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  1. Use a Tripod

One of my biggest pieces of advice to capture those perfect moments, (especially family shots or group photos) is to use a tripod. My favorite not only fits on your iPhone, it’s inexpensive and available on Amazon Prime (no, this isn’t sponsored, I just really love Amazon Prime. A lot.) This tripod also comes with a wireless remote control that you can hook up to your bluetooth. If I need some extra height, I just place the tripod on a step stool. Instant lift.

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  1. You Don’t Need a Fancy Camera

Even though I’m a professional photographer, I personally love to take pictures on my smartphone. The camera’s are high quality and the settings are set for you, so you can take a photo in seconds (perfect for quick-moving littles). If I want to alter the photos at all, my go-to resource is the VSCOcam app. They have beautiful filters that set the tone to your image and you can also change the exposure, contrast, and temperature. Watch out though, you might get addicted.

  1. Lighting, Lighting, Lighting

Lighting is probably the most critical part for a beautiful photograph and I can easily write a novel about it but I will keep things short. The easiest light to photograph is during “golden hour” also known as the hour before sunset. Don’t know when that is? Google “sunset on (enter date)” subtract one hour from that time and there you have golden hour. Golden hour on Christmas Day is 3:26pm. So, at that time, head outside with your family and take some family photographs! Really, any photo you take during golden hour will be rich and beautiful. Don’t forget your tripod!

Inside the home, if you have a window that is facing south, take any and all of your photographs by that window. It will be pouring in beautiful light all day. At night, some of my favorite photographs ever are the ones where the kiddos are playing by the lit up Christmas tree. Candles and twinkle lights are another awesome light source for night time images.

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  1. The Clothes Really Do Matter

I used to not really care what my family wore in photographs, but now I do because it makes such a difference!  Keeping the parents in neutral colors and basic patterns (hello, stripes!) so that the kiddos can get away with whatever they want to wear. My favorite pics however are when everyone is in coordinating neutral clothing. If you can pull that off, then a big high five to you! And finally, if you happen to capture a sweet moment of your partner with your kids and they are wearing spiderman PJ’s and your partner is in ugly gym clothes, just throw a black and white filter on the photo and boom – beautiful!

  1. Watch Out for Clutter

Oh the clutter, it’s really hard to avoid clutter with kids in the house, especially over the holidays. I get it. Clutter is sometimes unavoidable in images and can be ok, so long as it’s not central to the photograph. Take a moment to view the scene through the camera’s lens and see what stands out. The big red target pamphlet? The box of fruity pebbles? The obnoxious toy that sings out in the middle of the night? You get the idea. They stand out and take away from what you’re really capturing.

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  1. Keep Things Natural

Staged photos where everyone is looking at the camera are fine but in order to capture a photo that is both authentic and exudes feeling, keep it natural. Have your subjects look at each other, make a funny face, do anything other than “say cheese”. My favorite photos are those where tickles are involved, adding laughter and movement to your photographs. Tickles also almost always turn a fussy child around, but don’t stress if tears are on the agenda for your little people that day. I personally love when kids are throwing fits and just aren’t feeling the photograph as that’s just who they are at this particular stage in their life. It’s also a good laugh down the road at the dinner table, “Remember when Evan hated to take photos and would make that face?!” If all else fails, hug it out. Photos are people hugging are the best and are filled with so much emotion! And who doesn’t love a hug from a loved one?

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  1. Take Charge

Don’t be afraid to be the Director during family photo time, especially when it comes to the kiddos. Kids often get shy or don’t know what you want them to do so it’s ok to give them specifics. Tell them to hang an ornament on the tree, or look out the window to see if they can see Santa’s reindeer, or suggest they build the biggest snowball ever! While you are guiding them, take pictures from start to finish.

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  1. It’s the Little Things

Details make the story. Period. Some of my favorite photos of are of the little details in everyday life. Take a close up shot of the kid’s little hands rolling out cookie dough or of their favorite christmas slippers beside their bed. You can also do a close up of their face while they are so focused on wrapping their gifts. Just observe them and try to capture as many little moments as possible.

Just being mindful of the little details that propel an ok photo into a great one is really simple to do and we love that we no longer have to feel guilty for only taking our “good” camera out a handful of times since the kids were born. As Victoria says, iphones and tears are just fine.

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