What mom doesn’t want a GREAT family photo for their holiday card?
The sheer reality of how bad we want this makes it become so easily stressful. Over the years, I’ve taken endless holiday portraits. I have seen it all, friends: from the crazy, stressed–out moms to whom I suggested taking a walk to ease their jitters, to the kids who wouldn’t behave no matter what reward their parents offered, to the resistant dad who wanted to talk shop, hoping to avoid being in the photo.
But picture having a film crew, sound guy, makeup lady, and all the rest of the people that go into producing a show on top of the typical holiday-photo stress. Mix that with a little girl who just finished her first week of full-day school. Guess who is super tired and doesn’t want to have their photo taken? Yep, the little girl you’ll see in the video below. When we all met at a park in Seattle, WA to film the “How to Take a Holiday Photo” episode for my new show Capture Your Story with Me Ra Koh, she took one look at the crew and started crying. In not so many words, she said “no thanks!” and wouldn’t get out of the car.
Moments like this is are when I am so thankful for all the years of shooting experience. After doing this endless times, having experienced the good and bad of what a family portrait shoot can look like, I was totally good with her being exactly where she was at.
This is the key to remember when taking a family holiday photo. You don’t need the kids to cooperate until the last moment when you are ready to snap the photo. It doesn’t matter how uncooperative the kids are in the time that leads up to taking the photo. If you play it cool, ignore their bickering, fussiness, and even tears, and just let it be until you are seriously at the moment when you are ready to take the family photo–I guarantee you will be surprised at how they turn around for you.
I see parents make the mistake of doing the opposite all the time. They want their kids on best behavior two hours before they have even left the house to have their photos taken. By the time they meet up with me, I can spot the comotose look in the kids’ eyes and tell that mom has been lecturing them for the two hours at home and the hour long ride to see me. The kids take one look at me and think “This is the lady who has made my mom crazy this morning?!” Guess who they’re not really interested in being around at first? Me. Can you blame them? So the first thing I do is have dad take the kids and let them run and play, while I get to know mom, in order to let the kids get space so mom can relax and kids can tap into their joy again.
I totally get where the mom is coming from. I’ve been that stressed mom too! It’s understandable: moms have a lot invested in the family holiday photo. Nine out of ten times, they’re the ones who book the photo shoot. They are the ones who often design the holiday card. They’re the ones who make sure the cards are mailed to all their family and friends. The family holiday photo is a big deal, so of course, there is potential to be stressed. But moms must remember that they have the power to make or break the photo shoot. I’m not sure about your home, but in ours, if mom is stressed the whole family is stressed. But if mom is happy, the whole family is–you got it–happy.
Below is the How to Take a Holiday Photo episode. This mom was amazing! She trusted my lead on giving her daughter space. We both knew her little one was just worn out from a long day of school. I got to hand it to the mom because the pressure was on but she handled it with total grace. As you watch the video, now you all know the behind the scenes story! In the beginning, when I’m talking to mom about what she hasn’t liked about her holiday photo in the past, the little girl was crying in the car. The mom and I can laugh about it now. What an adventure that was! You would never know watching the video! Ha! Good times!
Below are thirteen photos from the episode, along with the tricks of how I helped the stress come down, especially when a little one didn’t want to cooperate. With a few of these tricks tucked up your sleeve, you’d be surprised at how the most unresponsive child can become the most happy. It’s all about out outsmarting those little ones. Who knew taking a Family Holiday Photo could be so mental!
I’m inviting my certified CONFIDENCE teachers to share some of their best holiday photo tips in the comments! We want to help set you up for total success this year! And feel free to share your own with us!
All photos were taken with the SONY a77 DSLR and 16-50mm, f/2.8 lens.
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Me Ra Koh loves cameras, kids, and parents, and spends her life bringing them together. See her new show Capture Your Story with Me Ra Koh on Disney Junior. Her book Your Baby in Pictures is a national bestseller. She is honored to be one of SONY’s Artisans of Imagery. Me Ra and her team of certified teachers lead CONFIDENCE photography workshops for women nationwide. She has been featured in The New York Times, Parenting, American Baby, Popular Photography, and her photography has been on exhibit from San Fransisco to New York. You can find her at merakoh.com.