Photo Tips for Capturing Holiday Memories

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I’ve worked in the photography industry for almost six years in several different capacities – as a photographer myself or in production for a major studio. I’m passionate about memory-keeping, especially through the art of photography, in both my own family and for others. I’m serious. If I see you trying to manage a selfie, I’ll politely ask if you need any help because I want you to have a good photo!

There are several tricks I’ve learned along the way. Of course, I’ve learned the technical aspect of taking a good photo. And there’s something to say about composition. But there’s also a philosophy I’ve developed about photography and memory keeping! Because, yeah, I think it’s a philosophy. As the holidays approach and moms, dads, grandmas, and grandpas pull out their cameras to capture these special holiday memories, I wanted to share a few of these tips and philosophies with you to help capture special moments this season!

1. Get in the photo.

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Okay, I get it. We want to look fabulous in photos so future generations will know that we looked kept and practically perfect in every way. So heaven forbid we are captured in our daily mom-bun {just me?}, no makeup, and college sweatshirt. I mean, we must keep up appearances, right?

No. No. No. No.

I mean, there is something to getting yourself done-up for a photo, and I’m not bashing that because there’s a time and place for it. But when you’re sitting there playing with your kids on Christmas morning, grab your phone and take a selfie. Capture yourself in the ordinary. There’s beauty in the ordinary, every day. There’s beauty in the reality of a real life Christmas morning with your family in their pjs and you with your clean face. You’re not obligated to put it on social media or even share it with anyone. Just make a habit of jumping into photos with your family even when you might not feel your most glorious. Because when you’re gone, your family isn’t going to care that your cat-eye was on fleek or that your outfit was color-coordinated. They just want photos of YOU because it’s the you they love and appreciate and want to remember forever.

2. Make a goal of capturing memories and moments more than poses.

The least favorite part of a wedding are the posed photos with immediate and extended family. Everyone does it for the record and wants it to happen as fast as possible so they can move on to the party.

Don’t make people dread someone pulling out the camera because they know that means all smiles must turn on and all fun must stop to feed the photo machine. Challenge yourself to find the details in your surroundings and capture that. Look for special moments to capture. Like grandpa reading Luke 2 on Christmas day…

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Or your daughter feeding her Meow-Meow every morning…

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Or your husband waiting in line for a snow cone…

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Or your mom and sister showing the kids the cows…

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Or your son holding your hand while he eats lunch…

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You get the…picture {drumroll}.

I get it that posed photos are wonderful to have for posterity’s sake. If you must have posed photos – I’m one of those people, it’s cool – warn everyone ahead of time that you plan on taking posed photos at a scheduled time and then make it happen as fast as possible. Like a band-aid – rip it off and move on to the fun.

3. Kids are crazy subjects. Just go with the flow.

Pictures of our little ones looking at the camera and smiling are as rare as Santa himself. Unless we train them from an early age to say “cheese!” {I have a friend who taught her daughter to do that, and it is amazing and adorable and gets a perfect picture every time}, the likely hood of them posing for a picture when we want them to is rare. So save the frustration and come to terms that you may not get a smiling photo from your kids. But you can get photos just as precious. Here’s my tips…

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Pull out your camera while your kids are doing something – playing, coloring – and make it your goal to just capture the moment. Take pictures of their little hands coloring, the look of concentration on their face. Look for the tiny details you find precious in your people. It’s easiest to take pictures of kids when they’re focused on something. As you’re shooting, don’t bother them to look up and smile. The more we interfere with their activity to beg for a smiling photo, the less they want to oblige and the more they start to loathe the camera in the future.

However, ask them questions about what they’re doing. Engage in what they’re doing. You know your kid; maybe there’s something you can do or say to get them to smile. And when they do, be quick and snap your shutter and continue on. What’s beautiful about going with the flow in capturing your kids, is it makes you really pay attention to their sweet little personalities and habits – things you may not have ever noticed. And when you show them the photos you took, it helps them appreciate the times you do pull out your camera to take photos of them.

And here’s another tip… If your kids are a little older, you can bargain with them for your prized smiling photo. Give them two poses that they can create and do whatever they want and the third one can be your pose to make them do whatever you want. That involves them in the creative photo taking process!

Another way to involve them in the photo process is to allow them to love the process of photography and capturing memories…I was cleaning out some old electronics awhile back and found my very first digital camera. Oh, the memories! Instead of getting rid of those things after you upgrade, keep them for your kids to use. That way, having their own special camera to use will make them appreciate photos even more. This lets you in on their perspective of the world – something that’s so amazing and priceless. You can even print some of the photos they’ve taken! I bet that would make them feel appreciated and special!

4. The best quality photo isn’t always as important as capturing the memory.

I have twin two year olds. I’m admitting here that it is hard to get a good picture of these two in the same photo. It’s something I’ve just come to terms with at this age. I try to follow the same advice I’m giving you, but some times I just have to realize that getting the photo is more important than my settings and composition being perfect. And sometimes it happens so fast, that I just have to grab my cell phone that’s always close by, instead of running to another room to grab my DSLR for a better photo. Because by the time I get back, the moment’s over.

And sometimes, the photo might not be perfect, but you have the memory. Like these photos… Cason’s face is out of focus, but at least I captured that cute little smirk he does. And Gracie’s whole body is cropped out of the picture with terrible composition, but at least I captured that cute smile she does randomly…

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This also makes me think of when we went to see my MawMaw back in April. It was her first time meeting the kids, and it was so precious. We didn’t know when we could make a trip back to Louisiana to see her, so we took a few posed photos for posterity. The photographer in me is dying at the massive flash, the subjects not centered, and my kids wanting nothing to do with a photo. But what matters more is that I have a picture of my kids with my MawMaw. That’s the memory that’s more important than a perfect photo.

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5. Put the camera away.

This sounds counter intuitive, doesn’t it? I’m preaching to myself with this one too, guys. Not only because I’m a photographer, but also since I decided to start vlogging every day.

Sometimes, we can get in this mode where we’re so intent on capturing every moment because we don’t want to miss capturing a thing. But the problem is that we end up living our lives behind a camera lens instead of in the moment. You might have this massive pile of photos to go through, but you end up living life from just the memories in the photos instead of the memories that were made in the moment. Plus, it’s a pain in the butt to go through thousands of photos! Believe me!

So let’s promise ourselves to pull out our cameras to take those few posed shots, to take a few selfies with our kiddos and spouse, and to capture the nuances in the memories that we’re making. But then let’s set our camera down to really live our lives in the moment.

So as we head into the holidays, let’s take some of this and put it into practice! What are some of your favorite photo tips and ideas?

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Hannah B
A native Houstonian, Hannah adores everything about her home town…except for the humidity. So when she married Aaron in July 2008, an indoor wedding was necessary to protect this ginger from the frizz of summer. After 8 years of marriage, 4 of those battling through infertility, they welcomed twins Cason and Grace into their family through the miracle of adoption in December 2013. A graduate of the University of Houston with a degree in theatre and a creative writing minor, creating runs deep in Hannah’s veins. Her goal is to live a fearless life where she works hard creating projects and ideas that make their home in her wild imagination. She loves making videos for her YouTube Channel, taking photos and writing for her blog Everything Sunny Always, and creating digital artwork. When she’s not creating, you can find Hannah at any local coffee shop fueling her adoration for a gourmet cup of joe or stuck in traffic on the Houston freeways belting Adele or practicing her future Emmy speech.


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