I’m a little OCD about family photographs.
First of all, I love them. I would have them taken four times a year if Bray would give me the budget. As it is, we do a professional photo shoot once, maybe twice, a year. This year, we had to forego my beloved pumpkin patch photo shoot but I was NOT going to miss the Christmas photo shoot. They only get that dressed up at Christmas and Easter and, by heavens, I want proof of it!
Here are some basic ground rules for our family that may not make my tips as workable for your family. One, I don’t like everyone wearing the same thing – like those photos with everyone in white shirts and jeans. They are great, but I just need more individuality in my pictures. Additionally, Bray does not want the kids to match. So despite all the fun matchy things you can do with triplets, I have to go with “coordinating” rather than “matching.”
With those basic principles in place, here are my styling tips and lessons learned for the family Christmas photo shoot:
1. Buy the boys clothes first.
Boys ALWAYS have the most limited selection. It is particularly dire if they wear sizes 4 to 6 because, unlike girls, that age is clothing-nowhere-land for boys that want to wear something other than t-shirts with weird graphics. Dress clothes will completely evade you in that wilderness of sizes between preschool and size 8.
Yet all too often we allow an adult outfit or a GIRL’S outfit (who has a thousand choices) dictate the style/color scheme/formality of the picture. I made the huge mistake this year of falling in love with a silver dress for little bit and having to move heaven and earth to find appropriate boys outfits (because of point #2).
2. Pick holiday themed colors.
Now I am a seriously classic Christmas girl. But I realized this year that all of our Christmas photo shoots were green and red. They also often involved plaid and a sweater vest. I wasn’t kidding – CLASSIC! However…if I’d like to have any differences from year to year, it was time to mix things up a bit.
With red and green out the window, and having fallen in love with the silver dress, I decided on silvers and blues for the color scheme – still classic enough of a Christmas color scheme for little ole me to sign off on. Plus, how hard can it be to find silvers and blues for boys? Like, the easiest boy color on the planet!
That is a myth. Dress clothes are completely mythical if you want boys size 6. Here are the places to shop for boys: a) department stores, b) zulily if you have a zillion years to wait (yes, my adorable gray fedora came in the week after the pictures), c) Gymboree, for pants, d) the Tie Shop for accessories, e) eBay. I shop more and more on eBay because I can never find what I want in mainstream stores. Etsy and eBay are life savers. Just check shipping speed and cost – no two day Prime there. I finally did find the silver/blue combo in reverse order for each boy.
3. Give yourself more than the week of the pictures to do everything else.
In my case, with the boys/men in pants and dress shirts and little bit in a super fancy dress, I felt like I needed a nice dress, preferably in jewel blue and black tones to go with the color palette. I tried, and returned, everything. I then found a patterned gray and black skirt I loved that I tried to plan an outfit around (ahem, never plan an outfit around a skirt). Still on the DAY of the pictures I had multiple options strew about the bed, none of which were terribly flattering. (Luckily, because of the meltdown mentioned below, we barely got one family shot and you just see my head – whew!) I also ran around the day before finding silver and blue themed Christmas props (gorgeous Nutcrackers, which we NEVER even used!).
4. If you have nappers, don’t schedule the photo right after the kids wake up.
Enough said. Seriously. I know photographers like late afternoon photos but if your kids nap til nearly 3 and then you have to get them ready and out the door by 4, you will have a terrible photo shoot. You can only pray the last five minutes turn out, as ours did, since the rest of the shoot will be an epic meltdown.
I’ve not mastered this one. Maybe next year?
* Photos courtesy of the lovely and talented Julie Shochat. She’s a saint. The photos used are not the ones featured on my Christmas card in case you thought I was spoiling the surprise.