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The Perfect Christmas Card

How To Get a Great Photo of Baby for Your Holiday Greeting Card

Chicago: Long after the stockings have been taken from the chimney, we still have photo Christmas cards placed on the mantel with care. I've seen our Christmas cards magnetically affixed to more than a few of our friend's refrigerators when over for a summer barbeque. And if there is a new baby in the family, the photo Christmas card is expected.

So, how do you take the perfect Christmas card picture of your darling child? Although the holiday season is approaching and time seemingly folds in on itself, we have a plan. Stress no more. As a yuletide gift from our household to yours, we offer you this plan to help you get a great photo for your Christmas cards.

The Simple Plan

Start Early
This allows for a re-shoot if it is necessary so you don't feel the stress of a one-shot deal. These days, holiday decorations hit the stores right after Halloween, or if you are ambitious, dig out the Christmas boxes from the garage or attic early.

Know Your Camera
If you find that you push the button to expose a frame, and the camera takes a half-second or more to actually take the picture, you may have trouble getting the shot because of the delay. In this case, are you using a flash? Is your camera set to red-eye reduction (this delays the camera and doesn't necessarily get rid of the red eyes)? You may want to select regular flash mode to shorten the delay and turn off the red-eye reduction.

Choose a Theme
This will include mood and setting and may dictate the color scheme and props you might use. You can do something fun outside with bright reds or a simple portrait of your child in the park surrounded by green and trees. You may just want a traditional portrait of your child with Christmas lights and a tree in the background. If it is too early for a tree, surround your child with shimmering gold and silver to formalize the look.

Choose a Location and Light Source
Natural light is usually more appealing and less harsh than using the camera's flash. Find an area of open shade outdoors. Or inside, choose a room with large windows and set up near the window, but don't include it in your picture, as the window is simply the light source.

On the Day of the Shoot
Set up the scene before you bring in the kids. You can hang a backdrop (bedspread, sheet, tablecloth) of an appropriate color and then add any other props or decorations you want to include. If you only have a wide lens (28 to 50mm), then remember that everything will be visible and in focus. You will have to be careful what you include in the shot and where you place everything. If you have a telephoto lens (70 to 210mm), then you will be able to blur the background and let it become more of a texture, not an element.

Before you begin, make sure you have recruited at least one helper – you will need someone to wrangle the children, entertain them and guide their looks while you snap the pictures.

Let your child get settled into the scene, especially if he is an infant. Toddlers are better off in chairs because they tend to wander. Wait for the good pictures. If Baby or your kids are crying or unhappy, then stop. Put the camera down and get them more comfortable in the setting. You can sing, dance and make funny faces to cheer them up. If you have to, go do something else for a few minutes; don't rush the picture if the mood isn't right.

When you get them settled and happy, start shooting. Try different angles and different sizes. Have them look straight at the camera, and then try some shots with them looking slightly away. (If you are photographing more than one, encourage them to all look in the same direction.) You will want to have many good shots to choose from. Take the whole roll.

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