Making Every Photo Count

Jennifer_Harris_Photography_Minute_for_Mom_01Fall is here!  The air is turning crisp, the leaves are starting to fall, and pumpkin spice has come to Starbucks!  One thing is certain come every October and that means the holidays are quickly approaching! For me this means one thing: it’s photo season, baby!

There is so much to photograph during this time of year between trips to the pumpkin patch, family get-togethers, and the joy of Christmas morning.  If you’re looking to make your photos a little better this year, I’m here to help!

Of course, I am a huge advocate for getting professional photos taken (considering that’s how I make my living).  I think it’s something every family should do every couple of years and for those really important events that you’ll never get back, like a wedding, a pregnancy, or a newborn baby.  However, you CAN take great pictures without professional equipment or skills, if you remember a few things.

Taking your own photos

The number one most important thing to remember about photography is that it is all about light.  Let me say that again: IT’S ALL ABOUT LIGHT!  Sorry for yelling, but that’s really important to remember as you set off on your holiday photography journey.  Great light can make or break a photo, as is probably very apparent in those washed-out, ‘deer in the headlights’ flash photos we all know and love.  So what kind of light are you looking for, and where do you find it?

When outside, look for what us photographers call ‘open shade.’  This is a large patch of shade that doesn’t have any light peeking through.  I know, I know, you think you want your subject right in the sun, but trust me, you don’t.  Putting your adorable little ghoul in the shade casts nice, even light all around them, and you won’t get any weird shadows or raccoon eyes.  You can also wait until the sun is nice and low in the sky the hour or so before it sets for some beautiful golden lighting.

Jennifer_Harris_Photography_Minute_for_Mom_02When inside, a large window or sliding glass door is your best friend, and the best way to get good light indoors.  Avoid that pop up flash at all costs, unless it’s Halloween and your kid is dressed as a ghost – that washed-out effect might just add some artistic flair.


If you’re going to attempt your own family photos, there are a few things to remember:

1.  Choose a spot with great light.  Make sure nobody has dark shadows under their eyes, or bright spots of light on them anywhere.

2.  Set-up your camera on a tripod, or any kind of stable surface and set the timer.  You need to be in the photo too!

3.  Pose everyone nice and close together, there should be no gaps between you.  If you feel like you’re too close, then you’re just right!

4.  Be natural and have fun!  Nothing is worse than a bunch of forced smiles.  Tell your kids a goofy joke right before the timer goes off, or tickle them for genuine smiles.  Dad is usually the hardest to crack – try whispering something racy in his ear! 😉

Hiring a pro

Hiring a professional photographer can seem scary, but it doesn’t have to be.  There are a few things you can do to make the process less daunting:

1.  Research what and who you want.  While budget is important, the most important reason to choose one photographer over the other is the quality and style of photographs.  There are many different photography styles in many different budgets, so choose the photog whose work you adore.

2.  Make sure the photographer you choose offers the products you want.  If you’re set on purchasing photo jewelry for grandma, don’t choose a photographer who doesn’t sell it (or at least choose someone who sells digital files.)

3.  Ask questions!  Meet with your photographer and ask how the session works, what their policies are, how ordering works, and what the turn around time for orders is.  You don’t want your heart set on pictures for the Christmas card only to have your images done in January.  A good photographer will make sure you’re completely comfortable and will make sure all your questions and concerns are addressed before the session even takes place.

4.  Wear something comfortable.  If you’re pants are too tight, or you’re uncomfortable in your top, it’s going to be obvious in the pictures.  Choose something that you like and are comfortable in.  For dressing your family, coordinate your outfits, but don’t look like you’re in uniform.  You want to look cohesive, but not matching.  I usually tell my clients to pick a few different colors that look good together and have everyone dress in that color scheme.

5.  Posing and smiling can feel really awkward if you’re not used to.  A good photographer will pose you and get you smiling without you even realizing it.  If you feel stiff, you probably look it, so take a deep breath and relax.  A tip for avoiding the dreaded double chin: stick your chin out and slightly down, while pressing your tongue to the roof of your mouth.  It feels silly, but it works!

Jennifer_Harris_Photography_Minute_for_Mom_04Capturing those holiday moments

Capturing pumpkin patches and Christmas morning will be easy if you remember to utilize good light.  Don’t go to the pumpkin patch at noon, try for the evening.  Open the curtains next to the Christmas tree to let some light in!  Tips for maximizing those special moments:

1.  Forget about posing.  Your job is to capture those memories as they happen.  Don’t try to force the kids to sit and smile and just follow them around and document what they’re doing.

2.  Think outside the box.  Your kid chose an awesome white pumpkin instead of the typical orange – take a picture of it.  Document the details, including the mess of pumpkin pie all over baby’s face.  Take sequences of pictures that tell a story, like pumpkin carving or cookie decorating.

3.  Vary your perspective and angle.  Back up and take in the whole scene.  Get in close and focus on one thing.  Add a prop or two.

4.  Don’t forget to get in on the action!  You don’t want your kids to look back on their childhood photos and wonder where you were!




Well, there you have it!  Now go out and get shooting – and don’t forget to post your pictures on the Minute for Mom Facebook page so we can see!

Jennifer Harris

Jennifer_Harris_Photography_Minute_for_Mom_08Jennifer Harris is a maternity and newborn photographer based in the Inland Empire in sunny California and is mama to two boys.  Her work can be seen at

If you’re interested in learning more about taking great photos of your kids and how to use your camera, you can check out the Mom’s Gonna Snap workshop.  Mention Minute for Mom and take $25 off!

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