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  • Kim Lloyd Photography

Photographing Holiday Memories with your Kids

Family of four smiling with Christmas lights behind them

The holidays are almost upon us and as moms, we want to capture it all!! It's easy to get overwhelmed with everything else we have to do, adding planning holiday menus, buying gifts and scheduling celebration time with extended family members and friends to all of the other things that make up our normally busy lives.

So how do we incorporate our family's story into holiday photos? How do we document family traditions and time with friends while still being present and not behind the camera all day? How do we photograph our children in a way that captures the absolute wonder and joy of childhood during such a busy time?

Tripod + Camera = Magic

The holidays are filled with traditions...decorating gingerbread houses, lighting the menorah, making cookies and other yummy treats, putting lights and ornaments on your tree and exchanging gifts. If documenting this time spent together is important to you but you also want to be fully present, there's an easy solution!

Using whatever camera you feel most comfortable with, set up a tripod in an area where it's unlikely that someone will trip over it but where it can still capture all of the action. Make sure the room is well (and evenly) lit, especially if you are using a cell phone, since they tend to meter toward the brightest areas of the room, leaving anything in lower light as a shadow. Set your phone to 'Do Not Disturb'. Hit record and join the action on the other side of the lens. Moms, this is one of the best ways to get in front of the camera! Later, when you're done recording, you can go back and make screenshots of the moments you loved the most.

If your activity is only going to last 30-45 minutes, you might want to try the time-lapse setting on your phone. Time-lapse photography is something most smart phones offer and it can make documenting a shorter activity really fun, especially if there is a lot of movement. Just remember that whatever you record will be shortened to 30-40 seconds of time-lapse video. There are apps out there that have more options for time-lapse, but not having tried any of them, I don't have any I can currently recommend unfortunately.

You can also set up your camera to take pictures at certain intervals (ex. every 30 seconds) to document your activity. We've done this with Christmas morning gift opening a few times at our house, since that tends to last 2-3 hours sometimes and would be way too long for time-lapse. I normally use my Nikon for this but there are plenty of apps that give you just as much control with your phone.

One of our traditions is to set up a tripod by our Christmas tree and get one photo of the four of us that isn't a selfie. Sometimes we even remember to do it before we take the lights and ornaments off of the tree. After a few trial shots to make sure my exposure is right, I set the camera to take a picture every three seconds and we always get at least one keeper...

Turn your holiday lights into a mini photography studio

When my girls were little, they were obsessed with our Christmas tree every year. They played with the ornaments and created storylines with the tiny Santas, nutcrackers and snowmen. They loved to read their books under the branches (I actually remember doing the same thing as a kid!) and loved seeing their reflections in the bulbs. Since they weren't allowed to touch some of the ornaments we had (but they desperately wanted to), I used that as an incentive to let me get pictures of them near the tree. They were allowed to hold the ornament as long as they stood in a certain spot, one that I had chosen, where the light from the bulbs on the tree lit their faces the way I wanted. I don't do many stylized photo shoots anymore but I'm glad I got these of my girls with their angel wings. Try using portrait mode to blur the lights a bit and give it a softer feel. And if laying under the tree is all you can get them to agree to, do it anyway...having a stubborn toddler is part of your family's story!!

Try selfies to document your holiday memories with your kids

Selfies aren't just for Gen Z! Our family uses them to document everything!! Otherwise, I would literally never be in any of the photos. There isn't always someone around to capture your family and the memories you're making so it's up to you! Just squeeze in close together and go for it!

And don't forget to document the "little things"...

Like that year your husband had covid on Christmas Eve and you spent the evening together watching A Christmas Story over Facetime. Or the cookies and milk and reindeer food that you left out for Santa that the cats ended up eating. Or the trip to the local zoo to see their holiday light display, where your three-year-olds insisted on planning the day. As you can see in the images above, capturing holiday memories with your kids doesn't have to be complicated. The pictures don't have to be photographed by a professional. They don't even have to be edited. But these are all things that make up your family's story so it's important for you to document them (because one day, you'll be able to laugh about Covid Christmas...just not yet). Happy Holidays to all of you!! May you have a holiday season filled with love, joy, laughter and health!

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