Painless
Christmas Pictures

I have these memories... some would call them -œlovely family memories,- whereas I choose to call them horrible childhood experiences. My mom used to dress us all up in relatively matching clothes, make sure our hair was -œjust so,- and pick a specific locale where we would then have our Christmas picture taken. We never went to studios for these pictures - no, my mom was far more creative than that. And since we were a military family who rarely lived somewhere for more than a year, we always took our picture at a locale specific to where we were stationed.

I can recall sitting in a fancy gazebo in Alabama. In a formal holiday dress, I spent the day in sponge rollers so that my hair would be cute and curly. I remember trucking out to snap a family photo at the launch pad when my dad launched Titan rockets in Florida. We took photographs in the woods in front of a frozen lake in the suburbs of Virginia. We did beach-side photos in California and White House snap shots in Washington, D.C. These are some of the most prolific memories I have.

I'm not sure how to take the pain out of the necessity of family holiday pictures. Although I can say that the easiest photos were taken when we all piled on to our couch. But I can offer dos and don'ts – backed up by my credentials as holiday photo princess. My mom would be the queen...

1. Don't make it a day-long affair

I mentioned a day of sponge rollers for the perfect shot that took 30 seconds to snap. I would not recommend this method. Not only is it far too much work, it doesn't capture who the family truly is. It may not sound like a big deal, but for some friends and family, this may be the only photo they get of you all year, and you want it to look realistic! You may even consider using a family photo that was taken during a summer vacation or one that isn't as staged!

2. Don't over-do the digital

Thankfully, we shot on good ol' fashioned film when I was a kid. This meant that while we may have had to snap 24 pictures to get two good ones, there were no fights over who looks best in what picture, no incessant cries for re-takes, and no, "oh, let me see's" after each shot. I can only imagine what taking holiday photos with my perfectionist parents would've been like if digital had been invented 20 years earlier. Make an effort to streamline the process!

3. Don't get cranky

Obviously, you can't control your family members or your kids' less-than-thrilled attitude when taking Christmas pictures. If you're all feeding into a feeling of annoyance though, not only will it detract from the spirit of holiday joy, it will probably show up in the expressions of your photos. Unfortunately, my family has more than one set of holiday cards where I am looking a bit pouty, thanks to the overall annoyance of the picture-taking procedure.

4. If all else fails, make it funky

I think some families are pre-disposed to try out weird and quirky poses or themes in their pictures. Even if you're not traditionally one of those families, why not give it a try? Pull on a crazy holiday sweater. Put on reindeer headbands. Don gigantic jingle bells. Sit in a huge pile of leaves. Take your dog to see Santa. Do something funny or spontaneous, and it'll be hard for your family – and those receiving the card – not to smile!


More Christmas content!

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Holiday gift ideas for seniors

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