11/20/2012 03:45 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

12 Holiday Photo Card Tips

I have an image in my mind of the kind of people who pay for professional photo shoots for their holiday cards.

These people with blindingly white teeth spend their days lounging around with their well-behaved children, counting crisp hundred dollar bills to pass the time. Husbands are clean-shaven and thinking about the fabulous gifts they're going to surprise their wrinkle-free wives with this year. Every so often, the new puppy stumbles into the room and everyone laughs a merry laugh, shaking their well-coifed heads in perfect unison.

Maybe I'm over-thinking this a bit; maybe I'm jealous that some people are organized enough to actually book a photo shoot in advance. The verdict is out on those.

Either way, I prefer to torture myself by going old school and photographing my kids for our annual holiday card myself.

This is my seventh year doing so, and I've learned a lot that I'd like to share with you.

No, this isn't another article with tips on how to dress your family for the shoot, or what time of day the lighting is best.

I'm talking about the things that will happen no matter how much planning you do.

What to Expect When Photographing Your Kids for the Family Holiday Card

1. One kid will have outgrown the shoes you bought him last week for this shoot and need to wear the visibly scuffed ones that stink of musk and dehydrated tuna.

2. A sweater will be dug out of a donations bag and worn one last time over the shirt you just then realized totally needs to be ironed.

3. After seven minutes of Your Happy Chatter, something will happen to trigger the quick incline of your pitch and speed of your voice. Even if your natural voice is that of a kindly librarian, you'll sound like an anxiety-laden Chippette off her meds in no time.

4. A shoe or hair bow will be tossed.

5. Someone will yell about the working conditions and walk off the set at some point.

6. Whoever is in the white outfit will fall in mud.

7. There will be a chokehold photo, a blurry running-away-from-the-camera photo and a sticking-out-the-tongues photo.


8. Someone will poop in their pants or need to go poop the moment you are walking out the door.

9. There will be tears. Maybe theirs. Maybe yours.

10. Someone will pick his/her nose.

11. Bribes will be put in place. Behavior will be such that bribes never get to be followed through on.

12. You'll imagine the session will be as sweet as a photomontage on NickJr. Witnesses will say it looked more like a scene from Homeland.

In the end, you'll snap 487 shots and, if you're lucky, only two will have everyone looking in the same direction.

Luckily, your kids are cute enough that those two shots will make the perfect card (or so you tell yourself in sweaty desperation), and you have a whole 11 months ahead of you to make an appointment with a professional photographer for next year's card.

Happy Holidays!