Five Tips to Get Good Holiday Pictures of Kids

  1. Get it while the gettin’s good.
  2. Start small
  3. Eliminate distractions
  4. Change the angle
  5. Be prepared

As I was shooting random pix of family over Thanksgiving weekend I lucked into this money shot of seven of eight cousins.

Cute Kids ready for Christmas PixThree families with eight kids were rushing to get all the little angels into holiday attire for family Christmas photos. Departure time was minutes away and the kids spilled out into the hall in various stages of preparedness. As I reviewed the shots to share with family I realized the collection illustrated five tips which might help you get better shots when shooting kissin’ cousins this holiday season.

When it comes to shooting kids, you’ve got to…

1. Get it while the gettin’s good.

Time was short and dads were ready to snatch them up and load them in the car but nobody was crying, nobody was mad, they all looked pretty darn cute, and they all wanted to get in the picture. So I played the “Aunt Jan card” and kept shooting.

2. Start small.

It started when I aimed the camera at these two which resulted in exaggerated smiles and a bit of a mess in the doorway down the hall.

Two Cousins

It started with two cousins mugging for the camera.

I made a fuss about the first two and number three arrived to get in on the action.

Three Cousins

Number three arrives to see what's going on. This is where I realized the background was so cluttered.

The kids look good, but the background is a mess. So as more cousins arrived I asked them to sit on the floor and look at me.

3. Eliminate distractions.

With the kids in the confines of the hall there was nothing on the outskirts that would distract them from looking at the camera.


4. Change the camera angle

When I moved closer to shoot down on them I eliminated the distracting background clutter.

Six Cousins

And then there were six.

I love this.

There were no moms placing them here and there, no grandma adjusting collars or cuffs. The composition was their own and it was perfect. I snapped the shutter again (See tip #5, shoot a lot) and lost two of them.

Caught a scowl and a set of wandering eyes in this one. Solution: Keep shooting.

Now cousin number seven was close at hand and we dropped her into the frame. Dad was waiting to load the plaid shirts into the car and the little blue hoodie needed to get into his Christmas colors so I was rushing and I pressed the button only to see “Change Batteries“!


First shot after new batteries. Big brother is a bit protective of the new arrival.

It had been going so well!

I thought the jig was up and I shrieked and jumped in the air in frustration. The kids thought that was hysterical and they laughed out loud. One of the moms next to me asked “Do you have batteries?”

So, as per Tip #1 (get it while the gettin’s good), I jumped over my photo subjects—which made them laugh louder—got the spares out of my purse and kept going.

Number two. A bit distracted after the interruption.

Which brings us to tip number 5.

5. Be prepared. 

This applies to your equipment, your subjects and you.

Third try. Are they afraid her head is going to fall off?

Have your camera in hand, batteries in your pocket, and be sure there is plenty of room on your memory card.

Trash discards regularly. That “Card Full” message is probably more troublesome than dead batteries.

Shoot a lot.

The more  you take, the better they’ll be. If you’re shooting every little thing, you’ll be prepared when the perfect opportunity arrives. You can make technical adjustments for lighting and other circumstances.

Fourth try and they're about to settle in again.

Shoot a lot.

I know, I said that already, but this applies to your subjects. The more often you snap the shutter at them the more relaxed they’ll be about it.

The more  you take, the better they’ll be.

Those Say Cheeeeeessseeeyyyy  grimaces will be replaced by cute little grins.

The one that got away.

In case you’re wondering, here’s cousin number eight.

I’d taken dozens of shots and hadn’t been fast enough to actually get him looking at me. He was puny with a bit of a ragged cough and when he couldn’t go outside and play with the others he threw a little fit. After a few minutes his great grandma (my mom) said “You better quit your crying. Aunt Jan’s going to take your picture.” He instantly went quiet and looked right at me. I’m sure he was wondering what on earth kind of threat that was, but no matter. I got the shot. He was dozing on his dad’s shoulder when I got the rest of his cousins in the hall.

Here’s another one that came together one cousin at a time. Grandma had one of the kids by the hand and said, “Take a picture with me.” The others were drawn like a moth to a flame.

Grandma's going to love this one! Again, it started with one and then they all clustered around to be included.

I was off to the side and I also tipped the camera at an angle to better fill the frame. One of the kids said “Your camera’s crooked,” but I prefer this composition to straight on and level. No matter which way you tip the camera it’s always a winning shot when you get everyone looking at you and all their eyes are open. I could brighten it some, but if I go too far it brings attention to the residue from Thanksgiving dinner in the background.

Here are a few more object lessons from the day.

How sweet is this? Uncles are always good to hang with.

I had the perfect shot, until he dropped some checkers.

No smiles? No worries. No frown, no scowl, just a straight on gaze makes for a good pic.

What about your family shots? Any tips for shooting the kissin’ cousins in your family?

Sometimes you have to take what you can get and hope to make improvements in the dark room so to speak. Check out the two shots below. To get the tight shot on the right I had to change it to a square. That eliminated the pop bottles and the back of her sister’s head but the corner of the light switch still intruded into the frame. I played with the angle of the cropped image and cropped tight at the top of her head to make it work.

Do you have any photo tips to share?

She's ready for her close up.

Crop to pull this darling pose out of the background.


About Jan

I write. I cook. I take pictures. I sew. I design. I create.
This entry was posted in People, Photo Tips and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Five Tips to Get Good Holiday Pictures of Kids

  1. Great tips, thanks for sharing Jan! I’ve not had an interest in people shots (just wildlife) until my grandson was born 6 months ago and now I’m a fanatic on taking his photo. The more I take, the more I learn and enjoy trying to create people photos!

    • Jan says:

      Enjoy your new grandson!
      Taking pictures of babies can be addictive… and sometimes it’s not much different than shooting wildlife! Babies are great because you can put them in a place and give them a prop and start shooting. A cardboard box and a wooden spoon might be all you need to get a bright smile.
      One shot I wanted to get and never did was from the floor looking up when my son dropped Cheerios from his high chair. In addition to practicing fine motor skills he was also figuring out gravity and I wanted to capture that look of discovery on his face.
      I hope the tips prove helpful to you. I’ll definitely be lurking in the hall from time to time and see what I can capture.
      Have fun!

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