How to get the ‘Gram – Peyton & Parker

This year, I am determined to knock as many items off my ‘Holiday To-Do List’ before the holidays even begin.  It doesn’t always happen, but every now and then I am completely ready for Christmas before the month of December starts and let me tell you, it’s pure magic! Getting things done and out of the way early, leaves you stress free and able to focus on (and enjoy!) the people and things that make Christmas the most wonderful time of the year.

Like most families, getting a festive family photo is always on our list.  It’s great to capture a few images to use for an annual Christmas card, gifts for Grandparents, or even just a fun Instagram post.  I thought it would be helpful to share some tips and tricks on capturing a fun holiday photo in your home this year…

Lights, Camera, Action! There is so much you can do before shooting that will make the “action” process run a whole lot smoother.  In order to capture a fun and cohesive photo without the stress, a little preparation is required. Your in-house photo shoot can be as big or as small of a production as you’d like. Just take some time to think about what you are going for, what type of feel you want the photos to have, etc.  For these particular photos, I was shooting for a fun, lighthearted, semi-casual, winter wonderland…JCMomandKids (1 of 1).jpgWhen preparing for a family photo, the first thing I start with is clothing. Whether you like to go all-out-matching or have everyone rock a unique look, it’s nice to plan ahead and have somewhat of a cohesive feel to your attire. This year, I did myself a favor and got all of our clothing from the same spot, the new Peyton & Parker collection at JCPenney.  They make mom’s job a whole lot easier by offering stylish, affordable, and coordinating holiday pieces for the entire family.  I love the mix of casual denim, fun-striped prints, and fancy sequins! Tessa and Jean’s soft rose gold dresses are over-the-top cute and perfect for any holiday photo or gathering. They even have holiday home decor items to help transform your space into a fun and festive backdrop.

Once I have everyone’s outfits ready to go, it’s time to set the stage.

The first tip to setting the perfect “stage” is FIND THE LIGHT!  Walk through your home and find the areas that are the most well-lit with natural light.  This means LOTS OF WINDOWS and white walls when possible (white reflects light). Pay attention to what time of day that area is most well lit.  Our 1970’s home is actually quite dark, but our front room has two big windows that let in plenty of light to capture a great image right around 2:00 pm!   Lighting is EVERYTHING. It is best to shoot in natural light, so turn off all artificial lighting and the flash on your camera. If you are shooting in manual mode, you can tweak the ISO on your camera to help infuse more light on your image.

Once you’ve “found the light” feel free to move your favorite chair or sofa in from another room.  You are not limited to what is already in that space…it may seem like too much work, but in reality,  a few extra minutes (and a little muscle) make a world of difference. For this photo, I slid our rug and sofa out of the way, brought in a different rug and some simple holiday decor…JC Scene (1 of 1)My kids helped me tape up some snowflakes and brought in some chopped wood to add a bit of earthiness.  This whole thing took under 20 minutes to set up.

Bonus tip: Don’t bring your kids onto the scene until the very last minute.  If they are anything like mine, the less time in front of the camera, the better! Make sure you’ve got your camera settings how you like, the tripod set up, and a calm demeanor in place before bringing anyone in.

I like to shoot a few practice photos to make sure everything looks right and my silly little Jean is always happy to help…

JCJean (1 of 1)When it comes time to shoot, remember, you’re the director!

When it comes time to shoot, remember, you’re the director!

Take charge and tell your people what you’d like them to do, how to stand, where to put their hands, etc.  If you don’t know these things, they certainly won’t either and will most likely be pulling a funny face or hitting their sister. I know from experience.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am all for a posed photo from time to time…JCFamPose (1 of 1)…but my favorites are what I call “purposefully candid.”  I like to give my family an action assignment to help create a fun photo that feels alive and more like US.

For example, in the following photo I said: “John, play your guitar and sing us a song.  Cole and Tess, you both play along . Wyatt, you twirl Macie around and try to have fun while I dance with Jean.JCFamMusicWhile shooting, give the kids breaks between poses, let them suck on hard candies or get a drink, bribe if need be!  Keeping everyone happy is key. Playing soft background music and taking lots of deep breaths helps! JCDadBand (1 of 1) And last but not least, props!! Having a prop, something to hold or do with your hands always helps make photos unique and fun, especially for someone who is awkward in front of a camera (I’m raising my hand). JCMandJ (1 of 1)JCTandJ (1 of 1)For more tips on capturing the perfect family photo check out my post from last year HERE and be sure to check out the Peyton & Parker line at JCPenney.  JCMomandKids2 (1 of 1)Best of luck “getting the ‘gram” this year and let me know if you have any tips that work for your family! Thank you to JCPenney for sponsoring this post and making it that much easier to get the ‘gram. I love the convenience of one-stop-shopping and you cannot beat their affordable prices.  Be sure to check out all of their holiday wear and home decor, you’ll certainly be glad you did!

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