It’s that time of year where we’re getting reading to put together our holiday cards, and perhaps it’s time to consider adding all members of your family. But if the idea of corralling kids and pets to take a photo together seems like a Christmas comedy – perhaps a few tips will help.
Set a Tone
Both kids and pets can feel your vibe, so if you’re keyed up or stressed out it’s going to affect them too. Try to set a calm and relaxed atmosphere – maybe put on some relaxing music (or jolly holiday tunes if that helps get your kids on board). Also, make sure it’s a good time of day for both pets and kids, perhaps wait until after they’ve both had a bit of exercise (and a snack) so you don’t have grumpy faces (furry or otherwise) in your holiday photo.
Decide on a Strategy
Taking photos of kids is hard enough, but including pets as well? This requires a bit of forethought, namely how to get your dog/cat/iguana to hold still while you set up, and remain there while you get to your place (assuming you want to be in the shot). Using a cable release or remote shutter can be a real lifesaver, so can having your child or partner hold a calm animal. If Fido really doesn’t want to be photographed, well then there’s not much you can do but try again later – perhaps take a family shot now and if you are unable to get your pet to cooperate you at least already have a good holiday card image to work with. Regardless of your strategy you’re going to have to be a bit flexible.
For overly active dogs (or kids, really), a sitting still photo might just not be in the cards. Head to a dog-friendly park and let everyone run around. If you’re lucky you might be able to capture a few images of your children interacting with their furry family member.
Natural Light is Key
If you think red eye is bad, then you really won’t like what happens when you use flash on your pets – scary yellows or eerie greens. So, make sure you a) have good natural light where you are shooting or b) use a light source that is constant and soft – which may require getting creative with lamps. One you introduce different light sources you’ll want to watch your white balance so everyone’s skin tones (or fur tones) come out natural. When you are working with young babies, finding a bed near a large window can do the trick.
Fun photo: For older (very calm) dogs and younger kids, find a path in the forest and let them walk ahead of you while taking photos of the scene.
Watch Camera Settings
You’ll want to work with a fairly fast shutter speed to reduce blurring from kids or pets moving, so start with 1/100s and go up or down from there. As for aperture, you’ll want something fairly open to let the light in, but narrow enough that everyone is in focus. So, if you have three rows of people you’ll need more depth of field and a narrower aperture. Start with f/5.6 and see how it goes.
Patience is key here, as with most any photo shoot. Keep trying, but know when you’re beat. If you really want a photo of your pet this year, but they’re no cooperating at home, look for holiday pet photo shoots in your area – they’re usually pretty affordable! Some Santa locations may also accommodate kids and pets so you get the best of both worlds without as much hassle. Although if you’ve ever stood in one of those lineups…
Alternatively, you could consider having two photos on your card this year – one of your pet and one of your kids or family – whatever makes it easier!