Creative Holiday Card Ideas

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Have you started work on your Holiday 08 card yet? If you're like me, you agonize over this process for weeks, fiddling with different templates and colors as you try to create a card that stands out from the dozens of others in your mailbox.

Of course, it all starts with a great photograph. As we know, getting toddlers to cooperate in front of the camera is tough -- wouldn't you love to be able to create a shot like the one at left? That's pictureperfect's handiwork. She's owner of the Photo Moms group. Sure, she's a professional photographer, which definitely helps. But, as she and other photog moms tell us, you don't need to be a pro to take great holiday card snaps. Here's how:

Find a good mood

Close to nap time, bedtime, or right after a meal is out, says, pictureperfect, who has five kids, including two toddlers. "Suckers, juice, kool aid, berries, and even cooked carrots can make for colored lips, teeth, and tongues, and ruin a photo. Sometimes you might not even be able to see the coloring on their face, but you snap a photo and WHAM! It magically appears."

"And if you're going to shoot outside, don't do it in bright sunlight," pictureperfect says. "The best time to do outdoor shots is early in the morning (before 10am) or late in afternoon (around 4pm). Cloudy days are the perfect days to take outdoor shots any time. Without bright sun, there are no squinty eyes!"

Entice a smile

Marianne Drenthe of Marmalade Photography, an amazing Chicago area children's portraitist, suggests keeping your distraction techniques low key, since toddlers can only put up with so much stimulus. "My work is based more on the little things that make a child unique, so I allow toddlers to roam and I pretty much chase them with my camera," Drenthe says. "I do lots of goofy antics, lots of singing Dora and Elmos's World. I sometimes use a hand puppet."

pictureperfect uses a "tickle stick" or feather duster. "Just threaten (in a nice way!) to tickle their noses with the tickle stick, rub their nose gently with it, pull back, and SNAP! Instant smile ... usually!"

Use simple staging ideas

New Jersey child photographer Elizabeth Kirat says try shooting in the child's bedroom in their favorite PJs. "Don't overload the props -- pick one accessory and go with it," Kirat says. "Winter hats and scarves or a big lollipop. Give them a colorful holiday book to read and snap away."

Pictureperfect has used the pajama idea to photograph her own children: "My absolute favorite shots were taken several years ago when I only had 3 kids -- aged 8, 2, and 15 months at the time. I bought them all matching pajamas and had them wear those for the photo."

Coordinate the clothing

If PJs are too casual for your shot, Marianne Drenthe suggests clothing with texture, such as sweaters and knits, with lots of colors and patterns. She has lots of great tips on how to dress your kids for a photo shoot on her website.

For family shots or multiple siblings, she suggests everyone wear solid, complimentary colors. "It looks great on the card, and it looks great on my wall," Drenthe says. "If you stick with shades of red, blue, green, brown, black, or grey, you'll love the outcome. And, not everyone has to wear the same shade. Put your husband in dark brown, you in tan, and your toddler in ivory. As long as they come from the same color base, you will compliment each other and get the perfect portrait to show off year-round!"

Skip the snow

A red scarf or hat automatically screams holiday, says Kirat. "You can always find some pine trees, or maybe shoot at a Christmas tree farm. Action shots are great, take them to the park and follow them around, you'll be sure to get some natural smiles and maybe they will forget they are wearing the hat."

Forget perfection

"Simply let them be who they are," says Drenthe. "Santa hats are overdone. What truly shines is a child's individual personality. All too often parents want to show their children all prettifed and perfect, however that isn't an adequate reflection of their personality. So I say get them in on the act. If they like banging on pots and pans, think of a fun phrase for a quote and photograph -- Little Drummer Boy, perhaps? If your toddler is enamored with something, I believe in capturing it and cherishing it and sharing with friends and family. I promise you will be the talk of the Holiday card set."

Try a super photo-sharing site

Pictureperfect loves mpix.com. "They have a great selection and an option for me to use the design I've created instead of one of their pre-made templates."

Drenthe usually designs her own, but she likes the look of the cards at tinyprints.com and finestationary.com.

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twinc... twinclubmom

What great ideas! We just attempted the professional photos with the cousins this weekend and it was a DISASTER! One of the twins wouldn't even go into the room to be photographed. We tried later at home on our own with the kids in PJ's but I have yet to see if we got a decent shot.

aiden... aidensmomma508

We took a few pictures with Santa this weekend, and my son didn't really look at the camera. I'm thinking of taking pictures of him in his jammies next to the Christmas tree...that seems like a cute idea.

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