Photos With Santa: Get a Great Shot (and Avoid a Meltdown!) With These Tips From the Pros

There are two very distinct ways a holiday photo session can go…a calm, happy child sits still, smiles on command and chats with Santa while the photographer asks you to sign a waiver allowing the studio to put the brochure-worthy shot on display.

And then there’s what happens to the rest of us.

For any parent who’s left the mall photo shoot disheveled, drenched in sweat and covered in Goldfish crumbs, know this: Photo failure happens even to the best parents. And when the big man in the red suit is involved, the odds are even further stacked against you. “Young children cannot separate fantasy from reality yet and have little understanding that a complete stranger dressed up in an odd way is going to make a great photo op,” explains Dr. Ari Brown, an Austin, TX-based pediatrician and author of the 411 parenting book series.

So here’s an early gift for you -- some expert tips for turning your tantrum-prone tot into a merry model:

Take it slow. Explain to your child what will happen during the photo session, read books about Santa in advance and let him watch others in line before it’s his turn, advises Dr. Brown. If there's time, try a mall run where your child can see Santa first before you actually sit for photos. Just don’t push a kid who isn't into it, she says. “A sobbing child on Santa is not a photo that you really need.” 

Be prepared. Schedule your photos after your child's eaten, not too close to nap time and have him in a fresh diaper if he isn't potty trained. Take along a favorite blanket or stuffed animal to keep him calm, says Michael Kormos of Michael Kormos Photography in Queens, NY. Just try not to go overboard with the food since it can get messy quickly, he says. 

Stand back. In your effort -- or desperation -- to make your child crack a smile, you’ll resort to all sorts of silliness. Kormos encourages parents to try to stand behind the photographer during any kid-pleasing antics. “This way their child's attention is focused in one direction, which makes for a great eye contact in the photos.”

Dress down. Go for simple colors, and keep logos, patterns and insignia to a minimum, says Kormos. “You want your child's smile to be the focus.” Avoid outfits that are cumbersome and uncomfortable -- too many layers of clothing, especially on newborns, tend to bunch up and look messy. And kids who are overheated are sure to be cranky.

Don't Overrate a Smile.  Got a camera-shy kid? Sometimes a pensive or curious expression can be just as adorable than a child who is grinning from ear to ear. Sleeping babies are pretty irresistable, too. An unexpected shot can make a great portrait and capture your child's personality.  

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