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How to get great photos of your kid(s) with Santa

I’ve seen the funniest photos with Santa and mainly a lot of kids crying. Here are some tips that will help you get that perfect photo of your kid(s) with Santa. As you can see from the photos above, I learned a lot. Year 1 was definitely tough but at ages 2 and 3 we were able to crush photos with Santa with lots of smiles.

I don’t bribe my toddler with treats if they do this or that, sit still, smile, take a picture etc. I truly believe that these tips and communication will build trust and respect and help your child feel safe which will help you get your shot. The prep work in my opinion is the most important.

First, let’s start with what not to do. I think these tips might help.

What Not To Do

  • Don’t yell or give directions over the photographer. Especially from the sides. Because if you start giving directions or yelling commands your kid will most likely look over and won’t be looking at the camera. It’s important to stay directly behind the camera so you are in your kids eyesight and in line with the photographer’s camera.

What To Do If You’re In The Photos

  • Remain calm. If you act like they should be excited they’ll be excited. If you act like they should be scared, they’ll be scared. Play it cool like it’s no big deal. If you need to give directions, take a time out, kneel down and talk to your child. Don’t do it while you’re trying to take pictures.
  • Don’t point and snap or point to the camera. While the photographer is shooting, you must stay still and smile so the few shots the photographer gets your mouth isn’t open and you are posed. They’re few and far between so it’s important to model a good calm pose.
  • Don’t yell or give directions while you’re in the photo. Again, remain calm and stay posed.

What To Do To Get Great Santa Photos

1. Explain Santa weeks prior. Days prior. Show them pictures, read them books, and sing songs. When you see pictures of Santa, ask them “Who’s that?” So they familiarize themselves with his image. Look at the previous years Santa photos. If you go to the same one every year, even better.

2. Give them some power. It can be as simple as having them pick out their shoes or their outfit. Always between a choice so A or B. I let Colton pick out his outfit. I say, “do you want to wear these pajamas or these for your photos with Santa?” That way he can choose the outfit and feel empowered.

3. Hype them up on the way to the shoot. Let them pick out the music in the car. Get them excited. Something along the lines of, “Oh my gosh! We’re about to go meet Santa and you get to take pictures with him! Are you excited? How are you feeling? You’re a very special kid.”

4. Practice. I know this sounds silly but practice the poses. Colton and I practice each expression in a fun, silly way. I say show me… happy. And Colton does a happy face. For example, show me silly, show me surprised, stick your tongue out, and do an angry face. And this is how we get a variety of shots.

surprised face

5. Show pictures of the location, and people in the shoot, and talk about the experience. What they will do, what they will see, what it will be like.

6. Explain everything. Communication is key. Just like you would feel anxiety going to a new place, doing a photoshoot, or meeting new people without knowing the facts, your toddler will too. Especially when you just hand them off to a strange man. Make sure to explain what you’re doing before you do it.

7. Speaking of handing them off to a strange man. Make sure you tell your kid(s) that they’ll be taking pictures with Santa. I say, “You can sit on Santa’s lap, sit next to Santa, or stand behind him. Mommy will be right there watching you. This will be a safe place and you are going to have lots of fun! Make sure to tell Santa what you want for Christmas.”

8. Get there early. Whatever the location is, get there early so you can give them time to warm up to the place/set. Let them go to the bathroom. I also let Colton watch other kids take photos until he feels comfortable. I explain, when it’s his turn he’ll get to go meet Santa.

9. Make sure to get their consent. It’s so important to get your kids’ consent. A verbal yes to the question, “are you ready to go meet Santa?” is very important. It’s important they understand so they go along with it and don’t fidget or struggle to get away. This will prevent meltdowns. No Santa photo is worth breaking the trust with my baby boy. I want him to always know I respect his feelings and he can trust me. I have his back. He’s safe.

10. It’s so important to ask these questions in a happy, positive, smiley tone of voice without an anxious undertone. You don’t want to ask in a scared voice as if they’re scared or should be scared because it will make them mirror your behavior. If you act like they should be excited they’ll be excited. If you act like they should be scared, they’ll be scared.

11. If they still aren’t ready, don’t push. Make sure you communicate to them that their feelings are valid. You understand that they’re nervous or scared and it’s okay to feel that way. Give your kid a hug, rub their back, take 4 deep breaths with your kid, and shake it off (dance, silly faces, or sounds to get a smile).

12. Go over some affirmations. I am brave. I am strong. I am happy. I can do anything. These will make them feel empowered. Then go back to step 9.

What To Do If You’re Shooting The Pictures

It’s hard because Colton always wants to be in my photos and videos but doesn’t always sit still long enough to get a picture. He’ll be yelling, dancing, doing karate poses, or people around us will be talking to him and making comments which is a huge distraction. The struggle is real. Here are a few tips I’ve learned to get some great shots.

  • If you’re using a DSLR camera shoot in continuous mode.
  • On an iPhone just slide the shutter to the right to capture the movement.
  • On an iPhone always shoot in LIVE. Hit edit, tap the circles, and roll it back to the part where your kid smiled.
  • If you’re using your iPhone, shoot on a tripod and use the lens buddy app. You can set it to take a photo every .5 seconds unlimited until you stop it. I got about 3 good ones out of 500 last time. But it works.
  • If you’re using an iPhone always shoot in LIVE. Hit edit, hit the circles (bottom left), and roll the frame/box to the part where your kid smiled, then select ‘Make Key Photo’ and ‘Done’.

Obviously, it helps to have a great photographer and your kid(s) will get more comfortable the older they get so don’t stress. You’re doing a great job mama. I hope these tips helped you feel more confident about your next Santa or family photos.

Our Santa photos are by Jeff Roffman Photography.