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Take Better Pictures

How to capture those precious holiday moments

--Photo by Jennifer Tonetti-Spellman

It's pretty easy to get a fantastic shot of your baby outside. It's the indoor shots—with the tricky lighting and blanched flashy faces—that are tough. And of course most of the holiday magic happens inside. So we turned to Jennifer Tonetti-Spellman, our favorite in-home documentary photographer, for tips on how to capture those special moments at home.

Turn off the lights. "Whenever possible, turn off overhead lights and lamps, kill the flash, and instead look for pockets of light in your home where you can place your children when they are doing something festive. For example, have them work on a holiday craft by a window; seat them in front of the window and shoot with the window behind you. The result? Even, natural light with no red eyes."

Don't pose. "As an in-home photographer, I am always letting kids just ‘be.’ The results are more them, versus a fake smile and gritted teeth. So when you are setting up that tree or lighting the menorah, take pictures of the action and not just the kids sitting in front of the finished product all smiles."

Catch the snow. "If it’s snowing at night and you have an outdoor street lamp or flood light shining—just enough to illuminate her face—invite the little one to watch out the window and take the picture. The wonder of snow is something that never grows old, but it is especially magical for a child."

Any camera will do. "Sometimes, it’s about snagging the moment before it disappears. So if the camera is out of reach, grab your phone and get the shot. (If you're using an iPhone, think about getting the ProCamera app, which lets you adjust exposure, focus, and has more editing functions than the default iPhone camera. It also has a great self-timer on it.)"

Messes can be merry. "Before you fly into mom mode and clean the baking mess, grab whatever camera is closest and capture the flour flying. There will not always be sticky fingers in your kitchen. Document them now."

Zoom in. "Special ornaments, the candle being lit, little fingers tying bows—all of these super tight shots are great additions to a family album." Zoom out. "On the opposite end, step back . . . way back. Try and capture a whole room as people revel in holiday festivities. Stand in a hallway and shoot in through your child’s door as his Grandpa is reading his favorite holiday book. Every shot doesn’t have to be a close up. Tell the whole story."

Get. In. The. Picture. "Forget the morning's scale reading or that it's a bad hair day. The kids don’t care. Fast forward to 20 years from now, when your children are looking back at childhood pictures. They'll want to see you with them. ’Tis the season to put insecurities aside and make some memories, of ALL of you. So set the timer and get on in there."