Freelance writer, mum of two who loves living in sunny Perth.
Published November 16th 2012
Top tips to avoid a scary santa shot
Santa is indeed coming to town, or a shopping centre near you, heralding the arrival of Yuletide, and also the chance to take your kids to get a holiday snapshot with the man in red and white. As many a parent will know, these photos don't often come cheap, so ideally you want to do what you can to make this photo one you can be proud of; that you can send on to the Grandparents; and not one that just lurks at the back of a kitchen drawer.
As always, Weekend Notes are here to help you with some handy hints and tips.
1. Find a good Santa. I don't mean to come over all bah humbug on you but there are quite a few poor Santa impersonators out there. The general rule of thumb here is that a dodgy looking Santa will not magically transform once captured in print. So choose wisely. Moreover, kids are savvy. They'll not want to sit calmly on the knee of some Santa that they don't believe in. Look around; do your research; there are some fantastic Santa's out there. Notably a lot of the major shopping centres and department stores invest in a very good Santa-alike.
Spooky Santa anyone. image courtesy of Pixietart on Flickr
2. Prepare your child. If you're heading out specially to have your photo taken with Santa, let your child know in advance what's happening. Explain that they'll get to meet Santa, that they can tell him what they want for Christmas and that they'll get to have a photo with him. If you spring the photo on your child you'll likely not get great results. Last year I heard one young boy declare that they didn't want to sit next to Santa because he was a stranger; and there's some logic in that. So take the time, explain what it's all about and hopefully your child will get excited.
3. Clean clothes. Okay, not obligatory, but if you'd like a good picture you might want to have your kids' photo taken prior to hitting up the food court. Big, nasty stains down the front of your child's dress do show up in photos.
4. Check the quality of the photographer. You are paying for the photo so it's a good idea to check you're happy with the calibre of photo being taken. Some Santa photographers excel at their craft, whilst others don't have red eye reduction and only take one picture. Ask your photographer about their policy if you absolutely hate the picture. Will they take another?
5. Look at the experience. When researching where to go for your picture, ask for personal recommendations or have a look first hand yourselves. Ideally you want to find happy and fun staff who'll help cajole smiles out of your little ones. Avoid the experiences where parents and children are rushed and hurried.
6. Avoid the queues. When you've settled on a place to have your Santa shot taken, find out when the quietest time is. Ask the provider what time slots they recommend or come along as soon as they open. Lunch time can often be a quieter period too. Kids that have had to wait in line too long often don't solicit the best smiles for the camera.
7. Letter to Santa. If your child is old enough, add to the excitement of the occasion by helping them draft a letter to Santa. This will give their visit a higher purpose and will help the child talk more freely to Santa.
8. More bang for your buck. Okay, not strictly the making of a great Santa photo, but certainly kinder on the purse strings. Shop around to get the best deal. Consider how many prints you want? Is it worth finding a provider that will copy the images to disk? Do I need the photo on a key chain. The cost of photographic packages varies widely and so you're not guilted into spending over your budget, plan ahead and find a package that suits your family. If you look around, there are always a couple of places that provide one picture with a gold coin donation (for charity). There's something out there for everyone and don't forget, if you don't want a photo, most places still allow you to take your child to see Santa. Don't feel that you have to pay for the privilege.
9. Where to sit? If your child doesn't want to sit on Santa's lap, look for a provider that uses a bench rather than just one seat for Santa, With a bench type arrangement, you can also join your nervous child if need be. This should be a fun occasion, so choose somewhere that will make your child comfortable and not scarred for life.
10. Finally, don't force your child if they don't want to go. Every year I see a number of children waiting in line to get their photo taken with Santa who clearly do not want to be there. They are crying, they are having a tantrum and the idea of sitting on some old man's knee has filled them with dread. I don't see the point of disturbing them so much just to get a holiday photo. The tears do not magically dry up upon closer inspection of Santa; indeed they often get worse. It's unsettling to see and there is no way to get a good photo from this situation. Instead, think of some alternatives: take a photo of your child in a Santa hat, take a photo of them by some gorgeous Christmas decorations or take a snapshot of them decorating the tree.
Get me outta here. Image courtesy of Smalltown, Flickr