The Efficient Parent Blog


How to Take Better Santa Pictures December 18, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — theefficientparent @ 05:14

My 4 year old son thinks I’m the coolest mommy ever because I am friends with Santa.  And  I think it’s cool because being friends with Santa comes in really handy for discipline…all I have to do is pick up my phone to  call Santa and my son turns into a perfect angel.    I got to know Santa because I took pictures of him and a whole bunch of kiddos for an elementary school’s PTO “Breakfast with Santa”.  These pictures are grainy because I changed them to .gif to save space on my blog.  Sorry about that!

I have never been a fan of Santa pictures, and when I tried to do my own kids’ Christmas pictures in front of the tree, here is what I ended up with:

Until kids hit about age 3, visiting Santa is risky business.  I found this out first hand and I learned a lot during my first “stint” at taking Santa pictures.  After reviewing almost 100 Santa shots, I saw  lots of room for improvement….LOTS!

So, Santa and Mrs. Claus met me for a private photo session to do a portfolio….a “Santa Session”.    Of course, Santa pictures aren’t complete without kids…Lucky for Santa, my children were happy to tag along as props for the pictures!!! They were only on Santa’s lap for a few brief minutes, but we got a lot of really good shots… I’m posting a couple of them  on here so you can see what I’m describing.  I want to share some of what I learned about shooting Santa so other parents can achieve better pictures and hopefully walk away with a fun picture!

Santa looking at the child is great for fussy baby shots...even if the child is staring into outer space


  • First, the cutest Santa pictures are NOT the ones where both Santa and and the child are looking at the camera smiling.   Santa looking down at the child is a cute picture regardless of where the child is looking (even if the child isn’t looking at Santa….even if the child is staring off into la la land with a blank look).
  • Another cute Santa picture is the child looking up at Santa and Santa looking at the camera.
  • Remember, Santa is an avid reader so bring a big hard cover book because he might need it:  If your child is afraid of Santa and cries, you can still get a really cute picture by giving Santa a book to look at.  If your child can look at the book even for one second, then snap the picture fast and you’ll have a beautiful pose…and you won’t be able to tell that your child was crying.

  • If all else fails, ask Santa to get out of his chair and stand behind the chair.   Seriously, he’ll probably thank you for it because his rear end may need a break anyway.  As a bonus, get Santa to put his index finger over his lips ( a “ssshhhhhh” pose) while he’s standing behind the chair.


  • Don’t shoot Santa from straight on (see #1 vs. #2).  Position yourself so that Santa is facing you from an angle.
  • It’s okay to tilt your camera slightly to add a little bit of character to the picture.  Nothing is more boring than a straight forward squared Santa picture.  I know for a fact that this is boring because I looked at almost 100 of mine framed this way.  Blah.

  • It’s okay if you don’t get Santa’s entire body, the entire tree or the entire background in the picture.  In fact, not trying to fit everything into the picture is probably the best way to do it.

  • If you can stand above Santa on a step or on your tippy toes, do it.  You might look a little silly, but your picture will look better if you shoot from above.
  • Position Santa in front of the tree if it is large enough.
  • Watch out for the Santa chairs.  Santa chairs are ugly and take away from the picture if they are patterned (this chair picture was taken before the white balance also).

  • Make sure nothing is growing out of anyone’s head. See how Mrs. Claus was “on fire”?   Before you press the button, take a moment to look at the background to see if anything is abnormal.  Reposition yourself if needed.  You’d be surprised at how much difference moving an inch can make.

Mrs. Claus was on fire for Santa


  • Sugar is amazing.  It puts smiles on kids’ faces.  Bring a candy cane to give to your child while they are on Santa’s lap.  I was amazed at how many children suddenly developed a big grin after getting a candy cane.  Just be ready to snap the picture fast because after they take ownership of the candy, they remember that they are supposed to be crying, and then the moment is gone.

Bring candy...oversized candy is better

CAMERA SETTINGS for SLR consumer grade cameras:

  • If you have an SLR consumer grade camera, use the sports setting because you’ll almost never get a good shot on the first try
  • Read your owner’s manual and see if you can set the white balance yourself instead of using auto.   Not having a good white balance makes everyone appear yellow in the picture…santa picture #1 was shot before the white balance.
  • Avoid using flash, but this might be impossible.  Lighting will make or break your shot, but using a built-in flash unnecessarily adds shiny spots to skin and makes the picture harsh.  Use natural lighting whenever possible.
  • If a photographer already has lighting set up, reconsider taking your own pictures.  Setting up adequate lighting gets expensive…it’s an investment of  a photographer’s time, skill, energy and money to set up lighting.

I took this one at the end...away from my lights. Good pictures depend on good lighting. Also, use a tripod whenever possible to avoid camera shake

TIPS FOR SANTA (no pressure or anything):  I am very “bossy” and love telling people what to do….even Santa.  So, if you are Santa, here are some tips for you to take better pictures:

  • Unless  you are looking at the child or at a book, keep your eyes on whoever has the camera.  Don’t look at anyone else.  It’s disappointing to see the child smiling happily directly at the camera but Santa is looking into outer space.
  • Keep your hands down.  Don’t point at the camera.  It’s human nature to point while trying to get a child to look at the camera, but don’t do it!!  Again, it’s disappointing to see the child smiling happily directly at the camera alongside your finger pointing at the camera.
  • Make sure any drinks or snacks are well hidden out of the shot.

One Response to “How to Take Better Santa Pictures”

  1. Jennifer Says:

    Great ideas! I love “grandma was on fire for Santa”, hilarious!

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