How to NOT fail at December Daily (or how to capture your family during the holidays!) {Nebraska Family Photographer}

December is one of those months that you either love or's crazy, amazing, fun, busy, stressful, wonderful and slow all at the same time. A few years ago I panicked a bit when I realized that I'm now the adult that's supposed to make Christmas "magical" for my kids.  I try, but there's only so many days and so many hours in those days that we have to do "Christmas-y" stuff.  It's a lot, so why add another thing to your plate?

It's no secret that I love photos.  I love taking them, editing them, scrapbooking them, and looking at them.  Last year was the first year that I attempted December Daily (for the uninformed, it's a thing that Ali Edwards started.  You make an entire album during the month of December all about your holiday activities. Yes, crazy.).  I loved it...and will probably do it again.  Here's a few tips on how to make it work for you without making you and your family crazy in the process.

1.  Think about your why.  Why do you want to do this?  Last year, my "why" started out as "I found a super pretty December Daily kit and got caught up in the hype and bought it so now I have to do it", but I quickly realized that I was capturing memories that I didn't have in any other scrapbook.  This year, we pulled out last year's album and the kids LOVED looking through it.  Christmas is a magical time, but most of what makes it special comes from the traditions that your family does year after year.  If your kids are young, looking at past albums is a great way to remind them of those traditions and get them excited for the season.

2. Make a plan. Make a list of everything you love about the holiday season - everything.  This was my list last year and it was definitely just a starting point.  

Then, get out your calendar and write down all the activities and programs you will be attending during December.  If you're like me, you'll be surprised at how full the month is already!  We had something going on almost every day.  I even found myself saying yes to things I wouldn't have before just because I wanted to get some photos!

3.  Fill in with memories.  It's likely that there will be somedays where nothing Christmas-y happens.  And that's ok.  Some people choose to document those days by using an everyday photo (such as going to the dentist, work, etc.).  For me, I wanted it to be just a Christmas album, so I used some days to document things like my favorite Christmas songs, movies, recipes, etc.  

I also took some photos of Target and Starbucks...I love seeing everything decorated for Christmas!  Some day it will be fun to look back on how these places looked in 2015!

4. Take lots of photos.  During an activity, take photos of details, then a wide shot.  Make sure to get photos of each kid.  Use different angles, use a different lens, try out of focus shots.  

And keep shooting - even if you already have your photo for the day, but something else happens, take a photo.  Then if you have a day with nothing else going on or you completely forget to take a photo, you have some backups that can easily moved to the next day.  That brings me to my next point....

5.  Fake it.  I'm all for authenticity, but 20 years from now, you're not going to care if you did an activity on December 4 or December 5.  And if you have to set something up just to have a photo for the day, do it.  The photo below looks like my girls are really into a Christmas book.  Actually, they're playing the iPad, I just made them hold a book in front of it ;)

For this one, I had Curtis and the kids sit on the couch (I have no idea if they were actually reading or not) and then I went outside to take the photo.  It ended up being one of my favorites from the month!

6. Push yourself (or your camera).  If I hadn't been doing December Daily, I would NOT have attempted to take photos at the Living Nativity.  It was dark...really dark.  I had my ISO set at 25,600, my aperture wide open, and my shutter speed as low as I can comfortably hand hold.  It's still not perfect, but I love that I captured my girl's love of horses.  She didn't ever want to leave him!

7. Embrace black and white.  The holidays mean lots of time spend indoors and often the lighting is going to be horrible.  My solution?  Black and white can hide a lot.  The lighting in my grandma's house is always yellow and dark, so I typically turn everything to black and white.  Now, the focus is on the kids, not on the surroundings.

8. Let go of perfection - and not just in your photos.  None of these photos are perfect (and a year later I cringe at some of these) but they are memories.  It's easy to fall into the trap of perfect, especially during the holidays.  Your kid might hate Santa and not go anywhere near him.  Your husband might take lots of out of focus or tilted photos (which I kind of love this one anyway). Know when to throw in the towel and say this is too much and go back to simple.  And take photos of the messy house after opening gifts - it is fun to look back on!

9. Christmas Day tips.  Take just enough photos.  I tend to take a lot, mostly because I love it and that's what I do.  I think I ended up with over 100 photos just of Christmas Day last year and that was too many.  I definitely didn't use them all, nor do I need them all taking up space on my hard drive.  It's ok to be picky and take just a few.  

There's no need to get photos of everyone opening every gift.  Take a couple wide shots of everyone, then look for the little moments through out the day that are sometimes missed.  


And remember to grab your camera periodically throughout the day - catch the family traditions and the fun moments.  We almost always play ping pong on holidays (and laughed really hard at my dad last year since he couldn't raise his shoulder very high after surgery!) and rainbow Jello is something we have had at Christmas for 20 years.

10.  Do something with the photos.  Have a plan for the photos, don't just let them live on your phone or hard drive!  Make a Shutterfly book.  Buy a December Daily kit.  Print them off and plan to display them at Christmas time next year.  Make a slideshow. Use the Project Life app and add them to your photo album.  Make ornaments out of them. Whatever you do, I promise that you will love seeing them next year.

And bonus #11 - Remember the reason for the season.  God sent his Son as a baby to save the world...THAT'S why we celebrate Christmas.