How to Get Great Holiday Pictures

I was texting with a friend of mine earlier.
She is one of those friends I go to when I am in dire need of a laugh. A fellow newer mom, she is the kind of friend I can make inappropriate jokes with, whether it is about pregnancy, motherhood, or people we once {or still} knew from high school or years prior.

Today she asked me how it was that I am able to get such "perfect" photos of Camden for holidays and such. 

I smirked a little. I can see how she {and many of my other Facebook friends} can assume this. The pictures I post or mail from holidays do give a "pretty" -- albeit unrealistic -- impression of our photo-taking process. 
But how do I explain that "perfect" is just smoke, mirrors, and a whole lot of self embarrassment? My child, as wonderful and adorable as she is {sorry, I'm her mom. I have to double up on the positive adjectives}, is far from perfect. 

Still, being a two-year veteran in the mall-Santa scene and having this as a turnout, I can see Kacey's twisted humor in asking. {Don't worry, I have her full permission to use this. It's in WRITING on my text messages, Kace! In writing!}
I get it. These two girls are seriously some of my favorite children in the world. They are funny and are ridiculously gorgeous, but I get Kacey's dilemma. She and I are one and the same in our vanity. 

So, here you go: A step-by-step on how to get your little one to cooperate for his / her holiday photo sessions. 

Step 1: Location, location, location
Google images search each mall and its corresponding Easter Bunny. For Cam's Easter photo this year, for example, I did a Google Image search of Easter Bunny pictures from all malls I considered taking her. Not only did I want to have a good environment to take my little girl for an outing, I very selfishly wanted to put my mind at ease that we wouldn't arrive at the Easter Bunny set to find a rabid looking rodent from generations past. Exhibit A:
Side note: As a result of my research, I have found that most malls {or rather, the more ideal malls in our area} seem to have gotten all their Easter Bunny costumes from the same manufacturer. This made my choice obvious: Screw what the Easter Bunny looks like; just go to a mall where I can do the most damage -- I mean, where I can do the best shopping. 

Step 2: Timing is everything.
Remember these words: After nap, before lunch.

We decided to take an almost two-hour trek to Fashion Island in Newport Beach, near our old home, to get the Easter Bunny photo done. It wasn't only an excuse to hang out near our old digs, but we made it a lunch date with some of our dear friends in the area. My friend Amy is one of Camden's godmothers, and we have made it a tradition to get Cam's and her daughter, Olivia's, holiday photos done together. 

I digress.

With the two hour drive, I knew that a nap would be key with Camden, so I made sure not to give her any of her bottle before we left the house so that she would be hungry on the road. That way, she drank a babba early in the drive, napped for the majority of it, and by the time we pulled into our parking spot at Fashion Island, she was groggily waking from a bumpy-freeway-induced slumber. 

Woozy, she was able to wake up a little bit more during our walk from the car to the middle of the mall to meet the Bunny. We were smart to have the girls take their pictures before lunch, as after lunch would have resulted in my child having remnants of chunks and smears of arrowroot cookie on her face and grease from pommes frites on her entire hands, courtesy of Brasserie Pascal.

Step 3: Don't say you weren't warned.
Warn photographer that your child WILL cry as soon as you set her down on said Bunny's lap, and that photographer should just snap pictures as quickly as possible before meltdown happens.

As sweet and bubbly as she is at home, this little girl's personality is described by three words: slow to warm. You come at her too quickly, she will melt down into a loud, crying, and sometimes drool dripping mess. She has to see you for a while, look at you, give you that mean muggin' stare, burn holes through your soul, and then maybe, just maybe, you can come near her. 

Exhibit B: My child during her first time at the Pumpkin Patch:

Having learned my lesson from the Pumpkin Patch Incident, I did the same as what I did when she went to see Santa at South Coast Plaza a few months ago, I walked into Bunny's cottage and forewarned both photographer and the bunny of what could occur.

{Just like with Santa, she didn't melt down, which was a welcome surprise, but I assume, just a lucky one.}

Step 4: Bite the bullet.
Buy the entire flash drive and copyright of all pictures so you can wittle it down to the most acceptable image you can print / post. 
It's like fishing with a rod versus a net. Buy 'em all, choose the one where your child looks the least like a slumped and hungry Winston Churchill.


Step 5: Bite the bullet once more.
Apologize profusely to your husband for overspending on holiday pictures.

Again.
It ain't cheap. It ain't clean. It ain't easy. But in the end, your vanity will prevail.