Attempts At Adulthood

Fun, Foolproof Tips for Getting the Perfect Photo with Santa

I like when photos turn out well.  I don’t want to pretend I’m the most laid back person on earth and can always immediately say, “Oh, it’s totally fine!  I didn’t even care about getting a good photo!  Kids will be kids!”  I am decent at constructively dealing with disappointment, but that does not mean I am immune to being disappointed.

As I have a bit of a reputation for going into photo opportunities with high hopes, having my son meet Santa immediately made me think, “Ok– this is his very first Christmas.  What can I do to make sure I get a photo worth mailing out, or, at the very least, worth scanning into the computer and e-mailing to his grandparents as a JPEG file?

And so I talked to– a local Santa.  A really sweet, upbeat Santa was visiting a coffee shop in our neighborhood and he took a few minutes to let me know how to make sure any child’s photos with him go off without a hitch.   That being said, here are:


santa pic 1

If you’re not already doing all these things, now’s the time to start.

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1.  Make sure that your entire emotional well-being depends upon this photo being flawless.

santa pic 2

Everything is riding on this. Don’t screw this up.

This photo being perfect is going to fix anything that has ever been wrong with your life.  Remembering that and keeping it front and center is, hands down, the key to a beautiful, relaxed photo.  Wish you had done better in school?  Feel like a disappointment every time you’re at a family reunion?  Don’t leave that baggage at home:  Condense it, put it in a carry-on, and then give it to your child to hold while he anxiously poses for pictures.  Trust me.  This is nothing if not a winning strategy.

*          *          *

2.  Dress your children in something uncomfortable that they hate.

santa pic 3

“Some of the suits run large.”

Has your child spent the past 11 months clad in jeans and a T-shirt from The Children’s Place that you bought for 3.99 off the sale rack?  Does he happily spend every waking hour in hand-me-downs your neighbor left on your stoop in a garbage bag?  These are rhetorical questions.  To ensure that he’s at ease while nestling into Santa’s lap, be sure to dress him in something stiff and uncomfortable that leaves him constantly scratching.  Starched dress shirts are good.  Bow ties.  For girls, crinoline.  Any outfit that incorporates either stiff lace, tight collars or poison ivy.  If you have a bodysuit made of venomous spiders, it’s ideal as long as the tag says Charter Club or Nautica.

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3.  Be rude or insensitive to the other people waiting in line.

santa pic 4

Being rude and insensitive in general is pretty much always a great idea.

It’s common knowledge that the secret to getting great photographs is exhibiting cruelty/insensitivity to the people around you.  Ansel Adams got some of his best shots after turning toward groups of tourists and yelling, “For the love of God, will you BE QUIET?  I am TRYING to take a picture of this F*%KING NATIONAL PARK.”*

*          *          *

4.  Refuse to understand why your child isn’t smiling because, “He’s usually so happy.”

santa pic 5

Santa won’t let him watch Calliou.

Why won’t our children smile on Santa’s lap?  Because we’ve handed them off to an old, weirdly-dressed, total stranger.  Who IS this guy?  As far as the kid’s concerned, we’ve handed him off to someone from the cast of Duck Dynasty.  We should be thrilled when our kids cry on Santa’s lap.  We should feel like we’ve done a good job making them wary of people they don’t know.  There should be a Photo Christmas Card template that says, “Happy Holidays!  (Insert Child’s Name) passed the ‘Stranger Danger’ test!”

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5. If the first few photos are unsatisfactory, belittle the photographer.  THIS WORKS!

santa pic 6

“These are all terrible.”

Look– we’ve done STUDIES.  And all the pie charts and bar graphs and clinical trials show that verbally-abusing the underpaid, angst-ridden photographer is hands down, the best way to make sure you get natural, beautiful photographs.  Because department store photographers are like Wall Street traders– they do their best work when they’re on edge and riddled with anxiety.  Also, seeing you devaluing another human being helps your children relax and enjoy themselves which (obviously) makes for the sort of serene, elegant photographs that you were hoping for.

*     *     *

ben and santa 1

Have a wonderful and relaxing holiday.

*That quote was totally made up.  Ansel Adams seems like a very decent guy, based on my extremely brief reading of his Wikipedia page just now.

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11 Responses to “Fun, Foolproof Tips for Getting the Perfect Photo with Santa”

  1. ninamishkin

    Terrific (and timely) post. Didn’t think I was going to like it. (Christmas? Bah! Humbug!) But I actually laughed out loud! In an empty room! Thank you. Thank you so much… 🙂

  2. Lizi

    Passing the Stranger Danger Test? That’s beautiful! I’m so using that caption with the pics of my future traumatized kid sitting on some random dude’s lap.

  3. elainecanham

    My best friend treated my daughter (then about 6) to meeting Father Christmas in Harrods. He had bright turquoise eye shadow. Really. She still giggles when we look at the picture.

  4. wakingofthebear

    I used to do Santa gigs. Children are very frightened of this huge stranger dressed in red, with a lot of fake white stuff on his face. It’s one thing to see this character on TV or in a photo, but to see him in person is life threatening. One of the best tricks is to hand the kid with his/her back to Santa. Hopefully the kid won’t turn around and see the monster holding him/her before the photographer can snap a quick shot.

  5. Theresa

    Wait…I feel like these 5 steps might NOT result in good Santa pictures. However, your blogs are usually right on target so I’ll give these a shot. I don’t have a venomous spider suit, but I’m sure I can find one online because the internet has everything. Wait, it might even have good pictures of my kids with Santa! Thanks for the great tips! Merry Christmas to you and your family! And thanks for the weekly laugh!

  6. Liz

    Loved the Ansel Adams and “stranger danger” bit. LOL. Merry xmas! This year was my 3-yr-olds first picture w Santa. Every day since her meltdown in Macy’s and before she goes to bed at night she tells me: I don’t like Santa. Noted.


    This story reminds me when I tried to take a photo of the kids

  8. Nat

    Stranger danger, indeed! “Hey kid, there’s an old guy who watches you all the time, even when you’re sleeping. He wants you to sit on his lap every time he sees you. He often rewards you with candy if you do, and if you’re really good, he’ll buy you presents. Oh, and he loves to sneak into your house while everyone is asleep.”

    Without the reindeer, Santa would be an after school special about how pedophiles groom future victims! But somehow, we’re all “sit with Santa, it’ll be great!”

    And yet I am doing the Santa thing with my son… But don’t even THINK of coming near me with that creepy Shelf Elf!

  9. Cynthia Meyerhoefer

    1) that is a terribly cute Santa picture
    2) My niece was so traumatized by the mall Santa issue that we finally told her Darth Vader came with his storm troopers to deliver toys. Yes, she grew up in a household where the idea of Santa is scary, but Darth Vader coming to your house is just plain exciting.

    (She was also afraid her father in a Halloween costume until he took off his Spiderman mask, and she loves Spiderman, so it appeared to be a mask/face covering issue) (She is 18 and is no longer traumatized by masks, but still thinks Darth Vader is cool).


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