Everyone loves girls in fancy dresses, little boys in suits, and babies who look sweet enough to eat. But while you want to make your child look like the angel he or she (sometimes) is, it's obviously necessary to stay practical. For starters, don't get too attached to the idea of your child looking "just so." Put on her outfit right before you head out the door, and you'll also be able to relax more if you stash a spare outfit in the car. Think of it as a potential opportunity to showcase yet another barely worn ensemble!
With your new baby, outfits don't last more than a few hours without spit-up stains unless you keep him in a bib, Consider buying a new, clean bib that's as nice as his outfit. Try to save a little lace gown, suit, or holiday-themed onesie for portraits, and if you're feeling adventurous (and feel like Baby's up for it), throw in a cute and festive accessory, like a red hat.
Babies in the crawling stage are difficult to dress. For girls, beautiful frilly skirts can get caught on furniture and may rip, so try a pants outfit or a short skirt paired with leggings. Shoes rarely stay on a crawling little one, so skip the cute penny loafers and keep your baby's look simple with bright, clean socks.
For these newly independent tykes, avoid clothes with big collars -- which are magnets for food and juice stains -- and long sleeves, which may end up in the gravy boat on the dinner table. Look for shirts with stretchy neck openings to cut dressing time in half -- and to maximize comfort. You'll probably want to dress your toddler in nice dress shoes for holiday portraits, but keep him in comfy sneakers if he's playing with cousins at your relatives or waiting in line for Santa.
The holidays are prime time for studio portraits, so naturally you want your children to look spiffy. "But keep the focus on your child rather than on what he or she wears," says Lisa Berman, president and CEO of Picture People. And don't try anything radically new, like putting a bow in your daughter's hair if she doesn't normally wear them. Need to calm Baby? Bring a prop like a teddy bear or favorite toy to make him smile.
Buy soft button-down shirts that look cute untucked (since they will be after the camera's done flashing). For young toddlers and babies, elastic-waist pants allow for quick diaper changes and trips to the bathroom, and shoes with Velcro fasteners make putting on his shoes a cinch. If you love the suit and bow tie look, expect your little man to be a little fidgety!
Little-girl skirts rarely lay how you want them to in photographs because of diapers or pull-ups, so use a diaper cover or cute tights to keep them from peeking out. To make sure that your little girl isn't uncomfortable in her tights, buy a size bigger just to be sure.
We know it's exhausting to dress yourself and your kids for a party before you leave the house. But during the holidays, it pays to be over-prepared for a kid-related emergency. Always take an extra outfit for your child, especially if she's prone to spills. Pack a few portable stain wipes to easily treat small stains, and a hairbrush for a quick sweep right before picture-taking. If you think your holiday visit will stretch into the evening, take your child's pajamas so he can fall asleep in the car on the way home.
Have someone hold your infant upright, then get close and snap a picture quickly so she doesn't get scared.
Give your baby a safe ornament or present to explore. Take a picture while she touches it, smells it, or tries to eat it.
Try an action shot with your child, such as one of her rolling over, crawling, or taking wobbly steps.
Family photos can be beautiful when taken next to some evergreen trees, or standing gingerly in the falling snow.
Try a cute way to fit everyone in the picture: Arrange you and your family members so that all of your faces are stacked close together, then have someone take a close-up. Bonus points if you do it while laying down in a circle!
Is Baby reluctant to smile for the camera? Sing Bob the Builder or Dora the Explorer theme songs right before the camera clicks.
To get a great picture, expect to snap a dozen or more photos of your family's smiles! Be patient, load up on film, and let the photographer keep clicking away!
Originally published in American Baby magazine.