With annoying fake smiles and unintentionally cropped heads, most holiday photos are about as appealing as fruitcake.
So we asked local photographer Chloe Aftel for tips to help your family’s pictures sparkle.
1. Don’t force the issue.
Avoid telling pint-size subjects where to sit, where to look, and, above all, when to smile. Subjects (big and small) look better when relaxed.
2. Think out-of-the-rectangle.
Get creative by trying out a Holga (the low-fi toy camera beloved by hipsters), an underwater camera for above-water shots, or even a drugstore disposable. All have unique effects on images.
3. Have a flash.
Natural light is great when shooting outdoors, but you don’t want to miss Junior tearing into presents because it’s before sunrise.
4. Plan for the spontaneous.
Make a shot list (cookie baking, Santa watching) and be prepared. You can’t recreate the look of wonder when Grandma walks in the door after a cross-country flight.
Because it will all be over in a snap.
Chloe Aftel Studio (510-579-3592 or chloeaftel.com).
Gingerbread Architecture Extravaganza
What: Everything little architects need to create sugary dream abodes.
Why: How sweet it is to build a home for the holiday.
When: Tues., 1 p.m.; Wed. & Thurs., noon & 1 p.m.
Where: Bay Area Discovery Museum, 557 McReynolds Rd., at E Rd., Sausalito. R.S.V.P. (recommended) to 415-339-3931 or online at baykidsmuseum.org. Gingerbread kit, $30 each.
Danzo Diaper Bags
What: The ultimate in mommy organization ($165-$310) arrives in the Bay Area.
Why: Doodie duty is easier when you can find your tools (each bag has several see-through compartments).
When: You’re heading out.
Where: Baby & Kids Company, 12 Miller Ave., b/t Throckmorton & Sunnyside Aves., Mill Valley (415-389-1312).
Scuba Santa Visits Cal Academy
What: Santa Claus goes diving in the Philippine Coral Reef.
Why: Proof positive that the jolly old man is everywhere.
When: Thurs. & Fri., 11:30 a.m. & 2:30 p.m.
Where: California Academy of Sciences, 55 Music Concourse Dr. (415-379-8000). Free with general admission.
Photo: Chloe Aftel