“Wear the pajamas and stop worrying about where the children are looking. Set the timer on your phone and you’re going to end up with something great.”
—Interior designer Nate Berkus
Keep it simple. That pretty much sums up Berkus’ holiday photo shoot strategy. And as a husband, father of two, the head of an interior design firm, and co-host of HGTV's Nate & Jeremiah Save My House, he knows a thing or two about streamlining.
And he wants to help other busy families make the most of their holiday shoots at home, too.
Especially this year, when sending out cards to friends and family will help everyone feel a little more connected. The holidays are traditionally the time of year when families are planning their beautiful, shiny new holiday cards with the perfect outfits, poses, lighting, and of course, just the right angles.
Sure, you could still aspire to perfection—maybe everyone could actually look at the camera for once?— but since 2020 has been far from normal, maybe it’s time to consider a slightly different direction.
We chatted with Berkus about his three tips for getting the right photos for this most unusual year. Partnering with Starbucks, he also virtually visited multiple families to help arrange things in just the right way to help make their authentic family essence shine. First, the tips:
Tip 1: Get Everyone in the Mood
Drink of Choice
When it’s shoot day, you want to make sure everyone is on their best behavior. For Berkus that means making sure he has his morning cup of coffee. He says others who are a little camera shy might prefer something, ahem, stronger.
When it comes to kids, Berkus says let their personalities and emotions shine. As a dad, he knows all too well how tricky photographing children can be. If you need some assistance, his go-to bribes are toys and snacks.
And if they end up in the shot? “Well, they are kids, and no one is going to care,” he says. “A little bit of chaos is real life, so you should celebrate and highlight those moments.”
Tip 2: Find the Right Space
The goal of your photo is to highlight your family, not the family room. “You don't want the background or space to overwhelm the people, and you don't want the background to be what people are seeing,” recommends Berkus.
“Avoid shooting in front of distracting artwork or photos on the wall,” he says. This can easily make the photo become too busy. Aim to look for a cleaner space where the family can shine.
“It’s also really important that you’re selecting an area of your home that best represents you and the people that you love. So think about the room that makes most sense for your family.” If cooking is the essence of your family, set up in the kitchen. Or if you love the outdoors, take it outside.
What Berkus doesn't want to see is another seated set-up or staggered family photo on the stairs. “I’m tired of seeing pictures on the fireplace, tired of seeing pictures on the stairs. I still love a front stoop photo, it’s always good looking. But if there’s a million kids and pets running around I like a picture from above on the floor in that chaos.”
Tip 3: Get ‘The’ Shot
Forget the staged photos. “Wear the pajamas and stop worrying about where the children are looking," Berkus says. "Set your phone on timer and you’re going to end up with something great.”
The Crucial Key
The photos don't have to be perfect, and that’s OK. Because face it, we could all use a little humor this year. “The idea of everyone looking perfect and set is okay, but when everyone is done with their pose, you’re going to get the image you’re looking for. It’s those moments in-between where you’re going to get the photo where everyone’s personality shines through.”
The candid moments always make for the best expressions. “When everyone relaxes and stops paying attention to the camera—that’s when you will get the shot,” Berkus says. “Crack a joke or be silly. You want to capture these candid moments and let your loved ones’ personalities really shine through.”
Virtually Helping Families With Their Shoot
Berkus put his tips to good use when he teamed up with Starbucks and met with several different families to craft the chicest, most meaningful, liveliest photos. Berkus virtually went into everyone’s homes and helped them make arrangements and choose outfits. Here's a look at their experiences:
The Yusuf Family
Cute red pajamas, a cozy living space, and lots of smiles were all it took for this family of six to get their perfectly imperfect shot.
The Gundersen Family
A modern white kitchen and casual outfits helped this family of three get a great shot.
The Plessy Family
Minimal decor and festive outfits were all this family of four needed to get their shot.
The Lopez Family
Activity was the name of the game for this family of seven when they got their best photo.