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Picture perfect: Want a family portrait for the holidays? Then now is the time to snap to it

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It might seem like a couple of months until the Christmas season officially arrives. But the clock already is ticking if you’re thinking of having a family photo taken to share with friends and family by the time the snow flies.

And if you want to work with a professional photographer, you need to reach out now to secure one and to book a sitting.

“It’s so much less stress to have a professional photographer do the photos,” said Sherry Campbell, who has owned Campbell Photography with her husband, Ted, for nearly 40 years.

But before you place the call, Columbus-based photographer Stacy Able recommends customers decide how the photos will be used.

n Would you like a formal portrait to hang over the fireplace for years to come? “If you want a really classic photo, look for a photographer that has that niche,” Able said.

n Or, would you prefer a silly candid photo that will make grandma smile when she sees it hung on the fridge?

It helps to define your budget, too.

An in-studio shoot at Campbell Photography costs $35, while Able might charge up to $150 for a shoot on location with an outfit change or two.

Prints from the drugstore might cost only pennies apiece, but Able can also custom-create your holiday cards for $1 to $2 each, including envelopes.

Colorado Wagner of Columbus hired Able earlier this month to take formal and candid shots of her children, Kamebry, 11, and Bridger, 9, for this year’s holiday cards.

“We get so busy,” Wagner said. “I feel like I am always just snapping pictures with my phone instead of getting really nice, quality photos.”

Wagner chose to have her family photos taken in her home and in the backyard. The result: Pleasing, natural photos of her children.

“The kids were more comfortable,” Wagner said. “It definitely helped them be at ease.”

On the other hand, Campbell pointed out that being in a studio setting gives a photographer greater control over lighting and background. And, in a studio, customers can choose from among hundreds of props, including furniture, old-fashioned toys or even an old phone booth that the Campbells have collected during their four decades in business.

Campbell suggests bringing young children to the studio a little early to allow them time to get acclimated to the setting and to consider bringing along a favorite toy. The same goes for pets, which both photographers encourage be included whenever possible.

“When it comes to these photos, young kids and pets aren’t all that different,” Campbell said.

Able, who shoots exclusively on location, keeps the back of her car stocked with toys, chairs,and sometimes even bubble solution to provide a shift in focus for out-of-sorts kids.

Regardless of where the photos are taken, both photographers suggest taking some time to coordinate outfits.

“You don’t have to wear the same color, but they should blend,” Able said.

She suggests browsing the Internet for color combinations, or just sticking with fall mainstays: rust, warm oranges and shades of brown.

“Those colors look great with the greens and bright leaves we’re getting this time of year,” she said.

But for the best, most natural photos, Able indicated that it’s best to let each family’s personality shine through. She snapped away while Wagner’s son Bridger got a fit of the giggles and hammed it up for the camera instead of smiling.

“Some of my favorite photos are of him not cooperating,” Wagner said.

Bottom line: Be prepared for chaos, especially with large families, pets or lots of kids, Able said.

“It’s just the nature of people getting together.”

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