When Christmas songs start infiltrating department store speakers and white twinkle lights begin popping up in neighborhood yards, it’s time to think about another seasonal tradition: the holiday card photo shoot.
As you start booking photographers or looking for coordinated outfits, here’s a suggestion: This year, let Austin be the guest star in your photos.
“While I have traveled all over the country as a photographer, photographing families in Austin inspires me the most,” said Michele Anderson of Pinkle Toes Photography (pinkletoes.com). “The city itself has its own personality, which shines through in the images.”
We asked some local photographers to offer their favorite places for an Austin-centric photo shoot. Even if you’re not sending out holiday cards, this list of suggestions could be handy for when friends or relatives visit. Look at it as a two-for-one: You’ll discover new places in Austin and have a unique backdrop for any photos you take.
The studio/gallery on South First Street belongs to neon artist Todd Sanders, who creates vintage-style pieces there. The neon-filled gallery and vintage sign boneyard — complete with historic Austin neon signs, antique carnival rides and rusty gas pumps — offers a truly original backdrop for a photo shoot. “Roadhouse Relics gives off that retro vibe with great texture combinations and rich colors,” Anderson said. Shoots must be booked ahead of time for a fee. Info: roadhouserelics.com
Bull Creek District Park
Austin is known as a haven for those who love the outdoors, from rock climbers to kayakers to mountain bikers, so a photo shoot in a natural location such as Bull Creek District Park can be a great way to pay tribute to the city. “I love working at Bull Creek because of its versatility and natural feel,” said Shauna Autry of Shauna Autry Photography (autryphotography.com). “I think it truly captures the beautiful naturescape of Austin. It’s a real city treasure.” Info: austinparks.org/our-parks.html?parkid=223
South Congress Avenue
This one may seem obvious, but there are so many varied options along South Congress Avenue, from the “I Love You So Much” mural at Jo’s to the candy-colored boutique facades to the spectacular views of downtown, that it remains a must-consider location for a holiday photo shoot. “South Congress has opportunities for amazing variety,” Anderson said. “And, if you’re there at the right time, it’s the perfect place to capture the Capitol building.” To keep safety a priority, though, Anderson recommends scheduling your visit to avoid peak traffic hours. Info: austintexas.org/listings/south-congress-ave-soco-/4359
The Boardwalk at Lady Bird Lake
Austin’s fitness community celebrated when the new boardwalk opened on a stretch of the Butler Hike and Bike Trail in June. But here’s something you may not have known: So did photographers. “This is just a new fun spot that seems very Austin to me,” Autry said of the boardwalk, which runs from South Lakeshore Boulevard east of Interstate 35 to the American-Statesman property to the west. “You have to be patient, as there can be a lot of runners, but at the right time of day the light is perfect and the views are beautiful.” Info: www.thetrailfoundation.org/portfolio/the-boardwalk
Spider House Cafe
From its Christmas lights to its garden statues, this University of Texas campus-area bar and cafe is a treasure trove of cool. “Spider House Cafe is simply all of Austin’s remarkable quirks, rolled up into one funky package,” Anderson said. Contact in advance to set up a shoot. Info: spiderhouseaustin.com
Long Center and Butler Park
The Long Center and Butler Park offer more fantastic views of downtown. If you’re shooting with kids, they’ll love Butler Park, which is home to a fountain, a meadow, a pond and a huge in-ground map of Texas that’s great for fun pictures. “It is very versatile, with lots of great color and textures,” said Autry. “It is never too crowded, so the kids stay relaxed.” Info: austinparks.org/our-parks.html?parkid=684
Barton Creek Greenbelt near Lost Creek Country Club
For a more off-the-beaten-path dose of nature, try the Barton Creek Greenbelt near Lost Creek Country Club, said Kerri Lohmeier of Kerri Lohmeier Photography (kerrilohmeierphotography.com). “I’m pretty sure I’m one of the only photographers that knows about this spot only because, in all the years of shooting, I’ve never seen anyone else,” she said. “Year-round it offers full trees, water, boulders, tall grass, cliffs and seasonal flowers.” Info: texasoutside.com/bartongreenbelt.htm
Holiday card trends for 2014
- Photo/newsletter card combinations: Websites like shutterfly.com are increasingly offering “story cards,” photo-based holiday card templates that include space for a few sentences of text. It’s a great solution for families who want to offer updates without sending a full newsletter.
- Video cards: Remember the viral “Christmas Jammies” video card from last year? Expect more like it.
- Unique card materials: From cards that you can plant to grow flowers to those made completely of recycled materials, there’s no limit to just what your card can be made of. One idea kids will love: Print your card on a Shrinky Dink sheet, punch a hole at the top and include a ribbon and instructions for melting the card into a pint-sized ornament.
- Postcard perfect: Websites such as touchnote.com allow you to select a photo and quickly send postcards with personalized messages to anyone you want. Think of it as a stripped-down holiday card.
- Unconventional photos: From siblings jumping high in the air to families dressed as zombies, expect fun, goofy photos this season. “When I entertain others’ ideas, it gets me thinking outside my creativity and doing shoots I wouldn’t have explored,” said Austin photographer Kerri Lohmeier, who made national headlines this summer with her MAN-ternity photo shoot of an expectant dad that poked fun at corny, conventional maternity images. “Lately I like to put shoots together with my kids or friends that are hysterical only to us. I might as well have images to make me laugh.”
Tips for taking a great holiday photo
- If you can, hire a photographer. “I almost always try to get someone else to take holiday card pictures for me so that I can relax and be in the photos,” said photographer Michele Anderson of Pinkle Toes Photography. “Especially parents of young children. It’s too stressful to try to manage on your own.”
- Even if you plan to take the photos yourself, bring along an extra person. “If you have kids, always bring someone who is not going to be in the pictures or taking the pictures whose only job is to help you keep an eye on your children,” Anderson said.
- Have fun! “Photographs that truly capture your children’s spirits really turn out beautiful and create lasting memories,” said Shauna Autry of Shauna Autry Photography. “In addition, if you let your kids have fun, they are more likely to cooperate and smile when you want them to.”
- Trust your photographer. “Let your photographer guide you and find great spots,” Autry said. “Photographers understand where the light is nice and will create nice images. You picked them for a reason, so trust their instincts.”
- Try not to stress. “Get the kids dressed, show up and just have fun,” said Kerri Lohmeier of Kerri Lohmeier Photography. “There’s so much pressure to get everyone looking/acting their best. I try to make a family play time for sessions to get natural smiles and make it a good experience.”