Backyard Self-Portraits For The Happiest New Year - West | South
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How we shoot our annual holiday card portraits in our backyard, and why we do it.

The Happiest New Year

journal

man's hand holding lit sparkler at twilight with blurred background
leopard print heels on a blue background with multicolored confetti scattered around the shoes

Holiday cards are a tricky thing for us.

We do not have children.

My husband and I  are not formally tied to any religion.

There have many people in our network who practice many different religions, or no religion at all.

Sending traditional ‘Christmas’ cards have always been difficult or downright offensive for us to send.  For the first decade we were together, I just did ‘Happy Holidays’, because it was general.  The design typically had a snowflake of some sort, usually blue, and was always homemade.

But as the years rolled on, we became jealous of the cute picture cards we always got from our friends and family, which were beautiful portraits of them and usually their kids.

This, as I’ve mentioned, was not our reality.

Why not just go for it?

So two years ago, we decided to do it our way.  We set up a quick backdrop on our back patio for some backyard self-portraits, got ourselves gussied up, poured a glass of champagne and just went for it.  I picked a New Year’s card from Minted.com and dropped them in the mail.

Because we put some effort in, the cards were a huge hit.

While it was a total blast – our families loved it because they finally had portraits for their home of us, just like we did of them in ours.  Sharing your likeness on a physical print is a funny thing in this day of Facebook avatars and Instagram posts.  Those prints aren’t temporary- as they’ll be around for your great-niece or nephew to find one day and wonder…

Who were these badass people I share a bloodline with?  They sure do look like they were having a good time with life.

three views of a couple posing on a blue background in bright clothing
three views of a couple in bright clothing throwing confetti

This year our theme was colorful, cool and fun.  Basically, I themed the entire thing around my desire to purchase a pair of pony-hair leopard kitten heels.  And because I wanted to shoot with confetti.

I’m not gonna lie, the confetti was a challenge.  Also, we shoot these every year with an iPhone triggered by Brian’s Apple Watch on his wrist, so that was interesting.  Would I do it again?

Absolutely.

close up portraits of a woman and a man in bright clothing



The finished cards turned out great – I’m really happy with them.

card with couple dressed in bright clothing throwing confetti in the air on a blue background

I don’t know about other companies but I am FULLY on board with Minted.  They address book feature alone makes it worth the price.  And the fact that they credit the artists is a wonderful, necessary thing.

How to shoot your own backyard self-portraits:

Here are some tips for you if you want to do your own backyard self-portraits next year, or like next week just for fun, whatever:

  1. Start now.  Pick a theme or two, start a Pinterest board. Give yourself plenty of time to plan.
  2. Evaluate what you already have in your closet.  Or decide you want a new pair of leopard heels and go for it.
  3. Have a prop to play with and something to sit on.  (Last year we held champagne coupes and sat in a chrome Bertoia chair.  Because we fancy.)
  4. Shoot outside, in the shade, but with the sun shining on the ground in front of you.  Preferably before noon. You want to avoid hard shadows or bright spots. Use a tripod or a set the phone on a firm surface at shoulder-height to get a flattering, sharp image.  Frame the shot ‘in camera’ – as in, don’t expect to crop it after you take the pic.  Figure out where to put the camera so you don’t have to trim the edges of the photo after.
  5. You can use anything for a background.  While we used an actual photographer’s backdrop this year, last year we used a bedsheet on a curtain rod and left the patio pavers exposed.
  6. Practice posing in the mirror until you feel comfortable with your best, most flattering angles.  Figure out the way you smile that you like the best.  Look at your hands and figure out what doesn’t look weird.  It seems silly when you’re doing it, but it makes ALL the difference.
  7. Play some music during the shoot.  Whatever makes you feel awesome.
  8. Do your hair, do his hair, do your makeup, do his makeup.  Cover the spots. Make sure your clothes fit.  IRON THEM.  Wear your most flattering colors. Get a good nights rest the night before.  Have a cup of coffee or breakfast before you get started. Laugh.  Think about when and where you were your most happy when you take the picture. This will save you HOURS AND HOURS of retouching. (Don’t tell anyone but my skirt in these year’s photos was clipped tight in the back with a bulldog clip. Shhhh…)

And that’s it!  Good luck with your own backyard self-portraits.

Well, we made it.  2018 was one of the wildest years I’ve ever experienced.  But I’ve come out at the end hopeful, happier, healthier and ready for what’s next.

I hope you’re celebrating however fits you best tonight.  Here’s to a happy, healthy and busy 2019.

If you need a hand with planning your shoot for this year – let me know!  I’d be happy to help.

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I'm Mel!

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