You might consider this tradition a lifelong work that will continue as the years go by. But how will you manage the yearly Christmas event to ensure that you do get quality photos you will be using for the slideshows?
Here are some ideas you may want to consider. They're by no means comprehensive, but they will help get you started.
This is important, obviously, so get one if you have to beg, borrow or steal. If one year has no set of pictures, then that year throws off the photo series and sticks out like a sore thumb.
When I decided to do this yearly tradition, I realized I didn't have photos for year 2002. So, I just did the next best thing. I looked for photographs that were taken in December of that year.
In 2005, my old camera broke and I borrowed someone else's camera just to take pictures. I didn't know how to adjust the camera settings. The owner hardly used it and there was no manual.
The pictures came out with a high color saturation. So I had to rely on photo-editing software to normalize the pictures. I immediately bought a replacement camera after Christmas.
You don't need a big-ass mega-expensive DLSR camera for a simple slideshow. Even a simple point-and-shoot will do.
However, you need a camera that has a tripod mounting slot at the bottom. The camera also needs to have a timer feature so you can set it up to take a photo after a set time.
This comes handy if you have nobody else to to take pictures. There are now inexpensive flexible mini tripods so you can set your camera virtually anywhere.
Just like the camera, it helps to take notes as you take pictues. Where is the tripod located? How is it angled? This ensures consistency of pictures for the years to come.
This is where you will manage all the photo-editing and slideshow making jobs. Be sure to have working loudspeakers if you intend to have music for slideshows. Setup folders by year and then store picture files by year so they're better organized.
- Backup Devices
In today's digital world, it's easy to create electronic files such as your photo files. It's also easy to lose them however. Equipment damage, data corruption and virus attacks may render your computer useless.
Sometimes such incidents require you to reformat your computer and therefore lose your files. So it's important to backup your precious picture files into electronic media like usb's, cd's or external drives. I was lucky to backup many of my picture files in usb's and cd's when my computer had to be reformatted several times.
- Slideshow software
Whether you'll be working on a Christmas card or a Christmas slideshow, you will need editing software. Fortunately, there are now more slideshow software that are free and with more capabilities.
Most slideshow software allow you to incorporate sound or music into your finished product. Surf around for the better ones.
- Audio-editing software
Music files that you want added into your slideshows may have to be edited. Parts of the audio may need to be trimmed or deleted. You may require sound effects like fade-out towards the end of the clip and more.
Be aware that audio files come in a variety of file formats (mp3, wma, etc.), so be sure you have capability to convert to the proper format should you need it.
Although some slideshow software have these capabilities, some may not.
- Music files
Select audio that suits the photos. I'm sure there will be plenty of smiles in your photos so pick music that has an upbeat mood to suit the festive season.
- Pick a theme for the year
This is one way to involve your kids in the activity, and hopefully, get them in the mood. Ask for suggestions.
If there's a peculiarity in the present year that you can adopt as a theme, then better. This makes the year more memorable. I remember 2010 was the new president's inauguration and yellow was his campaign color.
So the theme "yellow shirts" became an instant hit. But be ready with a simple theme if nobody can come up with one.
- Schedule the photo-op
Although the pictorial shouldn't last more than 30 minutes, nothing can be more frustrating than when kids aren't ready for it. Announce when you will take pictures, ahead of time.
By doing so, they can set time for it and may actually look forward to it. I usually schedule it on the last week of November or early December. It can be difficult getting all kids together especially if their ages are far apart.
- Make it fun
It's fun dressing up for a pictorial but others consider it a chore. Depending on their age, some kids can easily become bored, impatient or restless during the entire pictorial.
You can ease up the cranky mood by giving incentives. How about taking them to the mall and have lunch right after the pictorial? They're already dressed anyway.