Family Christmas photos can serve a variety of functions: gifts for otherwise hard-to-buy-for grandparents, the cover of specially ordered Christmas cards or a cherished memory to hang on the wall in your home and admire for years.
The more kids you have to get cleaned up and sitting still for the Christmas photo, the harder the process becomes--especially when you choose to add the family dog to the mix. This does not have to be a battle or even a bad day that your family will tell stories about for decades. Here's how.
Wear everyone out first. A tired dog is a well-behaved dog. A kid who has had a chance to run off some of the daily squirmies is a well-behaved kid (or at least a better-behaved kid). An hour or so before your photo appointment, take the kids and the dog to the park and let them run off some energy before you even think about getting them all to sit still for a photo.
Take the dress-up clothes with you. Don't dress the kids or brush the dog until you get to the photographer's studio--or until they've come in from the park if you are taking the photo yourself. Be sure to add brushes (for the kids and the dog), wet wipes for any mud that may have appeared and don't worry about making sure everyone looks "perfect" until you see the camera.
Promise a treat later--and make it a good one. Go back to the park, or go out for ice cream (many ice cream shops have outdoor seating and "pup cups" of the creamy goodness for the canine members of the family). Think of the look on Grandma's face on Christmas morning when she unwraps the perfect photo of her grandchildren and granddog. That look is worth a little bribery.
Color-coordinate the outfits. Choose clothes for the kids and a compatible backdrop that shows off the dog. A white dog will get lost in a sea of white shirts and a white backdrop--red would be better. A dark dog, on the other hand, will really stand out next to a bunch of kids in white sweaters. If your dog matters enough to you to be included in the family photo, he deserves to be seen.
Consider an "outfit" for your dog, too. A Christmas sweater for a small dog, or a pair of reindeer antlers or elf collar for the bigger breeds jack up the cute factor a notch or two.
Think about the arrangement. Choose poses that best show off the kids and the dog. A small dog could sit in one of the kids' laps, or maybe pop out of a wrapped present. Larger dogs could lounge on the floor with the kids clustered all around or be posed to look like they are pulling a sled (especially if they are wearing a reindeer antler headband).
Be creative. Don't be afraid to try a couple of different arrangements until you find the one that just, well, clicks.