In this season of giving, The Little Style File is thrilled to share a new nonprofit project from one of our favorite photographers.  She'll also be sharing great tips for how to photograph your family over the holidays! The Little Style File:  Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us today.  Please tell us about Gina Cristine Photography. How did it get started?

Gina Cristine Photography:  GCP got started in 2008. I had my daughter Ava, and brought her to one of the mall studio type places for her 6 week pictures. It was freezing, the photographer was very un personable, and Ava broke out in a rash from the dirty blankets. Knowing photography from taking classes in college and my dad showing me film growing up, I decided from now on just to take her photos myself. After friends seeing her photos they started asking for me to take their children's photos. Once people started calling that were friends of friends, I knew it was time to design a professional website and become incorporated. Since then we have grown into needing a studio space and hiring on other photographers. In 2011 I started to realize how fleeting my time was with my two children, and as much as I enjoyed shooting, I needed to step back a bit and have a set schedule with work. So we hired photographers I trust to give my clients options if i was unavailable. It has been working really well and it is so wonderful to work with such a talented group of women!

family photography

TLSF:  How were you inspired to create your nonprofit organization?

GCP:  I feel like it is time to give back. I know that photography is a gift/talent that I can share with others. I actually came up with this idea a few years ago. To give sessions to families who lost their home to a fire. I was not sure how to get it off the ground, so I just let it sit. After the tornadoes in central IL last month, a friend contacted me about getting a gift certificate for a cousin who lost her home. My friend said out of everything she is most upset about the photographs that are gone. They have their lives, but the photo memories are no longer there. Then my idea from a couple years ago popped back into my head. I know we can not replace the lost photos, and I know many of these people will not be ready to take new photos for some time after the disaster, but we will be here, ready for when they are. We want these families to have beautiful ART in their new homes of their family. Their new chapter as survivors. Hence the name HeARTography. I was actually talked out of starting a non profit. Again i sat on it, but this time I fought the nay sayers and reached out on social media to anyone else who has started a non profit. I wanted to know who started one, and what can be so bad about starting it that people were talking me out of it. One of my clients works for an extremely generous man. He believes 200% in non profit and he agreed to talk to me. The first thing he said to me when he got on the phone was "dont let anyone tell you no. there is nothing wrong with doing something good for others" He went on to say how much he supported me and would be here for any advise or help I need along the way. And his conversation ended with "Live simply so other can simply live" That was all I needed. Knowing I had support from someone who has started non profits himself and is so willing to help others. I went home and started posting about HeARTography.

heARTography Project

TLSF:  Who is eligible? How can families apply?

GCP:  Any family that has lost their home to fire or natural disaster. We are looking for families with inspiring stories to share with others who may be going through the same thing. The nomination form is here (you can nominate yourself or a family you know): the heARTography project.

family photography

TLSF:  What can we do to help?

GCP:  As of right now we need to spread the word!!! To let people know we are here! Help us by telling everyone you know. As we grow, we will start needing photographers in other areas and monetary donations so we can include wall prints for the families. Here is the link to more info

TLSF:  Do you have any tips for families taking photographs this holiday season?

GCP:  Of course! This is my favorite time of the year to photograph.

1. Dont forget the details. We tend to just stand there in the back of the room and take photos from afar of baby sitting on grandma's lap, or papa reading a story. Get up close! Get your babies hand in his grandmother's hand. Stand behind papa and get the children's reaction to him telling the story. Always kneel or bend down to get on the child's level. Take photos from their point of view.Think of telling a story of the holiday with pictures not words. What photos would you need to tell the story of that day?

holiday photography

2. Have your camera out so you can capture moments that may seem small, but if your camera is out and ready, you will use it. Think the ornament they made at school, decorating the gingerbread house, playing in front of the tree, baking cookies. These are traditions that may seem small, but you will be so happy to look back on in the years to come.

how to take great holiday photos

The next tips may require a little more camera knowledge, but everyone should give it a try and experiment!

3. Christmas tree and/or holiday light "bokeh". This is where those lights in the background do that beautiful sparkly glow. Put your camera on the Aperture priority mode. Turn your aperture/f-stop to the maximum your lens will go (3.5 for a kit lens but you may have a lens that will do 2.8 or even 1.4). Have you subject sit at least a few feet in front of the tree. Get close to your subject and shoot! This works because you have a better depth of field with a wide open lens and being close on your subject. Basically for those of you that understand your camera, you want a very wide open lens, and a good amount of depth of field. Of course this can be done on manual mode, but I am keeping this as simple as possible.

how to photograph the holidays

4. Snow flakes. This you want to be in shutter priority mode. And you are going to need a snowy (hopefully larger snow flake day) You want a fast shutter speed to stop motion. So set your shutter speed to something fast. Maybe start at 1/1000 of a second. Have your child stand still and try to catch a flake on her tongue. Or have them throw snow up in the air. The faster your shutter, the more likely you will get more detailed snow flakes instead of blurs.

how to photograph the holidays

5. Make a new years resolution to either print these photos or make a book! Don't let all these memories sit on a hard drive. Remember how fun it is for you as a child to look at photos in albums, your kids will love that too. This is something I am so guilty of myself. I have started using blurb. com to make large books of the whole year and to make smaller books of particular events.

holiday photography

Thanks again, Gina, for the great tips and sharing your amazing new project with us!