Santa Claus before Tom Turkey; photo time tips

If you have young children, you probably have every intention of having them visit Santa sometime before Christmas.  You’ll put on their holiday outfits, take them to the mall, and gently coax them to sit on Santa’s lap before darting to the camera to capture those intimate whispers to the Big Elf.

I’ll let you in on a little secret:  This won’t happen during December.  More likely will be scarce parking, winding wait lines, and cranky kids freaked out as much by one another’s Santa reactions as by their own parents’ anxiety.  Determine now to avoid this madness.  Follow’s tips.

Most Santa outposts begin their operations well before Thanksgiving so they are rehearsed and ready to go on the following Friday.  The set is new and unworn, Santa is rested and pleasant (of course, he’s always either pleasant or comatose), and the photo helpers are eager for a subject.  Take advantage of these early days, and you’ll go into the season with your santa photos already on the fridge.

1.  Pick a late afternoon or early evening, and have everyone well fortified so the food court isn’t a distraction until you’re done.

2.  If you have an infant, pack his or her holiday outfit to put on once you arrive.  A spit up or blowout up to the moment before photos will pretty much ruin the whole attempt at this point.  Have a top bib and be prepared to remove it the moment before the camera snaps to reveal either the darling outfit or the ”dress” bib that is worthy of the photo.  A “spit happens” bib will not be cute or legible in the final shot.

Best areas for changing diapers or donning picture clothes:  Galleria – Belk’s restroom, 2nd floor between children’s clothing and lingerie; there is also a full changing area, complete with sink and paper towels, outside the children’s section

Brookwood Village – Public restroom on 2nd floor, back of food court has an enclave in the women’s restroom with changing table; Books A Million has a large restroom although limited diaper changing space

3.  Take time to explain the Santa Visit to preschool children and the simple expectations of this adventure:  They will:  1. Sit on Santa’s lap. 2.  Tell him what they want for Christmas.  3. Have their picture taken.  4.  Receive a trinket from Santa (I recommend supplementing this with a pretzel, cookie, or ice cream so you can enjoy the reward as well).

4.   Without the pressure of people waiting, you have a better opportunity to calmly introduce and settle the kids with Santa and get a decent photo.  Of course, you can immediately view and select your photo if you purchase one from Santa’s vendor.  A simple 4×6 or 5×7 is fine; anything larger is hard to display and looks out of season once the holidays pass.  You are not obligated to purchase a photo; mall management knows that Santa is an attraction you expect.

Hint on backgrounds:  Galleria Santa is wearing a plaid vest with green as the dominant color, so red clothing really pops next to him.  Brookwood Santa has been in more traditional red, so greens and whites contrast nicely against his clothing. Summit Santa is in traditional red and has Mrs. Claus with him, although they are only making weekend and special occasion appearances.

5.  Don’t forget to take your camera.  The candid shots and outtakes are often the most fun. Years later you, too, will ponder how this ritual of terrorizing small children came to be such a beloved tradition.