12 Tips to Taking the Perfect Holiday-Card Photo

12 Tips to Taking the Perfect Holiday-Card Photo

Taking the perfect family photo for our Christmas card is no easy feat and it seems to sneak up on us every year. Capturing the family in one perfect shot is all we want, right? It does take a little planning and we are here to offer some tips to help keep the holidays bright instead of ending in a family fight. If you haven’t been completely organized and already checked this off your to-do list, let us suggest a few things to consider to help you get the card worthy perfect-picture.


  1. Location, Location, Location: First, decide if you want to have the photo inside or outside. This changes a lot of factors including clothing, time of day and even time of year. Summer beach pictures are a popular choice and can certainly be added to your getaway plans with just a few extra wardrobe pieces thrown into your suitcase ahead of time. Of course, this takes planning back in the summer, so let’s skip this idea for right now and stick with the options of inside or outside.
  2. Who, When, Where: If you plan to hire a photographer, stop reading this and call them now to schedule a session. Often your local photographers will offer holiday sessions, and these can take the stress out of planning your own setting. A few of our local favorites are Joel’s Photography and Lyndsey Sullivan Photography. If you don’t want to go this route, set up the place you want to use as a backdrop ahead of time. Blow the leaves off the porch, decorate the mantle, set up the furniture for placement. Have a seat for some to sit and room for others to stand and always consider the height of each person so you are all in proportion in the shot.
  3. Color Pallet: Wearing the right clothing is important to the overall aesthetic of your photo. Choose colors that coordinate without clashing and avoid being too matchy at the same time. For example, not everyone can wear just any red or any blue. There are certain shades of these colors that do not look good next to the other. Avoid overly stated patterns that will distract from your image. You want your faces to be the first things observed, not the pattern on a piece of clothing. We always go for classic clothing designs that are also comfortable. Kids have a short attention span and comfortable clothing keeps them happier for longer. These will not only look good today, but your children won’t be embarrassed to look back on these when they are adults. (We have all been there.) Clothing that is tailored and well-fitting is the key to everyone looking their best. Sibling sets whether coordinating and matching area always a great classic clothing option, especially for the holidays.
  4. Gather Your Eggs: This step requires some advanced planning and organization. We recommend pulling each piece of clothing to be worn in the photo shoot for each person and laying them out together. Think through everything from shoes, belts, hairbows, tights, socks, etc. There is nothing more frustrating than realizing as you get her dressed that her tights from the last holiday no longer fit or have a huge runner. (For this very reason, I always buy an extra pair of tights. It’s smart to have an extra on hand just in case that new pair run as you put them on her.)
  5. Have The Talk: Let your children know why you are taking the photo and explain how the event will play out. We like to give our kids the “here is what to expect” chat beforehand to set our expectations for their behavior. “Here is what we need you do and why,” can go along way with children’s responses to events like this. You know your child best, but sometimes reminding them the quicker they cooperate the quicker the session will be over. Our son is always eager to get back to playing with his toys, so this works like a charm with him.
  6. Keep It Tight: Remember the photo is about sharing your family, not your freshly painted front door or your newly redecorated living room. Focus the image on the people in the frame. This is what your friends and family want to see.
  7. Let There Be Light: Lighting is critical to get a successful photo. Your lighting source, whether inside or outside, should be behind the photographer. If you are shooting outside, know when the sun sets and when it is its brightest. Mid-morning and late afternoon seem to work best for lighting that is not too bright.
  8. What Time Is It: When working with children you always want to be thoughtful of the time of day. Avoid interrupting nap schedules, mealtime, or hours past their normal bedtime. Keeping snacks on hand or an extra feeding just before the event can go a long way in getting that sweet little smile you want.
  9. Just Relax: Enjoy the experience. We struggle to get enough quality family time, right? If nothing else, this is an hour of time spent with those you love. Laugh, hug, and make your children feel loved and comfortable throughout the session. If you are relaxed your children are more likely to be as well.
  10. No Cheese Please: You want to capture the most natural smiles from everyone in the photo. Avoid the cliché, “say cheese.” This will elicit fake smiles, which is exactly what you don’t want. Instead, consider telling a joke or having kids call out the names of things they are interested in like favorite foods, or sounds animals make. Anything to keep their expressions most natural is the goal.
  11. More Is More: To get that one great shot, you will need so many more to choose from than you think. Keep snapping. It could easily take 25-50 shots of one setting to find the perfect image especially when you are shooting multiple people. Someone will have their eyes closed when your best smile is captured, or you will be straightening your clothes when your child has their best expression. Keep the odds in your favor by taking as many as you can take.
  12. Reward That Smile: These events can be a challenge for any age, especially for children. They have such a short attention span so plan to give them a treat for their happy engagement. This can really be anything from a family meal afterwards at a restaurant they love or a special treat like cupcakes or cookies that you picked up ahead of time. Don’t forget a treat for mom and dad as well.

Now one last thing, add me to your mailing list. I can’t wait to see your picture-perfect family holiday cards.

*Looking for a coordinating or matching sibling set for an upcoming holiday or special event, shop our website at www.theyellowlamb.com. We are happy to help you find the perfect outfit. 


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