How to Take Better Holiday Card Photos: 4 Tips for the Last-Minute Photographer


The holidays are around the corner, but if you’re anything like me, you’ve put the annual holiday card on the backburner (again) and are starting to feel anxious over how you'll get a great family photo in time to get your cards out.  Not to mention it’s too late to get a studio appointment as all of the local photographers have been booked for months. Sigh.

If you’re in the caught in the same conundrum, I've done some research and found 4 tips to help us both snap a few great pics for a festive and fun holiday card. 

1. Don't Be Afraid of Your Camera. It Wants to Help You.

Before you start, make friends with your camera.  Familiarize yourself with the camera settings and take some test shots (don't forget to charge your battery btw).  If you intend to get a shot of the entire family, experiment with the self timer and a tripod or other object to put your camera on (ladder, outdoor furniture, stack of boxes...).  Accustom yourself with your camera BEFORE your family’s all together - you’ll waste less time during the shoot if you come in prepared, not to mention your family's patience and attention spans.  Also, don’t fret if you don’t have a fancy camera.   A simple digital camera or even a smartphone can get beautiful shots just as well. This post has some quick tips for beginners. 

2. Ok, You're Going to Have to Do SOME Planning

Plan ahead and think about when and what shots you want to create before you gather your family together. Choosing what date to have your photo shoot can be crucial - be sure to leave enough time to take pictures, edit, design, and order your holiday cards.  After you pick a date, brainstorm some ideas for settings and props.  This is a fantastic time to forgive Pinterest for making you feel inadequate and hunt for ideas you can steal. (Did I say steal? I mean ideas you can gather inspiration from. Yeah.) I've done some of the work for you (you're welcome) via Shortcake’s holiday Pinterest board. If you have time, start raiding the closets to see if you can coordinate some outfits or do a bit of shopping. 

3. Set the Scene 

Bring your holiday spirit to life with settings and props.  Start by choosing a location for your photo shoot: indoors or outside? If you’re shooting indoors, incorporate holiday decorations from around the house. Maybe pose in front of the Christmas tree for a classic Christmas photo or gather your family around a decorated fireplace.  Even better, try using an interesting backdrop or holiday lights to give your pictures a festive feel.  

If you’re shooting outdoors, there are a few elements to keep in mind.  First and foremost - the weather. Shooting in late November or early December can pose some difficulty for photographers. Try to shoot earlier in the season so that the months are warmer to avoid photographing runny noses and frozen cheeks. Be aware of your lighting as well. I've talked about shooting during the golden hour, but now that the days are growing shorter, finding that perfect time to get the lighting right might be a bit tricky. An easy rule of thumb to remember is the most successful photos taken outside are shot in bright, indirect lighting. Avoid shooting in direct sunlight to rid your photos of any strange shadows or pesky streaks of light, and you’ll have yourself a stellar final photo. 

4. Finishing Touch

Often times, we rely on professional editors to ensure the quality of our pictures.  Instead, after you’ve selected your favorite photo, try editing your pictures yourself. (You can do this! I promise you don’t even need Photoshop.) With free online editing tools such as PicMonkey or Pixlr, you can edit your photos to perfection.  Switch it up by sending out a classic black and white photograph, or compile a photo collage if you can’t just choose one.  With a little Wifi, all the resources you need are right at your fingertips. 

Any other tips you've learned from seasons past? Please share in the comments - some of us need all the help we can get. 



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