Getting that perfect holiday shot can be challenging without the right "tools" in your pocket. I am here to share some of the tips I've learned from personal experience and from being friends with some amazing professional photographers.
Let's get started....
How to Take Holiday Card Photos
So you've got your DSLR or point-and-shoot and you're ready to take some photos of the kids for your annual holiday card. Be sure to read the seven steps for success below. In fact, I highly recommend you pin this post and RE-READ it the day you do your photo shoot.
1. MAKE IT AN EARLY ADVENTURE
Do a little research about the art of photography and you’ll quickly learn about the golden hour. Basically, photos taken in indirect light naturally turn out nicer! Pictures taken in harsh mid-day sun require the photographer to take the pics in “open shade.” This works fine, too, but it is a lot more limiting.
Need another reason? Kids are almost always more cooperative at the start of the day. Take advantage of that window of opportunity for fresh faces and upbeat moods.
The key to great smiles is simple: tell you children you'll be taking photos non-stop all day and then make it FUN for the kids.
Plan a full morning of activities! Our family went hiking (in dresses!) at a gorgeous state park, we had a picnic lunch at the art museum sculpture park, and then headed downtown to take advantage of some of the beautiful lines architecture can offer. See some of our photo outtakes at the end of the post!
2. ENSURE BOTH YOU & THE KIDS ARE WELL FED
Have a nice, big breakfast before putting on your special outfits for the session. If needed, consider offering up mess-free snacks like Goldfish crackers during your adventure — something they can pop into their mouth whole, without any messy drips or crumbs.
There’s nothing worse than trying to get a cranky, hungry child to smile . Strike that… a hungry MOM can sometimes out-whine the kids. (This quote cracks me up. THAT is so me.) Just remember, don’t skip breakfast; make sure you eat with your kiddos, too!
3. AVOID CLASHING OUTFITS
Coordinating outfits can be tough. While I’ve seen it done nicely, personally I’m not a fan of having kids wearing the exact same thing.
I love designers who offer collections that follow a similar color palette across multiple styles. That way you can ensure your kids coordinate without overdoing it. My three favorite resources for coordinating family outfits are:
- Hanna Anderson | See their family shop collection
- Gymboree | Check out their latest holiday line
- Jacadi | Classic high-quality children's styles
Honestly, from year to year I rotate between these three retailers depending on the styles. This year I just adore all the pieces that Hanna Anderson has to offer.
How cute is that little baby girl??!?
I don't mind paying a little extra for a holiday piece, especially if I know the kids will wear the outfit all winter long.
4. THINK FORWARD
Let’s play tic-tac-toe. If you’re like me, your natural instinct is to put that adorable child of yours right smack dab in the middle of the photo frame. Resist the urge. Remember the basic rule of thirds when taking photos.
This simple suggestion will greatly improve the composition of your photos. If your camera has a grid display, great! If not, just imagine a tic-tac-toe board in your head.
Remember, you want to try to keep your subject on these lines and near the cross point. Be sure to watch below to see how the rule of thirds is used in the examples below.
Using this technique opens the door to sending cute text-overlay cards like the ones below. Basically, you are leaving space for your holiday greeting!
Check out a few of my favorite Rule of Thirds holiday card designs below.
See more holiday card designs from minted.
Another benefit of shooting photos using the Rule of Thirds is that you are able to easily crop the horizontal image and make it into a vertical photo.
This opens the door for you to use the image in cute holiday cards like these. So sweet.
See more holiday card designs from minted.
5. SHADE IS YOUR FRIEND
If you are out mid-day, one of the easiest ways to get a great shot of your kids is to let them play in open shade. Open shade is simply a large area of shade. Nothing more, nothing less.
Sometimes the easiest way to understand a concept is to see MISTAKES. Here is an example of what NOT to do:
The photo of my two ladies below is sweet, but notice how harsh the light and shadows are in direct sun. Compare this photo to the other examples in this post. All of the other showcased images from this hiking adventure were taken in open shade. Scroll down and check out the difference!
6. LET THEM BE SILLY
If you want your kids to smile nicely for the camera, let them be goof balls. If you are in a situation where you really want to get a nice shot, follow this simple three-step pattern:
- Ask or tell your children politely that you’d like to take a pic. Grab your first shot.
- Then, tell your kids, “Ok, now do a crazy pose.” Grab a few silly shots.
- Then after a few seconds say, “Now, show me your sweetest smile.” Grab the money shot.
Toothless, but perfect in my eyes. Remember, being constantly in front of the lens is not always desirable for kids. Make it fun and nine times out of ten, you’ll capture a stellar image.
Honestly, more often than not the crazy poses end up being my favorite pictures. The day we went out hiking I captured many traditional portrait shots, but this playful photo ended up being my favorite.
In my mind, it showcased the spirit of the season: joy, love, empathy, and giving.
7. DON'T FRET
The fastest way to RUIN a holiday photo shoot is to be anxious about getting the perfect shot. Your children are the moon, and you are their sun... In other words, they reflect your behavior. Enjoy yourself and remember, you have an entire year's worth of photos already at home. If you can't get the shot you want today, don't worry about pulling something creative from your pre-existing image library. In the end, remember that people simply want to share in the joy of the holidays.
I love the example below of the little boy in the puddle. Using a vacation photo or a summer picture will help your holiday card stand out. See some cute examples from minted below.
Click here to learn why I adore minted.com so much.
We had a lot of fun on our photo adventure day. I have a library full of playful photos and the kids had a memorable afternoon. I hope you and your kids will enjoy yourselves and walk away from your family photo shoot being able to say the same thing!
In the end, this is the photo I picked and the postcard I order from minted last year.
Twisted Peppermint Holiday Postcards | Customize this design on minted
If you don't get to ordering the cards straight away, don't fret. I personally *LOVE* getting New Year cards after the stream of Christmas mail stops.
Check out some of the unique New Year designs minted has to offer.
If you have any questions about the photography tips above, please don't hesitate to ask. Let's chat in the comments.
Be sure to follow my DSLR for Beginners Pinterest board for ongoing year-round photography inspiration.
PS: Looking for additional inspiration? I am proud to be sharing holiday card ideas with the blogs Peanut Blossom, The Artful Parent and Simple As That this month. Click below to see some of their photography tips and creative ideas!
OUTTAKES: Here are a few outtakes from our adventure.
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I've purchased minted cards in the past (because I love the site). However, this year minted has offered to provide me complimentary holiday cards as a thank you for sharing tips with you. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”