via Pinterest/Melanie Mauer

Accomplish the holiday task with ease this year.

The holiday season wouldn’t be complete without the receiving of dozens of holiday cards from friends, family, and occasionally a person or two you’re not totally sure you actually know. Cute kids, though! Now, it seems as if we’re beginning to receive holiday cards earlier and earlier every year, making it even more pressure-inducing to take family holiday photos as soon as possible to send those cards out before it’s considered ‘too late.’

The best thing about sending and receiving holiday cards is being able to spread the festive mood to those we know and care about. You get to check in on friends and family that you might not see very often, and you get to feel connected to them, even as you’re frantically running around during the busiest time of year. It’s a real treat; although, we often stress ourselves out about it. To make your life a little easier this year, here are a few tips for taking a great holiday family photo.

Set the scene.

Taking your family photos outside ensures a more interesting backdrop with better lighting, if done correctly. Morning and evening work well for the best natural light. Choose a setting that evokes seasonality, such as a Christmas tree farm, a rustic farm or green space, the beach, or anything that might have some natural seasonal colors in the background. It’ll make for a more festive portrait, but make sure to not go too complicated with the setting. Keep it simple.

Dress accordingly, and aesthetically.

We hope it’s become common knowledge by now, but dressing too matchy-matchy is not the way to go for family photos anymore. Being too coordinated looks stiff and not as aesthetically pleasing. Instead, be a little lax with specifics when telling your crew what to wear. A general color scheme, in seasonal tones, will give a cozier feel for your holiday cards.

Don’t only go for the poses.

We understand that sometimes it’s hard enough to just get a semi-composed group picture where everyone is looking and smiling, with no closed eyes across the board. But, try to get some candid shots of your family interacting or doing some sort of activity. This approach makes for a more family-oriented photo, and it also adds a lot more interest to the holiday card than a traditional pose. With much larger families, this might be a little more difficult to achieve, but worth it.

Do some pre-shoot research.

Not sure what kind of photo you want this year? Sometimes the best way to get an idea is to look at what others have done to determine what you do and don’t like. It’s hard to be creative and original every single year all by yourself, so get a little virtual help. We personally hail Pinterest as the catch-all resource, but check out holiday card websites and even some of last year’s cards you received (if you keep them). You’ll get a feeling for what style, colors, and layout you want to aim for before taking your family photos.

WATCH: Easy Holiday Calligraphy Tips

Make it fun.

It’s no secret that taking family photos might be on many people’s top-five most dreaded holiday tasks, but it’ll turn out much better if you make it a little more fun. Put some music on to lighten the mood, and maybe even work some treats into the mix, whatever little special pick-me-up that can motivate your family (there’s no shame in that!). If everyone isn’t dreading it, you’re going to turn out with a much better photo to make this year’s card the best one yet.