How to Take the Best Holiday Family Photo

Accomplish the holiday task with ease this year.

Best Holiday Family Photo
Photo: via Pinterest/Melanie Mauer

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. Avoid direct sun, as it will create unpleasant shadows on your family's face. Cloudy days are actually ideal for good photos. 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.

Family Portrait
As Christmas draws near, Beth, Kevin, and their children, Mac and Lilli, all lend a hand to decorate, adding simple touches that mark the season without overwhelming the home’s everyday charms. Take a tour of the Smiths’ “happy” ho. Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

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. We are still such an advocate for matching family pajama sets for Christmas morning, but let's just pass on them for the Christmas card. 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 to your holiday cards.

Christmas Tree Family at Tree Farm
Ryan J Lane / Getty Images

Don't Just 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. One way to produce a good candid is to instruct your family to walk and at the same time try to trip each other, (just make sure everyone knows not to actually trip one another.) This will make your pictures fun and will give you those happy photos where everyone is laughing that you desire.

Do Your 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.

Puppy Chow Snack Mix
bhofack2/Getty Images

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 holiday 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.

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