With years of experience working as a family photographer, I work with my clients to create uniquely beautiful portraits to feature on the family’s holiday cards. Thanks to Google and shows like Ellen, we’ve all been entertained by some truly horrible family holiday cards. This year, ensure that you and your family have a truly happy holiday (and never end up on Ellen’s list!) by following these four simple tips for taking great holiday card portraits!

Mistake #1: Not planning ahead

Before taking your holiday card photo, bring the whole family up to speed regarding where and when they need to meet. Agree upon a color scheme and specify whether you are seeking a formal or casual vibe. If you’re taking the photo yourself, make sure the camera, battery, memory card, and tripod are all in proper working order. If you’re working with a professional photographer, touch base a day or two before the shoot to clarify the mission and to confirm that everything is in place.

With this family, we made arrangements in advance to meet at their home and then drive to the location together to simplify the logistics.

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Mistake #2: Trying to plan everything alone

You have a lot on your plate during holiday season and the last thing you need is the added stress of micromanaging your upcoming holiday photo shoot. That’s why I recommend that you put your photographer to work for you. We are experts at what we do and can be far more better sources of information than you might expect. Rather than googling local locations or wasting hours on Pinterest looking for the perfect portrait style, simply call up your photographer and ask for a minute to discuss your upcoming shoot. Personally, I am happy to make suggestions regarding planning, posing, time of day, locations and more.

For this photo session at the family’s home, we discussed the specific locations in their yard and the best time of day to take a beautiful family portrait.

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Mistake #3: Getting lost in cluttered backgrounds

Resist the urge to construct gaudy displays of poinsettias, stuffed snowmen, blow up nutcracker dolls, or any of the like. It’s sometimes tempting to try to capture the minute detail of your holiday decór, but it generally results in cluttered, busy-looking photography. If you’re taking your holiday card portrait at home, tune up your family’s look by toning down the holiday cheer – that is, in the material sense. Eliminate distracting backgrounds by stepping your subjects into the foreground, shooting with a shallow depth of field, and tucking away some of the excess holiday decorations.

This photo is a great example of using shallow depth of field to keep the focus on the mom and baby.

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Mistake #4: Problems with punctuation

During the holiday season, everything is done in a hurry and proper punctuation is probably the last thing on your mind. Once your prints are ready and you’re fine-tuning the holiday card design, take a minute to edit because a misplaced apostrophe or typo can put a damper on even the most beautiful holiday cards. I have to admit that even I have had to have cards reprinted due to an unnoticed stray period, but the benefit for clients working with me is that they can have complete confidence any issues won’t become their problem to deal with and that I will care of it immediately so that their perfect cards can be sent out in plenty of time to arrive before the holidays.

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