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25 Christmas Card Photo Ideas & Tips for Great Christmas Pictures

Photos add a very personal touch to your Christmas cards. Everyone loves to see the smiling faces of the people they love (and far-flung family members especially look forward to seeing how the kids have grown over the past year!) Taking a photo that truly captures the love and joy of the season requires a little preparation and planning, but you really can do it yourself. You don't even need to visit a photographer, invest in expensive equipment, or book out a whole afternoon for the project.

family Christmas photo in snow

Using a Smartphone for Christmas Pictures

  1. Can You Take Christmas Photos with Smartphones? – The answer is yes! Cell phone cameras have come a very long way in the last few years and are more than capable of taking card-worthy portraits. In fact, the little phone camera you carry around in your pocket all day is very likely to be more powerful and versatile than the average stand-alone digital camera from just three years ago! (The same holds true for tablet cameras, too.)
  2. Treat Your Smartphone Like a Traditional Camera - To properly harness the potential of your smartphone camera, you need to treat it a bit more like a traditional camera. The usual extended-arm, one-hand point-and-shoot method results in blurry holiday photos and uneven framing.
  3. Christmas photo taken with smartphone
  4. Hold Your Smartphone Properly - A better photography technique would be to hold your phone with both hands, and rest your elbows against your chest. You can move around in-between shots, but stand still and firm before you actually click.
  5. Utilize Natural Lighting - If at all possible, take your Christmas photos in bright, natural light. This photography technique is especially important if you're trying to capture action shots or even just very wriggly children. The more light you have, the faster your camera can react.
  6. Choose a Bright Camera Setting - Crisp and interesting photos with your phone are totally possible, but you need to meet it halfway by choosing a bright setting. Some smartphone cameras allow you to increase the exposure which allows more light to hit the camera sensor, resulting in a brighter Christmas photo.
  7. Take Lots of Christmas Photos - Take many, many, many photos, so that you'll have plenty to sift through while making your final choice.
  8. winter wonderland Christmas card picture
  9. Find a Good Photo App - Another joy is the huge realm of smartphone photo apps out there to help you take and edit your Christmas pictures for maximum quality and interest. Just three which could revolutionize your holiday photo card this year:
    • Snappy Cam Pro, for iPhone and iPad, lets you capture photo bursts when you hold down the shutter button, just like a high-speed DSLR.
    • Handy Photo, for Apple and Android devices, is an instant photo editor which uses swipe motions to layer effects.
    • Geló (iPhone only) allows you to apply gradient colors and gels to your pictures, mimicking the sophisticated results you might get from Photoshop.
  10. Don’t Use a Timer for Your Christmas Picture - Finally, if you're looking to take a holiday photo which includes the whole family, it's worth roping in a friend to wield the camera phone. Self-timed photos often give disappointing results. People stiffen up while waiting, postures become uncomfortable, and facial expressions freeze. Much of the joy of smartphone photography is the spontaneity of the pictures, but you really need a person behind the lens.
  11. Christmas Photo Poses

    Posing the photo for family Christmas cards is often a stressful issue. Whether you gather your entire extended family for a photo shoot or head out with just yourself and the little ones, there are lots of ways to add a little pizzazz to your family Christmas cards!

  12. Avoid Cliché Poses – Staying away from "Everyone In a Row" syndrome is easy, even if you're aiming for a more traditional photo.
  13. Christmas photo with Christmas lights
  14. Experiment with Unique Poses - A unique Christmas card photo idea is to look for interesting levels beyond just sitting and standing, consider visually interesting groupings (beyond "Parents in the back, kids down in front!") and encourage people to move.

    So feel free to get in the action! Some of the most interesting family photos are action shots. Sharing an active moment makes the recipients of the Christmas cards feel more in touch with your family.
  15. Candid Christmas Card Photos - Professional photographers will tell you that they are looking to capture a moment and the most precious pictures might not show everyone facing front, eyes forward. Hugs, kisses, and cuddles keep things light and help to highlight the warmth of your relationships, and once again, silly is special.
  16. candid Christmas photos for cards
  17. Carefully Choose Your Outfits - Your choice of clothing will contribute greatly to the character of your final photo.
  18. Contrasting Attire Can Be Conflicting - When you're photographing a group, too many loud and contrasting colors and patterns can be distracting.
  19. Matching Outfits - One simple holiday photograph idea is to dress everyone alike. With little children, the result can be adorable, but teenagers may be more difficult to convince. If you don't choose wisely, you risk inviting the cheese factor.
  20. Christmas card photos with Santa hats
  21. Embrace the Cheese - Some families choose to embrace the cheesy Christmas outfits, with fun and memorable results: corny Christmas plaid or atrocious holiday sweaters + a few silly faces = hilarity.
  22. Classic and Coordinating is Okay - The middle road is to pick a limited color palette and have everyone in the photo coordinate. It will give a sense of cohesion and interest to the picture, while keeping things comfortable and natural.
  23. Tips for Taking Holiday Photos with Kids

  24. Be Patient with Kids - Some kids are natural hams who love to be photographed at every opportunity, while others are a bit shy, reluctant, or just too busy doing fascinating kid things to stand still for the camera. It takes a bit of patience to snap a perfect Christmas photo, especially if you have a large brood.
  25. Have Fun - Formal poses can be tiring for little ones, and boring for older kids, but sometimes a regular snapshot just won't do. Try this photography tip: set up an activity: baking cookies, decorating the tree, wrapping presents, or building a snowman, and let them settle into it.

    And let the little ones get silly. Don't force a smile or make the kids pose in awkward ways. Letting them play and capturing a moment of pure fun will create a card that extended family members and friends will treasure!
  26. family wrapped in lights holiday photo
  27. Capture Their Attention - Snap away, but every now and then, call out a prompt to catch their attention: "Everyone look at me!" or "Funny faces at the count of three!" Keeping everyone occupied will let you extend the session without wearing anyone out, and the more holiday photos you can take, the better your chances of capturing a gem.
  28. Incorporate Props - Utilizing props is another great Christmas photo idea that will keep interest and engagement levels high. An umbrella, some feather boas, balloons, or cowboy hats will inspire imaginative poses and uses, and the results are likely to be extra adorable.
  29. props for Christmas card pictures

    Christmas Photos with Pets Ideas

  30. The “Awww” Factor - Adding the fuzzy face of your beloved pet to your holiday card provides instant charm and ups the cuteness.
  31. How to Incorporate Pets - You can add them into the mix with everybody else, or have them stand in for the family.
  32. photo booth Christmas picture with dog
  33. Know Their Limits - Dogs and cats can be more work to photograph than the most active toddler, so it's important to know your pet's limits.
  34. Tired Pets are Easier to Photograph - The easiest photography tip is to catch them napping. They're relaxed, they're oblivious, and best of all, they're just adorable when they sleep! Otherwise, think about giving them a bit of exercise before the Christmas card photoshoot. As they say, a tired dog is a happy dog and your cat might be a lot more mellowed out after a good session with a catnip mouse.
  35. dog on couch with family Christmas card photo
  36. Bribe Pets with Treats - When you do begin to photograph for your Christmas cards, bribes are a powerful tool for keeping interest and alertness levels high. The smell of treats or the sight of the beloved ball will do wonders to catch that sparkle in your pet's eye.

So don't be afraid to get creative with your Christmas card photo this year. Creating and preserving memories are some of the best activities of the season, and when you take your own photos for your holiday cards, you're doing both.

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