Things to Know

  • Where your pictures come to life
    in photo books, cards and gifts.
  • Wedding invitations and
    stationery for every step
    of the planning process.
  • Online photo and video equipment rental.
  • Professional quality photo
    books and premium albums.

20 Family Photo Shoot Tips for Your Holiday Card

Sending a holiday card is one of the best and most cherished seasonal traditions, and a personalized photo card is even more special. Everyone will see how much the kids have grown and what you've been up to all year. Before you can create a card, you will need the perfect photo. If you're looking for some inspiration before you start snapping your own photos, take some time to browse these Christmas photo ideas. Whether you're hiring a professional photographer, or having an impromptu shoot in your own home, you'll be able to snap the most spectacular photo for your holiday card this year with these helpful tips.

Preparation for the Photo Shoot Tips

1. Pick your favorite card design

family photo shoot tips for your holiday card

Before your photo shoot, browse our holiday cards so you can find a design and use the sample photography as inspiration. Look out for text placement and design overlays to help you plan your photo composition accordingly. If you like multi-photo card designs, consider that you'll have to get several good shots as opposed to just one. And remember that light text looks best on a dark photo background and vice versa!

2. Find a neutral background

photo shoot tips neutral background

Want a super seasonal feel? Try locations like tree farms or fields of snow. Just make sure the location adds to, and does not distract from, the mood or theme of your shoot.

3. Try a seasonal backdrop

seasonal backdrop for holiday photo shoot tips

Want a super seasonal feel? Try locations like tree farms or fields of snow. Just make sure the location adds to, and does not distract from, the people in your photo. If you're planning ahead and taking your holiday photos early, keep in mind that you'll be sharing this photo in early December so you may want everything to have a winter-feel even if it's still summer outside.

4. Shoot in your own home

photo shoot tips for shooting in your own home

If you have kids and/or pets, in-home shoots are often the easiest option. Your photo subjects are at ease, which makes for a great, natural shot. Just remember that tip number one still applies, so look around the house to find that neutral background. When shooting indoors it's best to let window light in on the subject, and avoid standing directly in front of a window.

5. Consider recreating an old family photo

Take a look back on photos from Christmas past, and choose one to recreate! Old family photos can be tons of fun to mimic. This creative idea is especially fun for families with older children to show people how much they've grown. You can even choose a card to showcase both images side by side.

6. Look for consistent lighting

consistent lighting photo shoot tips

You may be disappointed to find that the day you're planning to take your photos is a little overcast, but shade is actually the best option as long as you keep an eye out for harsh shadows. Morning and late afternoon right before dusk are great times for outdoor photo shoots. Natural light is preferred, but avoid direct sunlight. Try to keep lighting consistent across photos and shoots for a cohesive feel.

7. Embrace natural lighting

natural lighting photo shoot tips

If you're taking photos inside, choose a bright area of the house—window light can be really beautiful. Turn off other light sources, such as overhead lights, which can be less flattering and cast a color to the photos. Natural lighting is great for photo shoots with pets too because flash tends to frighten them and cause red-eye.

What to Wear

8. Dress in neutral colors and patterns

Choose neutral-colored clothing to avoid clashing with your holiday card design or distracting from your photo subjects. Try coordinating your outfits without matching perfectly, to capture everyone's individuality. Concerned about spilling coffee on your white shirt before the shoot? Consider bringing your outfit on a hanger and changing upon arrival. Don't forget to iron any wrinkle-prone clothes!

9. Show some personal style

Show your personal style by wearing outfits that complement your holiday card design. For example, a traditional card design might look great with a classic flannel shirt. If your personal style is bright and colorful, just pick a neutral card design to match.

The Day of the Shoot

10. Shoot a variety of styles

Taking photos with different orientations gives you the most flexibility with holiday card designs. Take photos that are horizontal and vertical, and capture as many zoomed out shots as possible so you can crop in for a variety of photo box sizes. Don't forget to take a few close-ups as well.

11. Leave some whitespace

whitespace photo shoot tips

Both leaving whitespace around the subject and shooting off center may seem strange at first, but it's the best way to ensure that you will have room for a card overlay. Oftentimes holiday greetings take up space to the left/right or top/bottom of the photo.

12. Mix up who's in each shot

If you're doing a family shoot, get shots of each child individually, parents together, parents with each child etc. This way, if the perfect full family shot doesn't happen, you have a portfolio of alternatives to create a beautiful multi-photo collage card.

13. Keep the models happy and smiling

If you're taking pictures of the kids or pets, it's helpful to have someone engage with them from behind the camera. Consider props that will focus their attention on the camera. When someone can crack jokes throughout the process it will put everyone else at ease.

14. Try posed and candid shots

Not everyone feels comfortable in front of the camera, so mix up the different shots you're taking and loosen up! Try to catch candid moments in between the staged poses to capture a fun range of emotions. If you're hiring a photographer, make sure he/she understands what kind of shot you're looking for—i.e. candid vs. posed—and can bring that out from your whole family.

15. Be playful with props

Consider incorporating traditional props like a Santa hat or a garland, or even a festive floral crown can make a fun statement. Make sure props don't create too much distraction, remember it's the people, not the props that are the main attraction.

16. Let the pets join

Pets are part of the family too! It may sound challenging, but you won't regret including them in the family photo shoot. Avoid flash to prevent red eye, use treats to reinforce good behavior and if all else fails try holding them while you pose.

17. Keep shooting and stay calm

stress free family photo shoot tips

Family photo shoots can stress even the calmest people. If you have a lot of kids and pets involved, you have to remember that the perfect moments are sometimes the ones you least expect!

18. Make necessary edits (or let us do it)

Our team of design and etiquette experts can help retouch and crop photos, adjust design elements and proofread your message to make sure everything looks flawless. Simply check the "Designer Review" option when checking out and one of our designers will contact you with next steps.

19. Upload the highest-resolution image

You will get the most stunning results using a high resolution image. Avoid using images from social media and smartphones as they are often downsized and lower quality.

20. Utilize back of card design or multi-photo cards

multi-photo custom photo holiday card

Now that your shoot is all done you can't decide on just one? Opt for a multi-photo card or a back of card design to showcase all of the beautiful photos of your family.

Our Brands
Copyright © 2004 Shutterfly, Inc. | Tiny Prints