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Holiday Card Photo Tips

A family photo for a holiday card

Combining a festive family photo with a warm greeting, a holiday card is meant to spark joy. In fact, Hallmark – the premiere Christmas card retailer–estimates that 75% of consumers who send holiday cards do so because of the feeling they get when they receive them. Creating the perfect photo for your holiday card is a delightful, yet sometimes challenging task. Make it a more memorable experience and follow these tips to get a fantastic family holiday card photo.  

1. Have a Plan 

Before you dive into the details of your holiday card, decide whether you want to hire a professional photographer or take a do-it-yourself (DIY) approach to your picture-taking. Each method has its pros and cons. Professionals can bring their expertise and artistic eyes to insert new ideas you may not have considered, while a DIY approach allows for a personal touch and flexibility. When making this decision, consider your budget, time, and style before settling on a grand plan.  

How to Take DIY Family Holiday Photos 

For those taking a DIY approach, follow these steps for successful DIY family holiday card photos:  

Set up a tripod.  

It may be tempting to just take a family selfie and be done, but the highest quality pictures will come from a camera or cellphone tripod setup. A tripod’s stable base helps ensure sharp, focused images.  

Use a timer or remote.  

You don’t want to be in a rush to hop into your holiday card photo at the last second. Use a snapshot timer or remotely control your camera, so you can be part of the photo without a hurry. 

Experiment with angles. 

It’s OK to take your time getting the perfect picture. Take multiple photos and get creative with angles to find the most flattering shots for you and your family members. For group photos, the camera should be straight ahead and elevated so it’s level with eyelines.

If you choose to deviate, remember to check that everyone in your photo can be seen. 

Edit with care. 

Once you’ve taken a holiday card photo that you’re happy with, pop it into a photo editing app or software, like Adobe Photoshop or Fotor. Use the software to enhance your photos.

Subtle edits, like adjusting your lighting or cropping out excess backgrounds, can help but filters and hyperpigmentation can hurt the quality of your photo.  

2. Choose the Ideal Location 

The right location sets the tone for your holiday card photo. Select a setting that reflects your family's feeling for the holiday, like a: 

  • Snowy vacation landscape. 
  • Cozy living room. 
  • Front porch that captures your home decorations. 
  • Christmas lights showcase. 
  • Popular landmark.  

Whether you go to a winter wonderland or stay at home, your backdrop conveys the holiday spirit to everyone receiving your card, so make sure it matches your mood.  

3. Wear Comfy Clothes 

Simplicity is the key to an elegant holiday card. Your clothes will be one of the first things that recipients notice when they look at your card, so you want to make a good impression and not take away from smiling faces or your messaging. As you figure out your family’s look, consider: 

  • Dressing in coordinating colors.  
  • Avoiding bright colors. 
  • Skipping graphic tees. 
  • Prioritizing comfort.    

After a family photo session, take some time to enjoy a seasonal screening. For recommendations, check out our favorite holiday romcoms

  A family photo for holiday card with snow and pine trees in the background

4. Ditch the Flash 

A camera flash will lead to harsh shadows and unnatural glares, so natural light is your best friend when it comes to holiday photos. Opt for an early morning or late afternoon photo shoot for soft, flattering light that influences the warmth of your holiday card family photo.

Your light source should be shining behind the camera so it reflects off your subjects.  

5. Limit the Amount of Props  

While props can add a playful touch, try not to overdo it. Too many props can distract and take the focus away from the family. Some low-key prop ideas include: 

  • Beautifully wrapped presents intentionally placed in the forefront. 
  • A festive-colored blanket on the lap of someone sitting down. 
  • A pin or ribbon on everyone’s clothing. 
  • Candy canes 

6. Mind the Small Details 

Pay attention to the little details. They can make or break your photo—tidy up the background, fix stray hairs, and double-check that everyone's clothing is neat.

All these little things contribute to a polished look and are especially important if you’re going for a professional-quality family holiday card photo.  

Get your home photo-ready. Follow our tips for holiday cleaning today! 

7. Let the Kids Be Kids 

While you may want young children to be on their best behavior in your family holiday card photo, letting them be themselves showcases the essence of your family.

Moments of laughter, playfulness, and interaction create heartwarming holiday memories that can be shared and cherished for years to come. 

8. Relax and Enjoy the Moment 

Memorable family holiday card photos capture genuine emotions. Everybody in your picture should be relaxed and feel comfortable. To achieve this, consider taking your holiday picture during a family activity like baking, putting gifts under the tree, or enjoying a holiday dinner.

Candid shots often turn out to be the most endearing and authentic. 

Holiday Tradition Training  

A big family photo for holiday card with the living room in the background

These family holiday card photo tips help blend your family's personality with the holiday spirit to create a perfect picture. But what about perfecting your other holiday traditions, like putting together a terrific Christmas tree? Follow our “9 Steps to Decorating the Perfect Christmas Tree” to get your ornaments, lights, and theme just right!  


How do I make my family pictures unique? 

Focus on capturing genuine moments that reflect your family's personality. Choose a distinctive location, incorporate meaningful props sparingly, and emphasize candid shots that display your family's dynamics.  

What to wear for holiday family photos? 

Opt for a coordinated color scheme that complements the chosen location. Avoid busy patterns and logos, as they can be distracting. Choose outfits that make your family feel comfortable and confident.  

What not to do for family pictures? 

Avoid overusing props, excessive flash, and overly staged poses. Also, be mindful of cluttered backgrounds and distracting elements. Strive for simplicity to let your family take center stage.  

When should I take family holiday photos? 

The best time for family holiday photos is during early morning or late afternoon for soft, flattering natural light.  

When should I mail holiday cards? 

Plan to dodge the holiday mailing rush by mailing your holiday cards out in the first week of December at the latest.