How to take a good Christmas card photo

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Use warm cookies and music to bring out smiles
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Here's how to take a good Christmas card photo this year

Between finding the perfect tree and rolling out the cookie dough, it’s time to throw on something festive and strike a pose for another holiday staple: the Christmas card. There once was a time when Rudolph or Santa himself graced the covers. These days it’s all about sending off a personalized season greeting topped with a memorable family picture.

While some hyper organized families tick this off their holiday list long before Thanksgiving, many don’t. You're not alone! These tips on how to take a good Christmas card photo will help you get that perfect shot fast.

Have a vision

You know what happens when everyone is standing around for too long. Make things easy for yourself by arranging furniture, moving clutter out of the frame and adding in some colorful pillows or flowers. Tweak the background area to ensure you only have to wrangle everyone once.

Compose for variation

For an elegant shot, arrange people at different levels to help isolate your family as the subject and blur the background. This simple composition places the focus on the family so your background lights and holiday colors serve as a classic frame. Have some people kneel, some sit on chairs and others stand behind them. Remember, people want to see your family, not the couch.

Dangle a carrot

You might remember the agony of posing for pictures as a child – standing still for too long in an awkward pose with a forced half smile. Keep the atmosphere cheerful with some holiday music and have a treat for everyone after. A little bribe of cocoa and doggie biscuits (if you’re attempting to get the dog to cooperate too) is a small price to pay for a photo of happy people.

No silhouettes

The trick to how to take a good Christmas card photo is in good lighting. Photographers must turn their backs to the source of light – whether it’s the sun or overhead living room bulb – to avoid unwanted shadows and unflattering shots. Late afternoon is often referred to as the magic hour because the outdoor light is ideal for getting natural, soft shots.

On the other hand, young children have more energy in the morning so you may get the best picture then. Mid-day is the worst time because the bright sun washes everything out. A simple trick to prevent a family of red eyes from haunting your card is to have everyone look directly into a light to shrink pupils first.

Mind the outfits

The tone will vary from classic to silly depending on the types of outfits everyone wears. If you want a beautiful family picture, consider the colors of your card and coordinate clothing to enhance the overall look. Take a moment to check for stains, wrinkles and pet hair.

Unless you’re going for humor, the outfits don’t need to match exactly. Classic choices are fancy dresses, cozy sweaters (no wild prints) and button downs. A few fun holiday photo ideas include the popular ugly sweater family, everyone in their Christmas pajamas, elf uniform or Santa suit. 

Everyone say “I love chocolate”

The advantage of learning how to take a good Christmas card photo at home is avoiding the stiff, discomfort of a generic photo studio. When it comes time, have the family each say something they love. They’re bound to look more expressive and like themselves shouting out "chocolate" or "coffee" than robotically repeating “cheese” for the millionth time.

Tell jokes while you’re getting things set up so the kids stay engaged and happy to be there. Ask a friend or neighbor to take the picture to maintain a relaxed mood. After the obvious poses, stall with a story and have the photographer keep snapping away on the sly. The more pictures taken, the more likely you are to get a great one.

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