Tips For The Best Holiday Card Photos


Fall is officially here, so the holidays are right around the corner!

As a professional photographer and small business owner, this is my busiest time of year. Many of my clients hope to get a great family portrait taken during peak fall in New England. It’s always a relief to check the holiday card photo off their to-do list before the holiday season settles in.

Whether you’re hiring a professional photographer or planning to take a photo of your family yourself, I would like to offer some tips that can make the process easier for you!

Mom and dad swinging daughter in family portraits
Image Credit: Forty Seven Moments Photography

Choose a Location with the Best Light

This can be a field, the beach, or the comfort of your own home. Either way, you want to be sure the place you are having your family portrait taken has adequate natural light. The quality of the light will produce a good-quality photograph, so this should always be your top priority. You will want to avoid the harsh, bright sun (no one likes squinting), so consider taking your holiday card photos later in the day when the sun is lower. If indoors, move towards a large window with the light in front of your family, not behind them, and try to have a clutter-free backdrop.

Clothing Tips for Holiday Card Photos

Coordinating outfits for family portraits can be tricky, but it doesn’t have to be. When I help style my clients for their family portraits, I like to start with mom. Once mom has chosen her dress or outfit, I choose clothing for dad and children that compliments what mom is wearing without being too matchy. For instance, if mom has a dress with warm tones such as muted orange, tan, or ivory, I will choose a shirt for dad with one of those colors and a contrasting pair of khakis. If mom’s dress has a pattern, I will style the rest of the family in solid colors with textures so we don’t have photos that are too busy. This is a great opportunity for moms to treat themselves to a new dress!

Here is a recent style board I created for a client of mine.

Women’s Dress: Baltic Born

Men’s Outfit: Banana Republic

Children’s Overalls: Banana Republic

Boy’s Shirt: Children’s Place

Fall Family Outfit Styleboard
Forty Seven Moments Photography

Set the Expectations Ahead of Time

If you’re taking the time to organize family portraits for your holiday cards, then it’s safe to say quality photographs are important to you. It’s good to let your family know that in advance. Give them plenty of time to prepare for it mentally. Lovingly tell them how much these photographs mean to you, and their cooperation is crucial for making the photo session go as smoothly and quickly as possible.

Give everyone ample time to get ready. Try on, clean, press, or steam, and lay out clothing in advance so there are no surprises the day of. Arrive early and plan on doing something fun together that everyone can look forward to afterward. Remember that your family will feed off your energy, so do your best to stay calm even if a family member has an unexpected meltdown.

Tips For The Best Holiday Card Photos
Image Credit: Forty Seven Moments Photography

Helpful Reminders

Remember, great photos are all in the details. Here are some final tips before you have your family holiday card photo taken.

  1. Take everything out of your pockets, including car keys, cell phone, and wallet.
  2. Keep your wrists free of hair ties, Apple watches, friendship bracelets, or anything bulky that will clash with the outfit colors.
  3. Consider having professional hair and makeup done or a friend who enjoys it as a hobby to help you get ready the day of.
  4. Treat yourself to a manicure or put on neutral nail polish.

I hope you have found these tips helpful for planning your holiday card family portraits! I look forward to seeing all of those beautiful faces in your photographs.


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