The Most Wonderful (Frustrating, Amazing, Creative) Time of the Year

by Lain Ehmann on November 1, 2011


Yeah, I’m talking about taking holiday photos! What a pain they can be, particularly when there’s a ton of other errands to do and pressure on you to make them “perfect.” So here is my survival guide for getting through the holiday stress… Five Family Photo Shoot Tips:

1. Take them early. The sooner, the better. Some people like to pose in front of their decorated Christmas tree, but to me that’s just asking for disaster to strike. I like to take mine in early November. Around here we already have plenty of snow on the ground for that festive look. And if you really MUST have a Christmas tree or other holiday decorations, head to the mall. They start putting out Christmas lights some time around Columbus Day. No one will know that gorgeously decorated tree was actually in Pottery Barn (unless they chose the same backdrop for THEIR holiday photos… in which case you can make a pact not to squeal).

2. Divide and conquer. Yeah, it looks great to get a lovely group photo. But getting all five of your kids (or three, in my case!) to smile at once can be a challenge. Instead, why not take individual shots and choose a card design that supports multiple photos? One year, I had each of my kids hold a letter to spell out “JOY.” Super cute.

3. Don’t take one. Sometimes the very best photos aren’t staged at all, but are culled from your existing photo library. Christmas card photos don’t have to be taken in the wintertime; dig through your vacation and summer photos, or pull together a montage of shots from the previous year.

4. Make it fun. If you are stressed about getting a great family shot, you’re guaranteed to put everyone’s teeth on edge and make the whole experience miserable. Just as the office copy machine always senses when you’re under the gun, your family is going to totally sense that and respond in kind. If you have fun with it, your photos will reflect a joyous spirit, exactly what you’d like to convey, right?

5. Use the outtakes. As much as you’d like to present an image of familial perfection and harmony, sometimes we need to just let it all hang out. Some of my favorite holiday cards are those that are way less than perfect, with crazy antics, goofy grins, or grumpy kids. Instead of aiming for perfection, embrace imperfect reality! (For fantastically awful family photos, please check out “Awkward Family Photos,” which is guaranteed to make you feel better about yourself!)

P.S. For more tips, check out “Family Photo Days” on throughout November. You’ll find resources to help YOU get a family photo for your holiday cards that captures the real “you” — or your dream version. :) And if all else fails, you can send your friends and family a good laugh. 


  • Lzepponi

    I have started using a picture of a special event within the calendar year. Last year is a great shot of my child in the middle of the Notre Dame baseball team in the dug out. This year it will be a staged pic of my son making his First Communion. Granted I only have one child but I sister in law has a collage of pics of her 4children!

  • Anonymous

    what a fun idea! LOVE IT! :)

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