mom and daughter together

How to take your family’s holiday card photo

The holidays are around the corner and you realized that you don’t have a family photo for your holiday card, or maybe you just want to document how everyone looked.  Every year I run into this problem despite being a photographer, I still had no idea what photograph we would use use for our holiday card.  Sometimes I can take collage of photographs and put a card together while other times I used a photographer from a family session earlier in the year.  I’m lucky enough to have a wonderful friend, who happened to be photographer, take photos of my family earlier in the year but I wanted something that more current.

At this point it was too late to hire someone….so…my idea, let’s try and take our own family photos this year.  It sounds so easy but in reality it was a lot harder than I expected.  If you do venture out on your own here are some tips to hopefully make it smoother.

two kids sitting on a rock


Schedule your session


Treat like a session you would pay for. Pick a date and time. If you are going to try to take your own photos treat it like a session with a photographer and put the date and time in the calendar.  My personal preference is to take photos about 60-90 minutes before sunset but you can do what works best for your family.  I use the Time and Date website to determine when the sun will rise and set.

Find a location

Once you have a date –  location scout.  Decide if you want to take photos in a city or park and then go there a few days before with a willing participant to take a few test shots at the time you are scheduled to photograph your family.  This will help you see if you need to make any adjustments.  The more prepared you are the smoother it will – hopefully – go. If you want to take the photographs in your home, watch the light and see if there is a time of day that works best.

Select your outfits

Deciding what to wear can be tricky for some people.  I always recommend selecting one outfit and working from there. Instead of trying to match everyone (i.e., all blue) think about adding in complimentary colors.  For our photos, to get my daughter on board, I bought her a new sparkly outfit.  I knew this would help her get excited about the whole thing. To compliment her, my plan was to dress everyone else in pink, blue and maroon tones.  My son had different plans and wouldn’t change his clothes.  Alternatively, stop stressing and just wear your everyday clothes.  We put a lot of undue pressure on ourselves for the perfect photograph  and that process can be torturous.  People are happier when they are comfortable.


boy making growling face

When I tried to take our family photos, everything fell apart. My son wouldn’t change his clothes and insisted on wearing his bike helmet for 20 minutes. He also wouldn’t remove his name tag from Hebrew school earlier in the day.  My husband wore the wrong outfit and invited his parents at the last minute.  Also, once I got my camera out my son starting screaming that he was hungry and we realized he hadn’t eaten lunch. So, if this happens what to you, here are some tips to help get through your photos.

Focus on what you can take

In order to not waste the time, I focused on my daughter and my husband. It is okay if everyone isn’t looking at the camera. You can still capture their relationship and love by having them interact.

daughter and dad sitting together

Once my son came around to participating, I worked on a photo of my children together. My son was making awful faces so to combat this I gave the kids tasks. In the photo below, I asked my kids to jump from the rock and then run as fast as they could.  The photo I wanted was one of anticipation.

siblings holding hands

Drop perfectionism

Taking photos of your own family or kids in this type of setting is hard. Really. Really. Hard. It is so much easier for me to take photos of other people’s family than my own.  My son insisted on roaring and acting like a dragon. That is who is was at that age.  Despite this, I think we still captured something pretty cute and funny.

siblings being silly

And, then a few moments later this happened.

two kids smiling

Have fun and be playful

Since we were having a hard time getting Ezra to cooperate, my husband and I tried to make into a game. Below we asked the kids to tickle my husband.  The kids went directly for the newly grown beard instead, which makes for a humorous photo.

kids playing around with dad

 Don’t forget to get in the frame 

After about 40 minutes of pure chaos, I had scrapped the idea of getting a photo of us all together.  I wasn’t in any photos but then remembered to hand the camera over to my husband. The settings were set and he took this lovely photo of my daughter and me.

mom and daughter together

Bribe your kids

I have mixed feelings on bribing kids.  I think it is important to recognize that not everyone wants their photos taken but if you can make it fun enough it won’t seem like a burden.  However, a few years ago in my career, I felt a lot of pressure to have an amazing photograph of my family, because is was an extension of I did for a living.

Even though I had given up on a photo of the four of us, I somehow managed to convince everyone to attempt one more try with a bribe of ice cream. Before taking the photo I increased my aperture to f/5.6 to make sure everyone would be in focus.  There are four different ways you can take a photo of everyone.

(1) Hand the camera over to someone else

(2) Selfie stick

(3) Self timer feature

(4) Wireless remote

I opted for the wireless remote since I know that my children love to push the button.  Well, we will didn’t get a fantastic photo but we are all in one photo.

getting into the photo

Good luck!


Ready to hand over the camera and book your family photos?


Beth Ann is a lifestyle photographer based in Belmont Massachusetts just outside of Boston. She is currently booking Boston NEWBORN PHOTOGRAPHY, Boston FAMILY PHOTOGRAPHY, Boston  BABY PHOTOGRAPHY SESSIONS & SENIOR PHOTOGRAPHY SESSIONS.


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