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Every holiday season, Danny and I start planning our perfect family Christmas photo. Over the years, we have come up with a lot of great ideas for our Christmas cards and we are each other’s photographer. We’ve done photos with just the kids and with the entire family. Each comes with some planning and we want to share our best tips and tricks!
Christmas Photo Shoot Do’s and Don’ts
Taking a family photo is not always easy but it can be if you plan ahead! Take note of these few tips and tricks so that your shoot goes smoothly.
- DO plan your theme ahead of time. Get whatever props you need and make sure they work for your vision.
- DO schedule the photos around baby and toddler bedtimes and feeding times. Post nap and meal is the perfect opportunity.
- DO offer older kids a reward when the photo session is done. It can be anything from a special sweet treat to going to their favorite restaurant when it’s all done.
- DO try to take family portraits outdoors. Good lighting is key. Use your backyard or go to a local park for a simple backdrop.
- DO get candid shots. You don’t always have to be looking at the camera.
- DON’T pick a complicated theme because it’s just going to stress you out.
- DON’T rush it. Make sure you leave plenty of time for what you want to accomplish or the kids will get cranky.
- DON’T hire a professional photographer if you can’t afford it. A lot of these photos below we did with our phones! It’s amazing what you can do with phones these days. If you can spend some money, ask about holiday mini sessions which are often a little less expensive.
- DON’T stress about holiday outfits. Pick a color scheme you like and try to get one of those colors in everyone’s outfits. That’s it.
Christmas Photo Shoot Prop Ideas
When it comes to a holiday photo shoot, there are some simple things you can pull from your house or buy at your local dollar store to make it happen. Here are some simple ideas using props that anyone can put together.
- Get cute Christmas mugs for a hot cocoa stand.
- Funny photo props are great for the family to be silly.
- Have the kids draw Christmas scenes on the driveway with sidewalk chalk.
- Get cozy socks for everyone in the family and take a picture of all your feet together.
- Read holiday books under the tree.
- Make signs that say Ho – Ho – Ho and have different family members hold it.
- Wrap the kids in lights. Or wrap the parents in lights and make it look like the kids did it!
- Cover the kids in ornaments or build a ball pit with plastic ornaments with the kids peeking out.
- Wrap a large box in wrapping paper and stick the kids inside.
- Get wood letters that spell out J-O-Y.
- Hold a red ornament ball on your noses and then make the rest of the photo black and white.
- Hold candy canes together to form a heart.
- Use a large blanket to wrap up the entire family.
- Have the kids hold a mistle-toe above the parents while they kiss.
- Have the family hold a banner that has a Christmas saying.
- Hold a sign that says “Dear Santa, I can explain”.
- The entire family lays down on their back with their heads together forming a giant snowflake.
How to Edit Your Own Christmas Family Photos
Here are the three sites and apps we recommend when editing photos. These are easy enough for beginners.
- iPhone photo editing. You’d be surprised how well you can brighten up photos right on your phone. There is even an “auto” button so I usually select that first and see how I like it. Then I continue to adjust all the settings accordingly.
- Canva.com is my go to when it comes to making collages and adding text. It is a really simple website that is easy to use. And the best part is that it’s free!
- If you are not interested in editing at all, you can hire an inexpensive graphic designer on Fiverr.com.
- Photoroom.com is an easy way to remove any background or making a blurred background.
You don’t need a fancy photo shoot to take the perfect Christmas photo. Danny and I usually do our own diy Christmas photoshoot. Here are a bunch of our favorites throughout the years.
Children Christmas Photography Ideas
Baby Christmas Picture Idea
My son Gabriel was born mid November so Danny and I immediately thought of what our Christmas card would like. Since he was only a week old, we had to keep the shoot really simple. He was essentially our gift that year so we thought of putting him into a stocking. Danny personalized the stocking with his name and year. The secret is that he wasn’t actually in the stocking but it was big enough to place it over him to make it look like ew as inside of a stocking. Plus, you can easily find a big enough stocking that a newborn can actually fit into. Add candy canes inside the stocking or all around the baby.
Another good idea for a baby’s first Christmas is to dress them in all white. Turn him or her into a little angel by adding a halo in a photo editing app.
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Little Sister Return to Sender
This Christmas card is one of my favorites. Three years after Gabriel was born, I had my daughter Amelia and again, during the fall so the Christmas card photo shoot came soon after I got home from the hospital. We came up with this idea of a big brother already annoyed by his little sister. I made a sign that Gabriel could hold that said “Return to Santa”. Meanwhile, his little sister was laying down in a gift box right next to him.
Wrapped in Lights
This is a really easy one. All you need is one string of Christmas lights. Carefully wrap it around your baby or child. The key to this is getting the right lighting so that you can still see the child’s face. I recommend just dimming your room lights, not shutting them down completely. If you are using your phone to take the photo, you can adjust the exposure by clicking where your child’s face is and then raising or lowering the sun until you get the look you like.
Reading a Christmas Book
One of the simplest things you can do to make Christmas magical is read Christmas books. There’s no better place to do this than under the tree. This makes for a really sweet moment in front of your Christmas tree. We’ve done this with my kids and Danny’s sweet grandson Mateo.
Bubble Bath Santa Beard
This great photo idea was actually a total accident! My son wanted to take a bubble bath one night and we were playing with the bubbles. I decided to make him a beard with some shaving cream. Then I realized he looked like Santa so I ran to get a cute Santa hat. A few quick shots later, we had these really cute photos for Christmas.
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Making Christmas Cookies
Ok before you go judge, don’t actually think this set up is real! Yes, we shot it in my kitchen, yes it was actually a mess, and yes my daughter was cranky! What makes this funny is that my son was such a sport and was pretty happy to do it, but of course, my daughter was not. I did get cookie dough and I spread a bunch of flour around to make it even messier.
The final touch was the smoke coming out of the oven. No, that’s definitely not real. I had my designer friend photoshop that into the picture. You can easily hire a designer to add that in fiverr.com.
Kids in the Pool
Last year my family and I moved from New York to Florida. As you can imagine, Christmas in Florida looks quite different. The weather is not extremely hot but you can still be outside enjoying a heated pool. I knew I wanted to use the pool in the picture. I searched for some fun holiday floats to decorate the pool. Then I had the kids hang out by the pool with Santa hats. That’s how we celebrate Christmas in Florida!
Christmas Photo Ideas With the Whole Family
Using Photo Props
Sometimes all you need to get into the holiday spirit are some fun Christmas props. The kids love these and it’s great to see the entire family have fun with them. One year we took a bunch of photos with these cute reindeer props and we made it into our holiday card.
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A Christmas Wish
We all have many wishes during this holiday season and inevitably, they will all be different for everyone in the family. One year we took a simple family photo where we all looked like we were thinking. We then added some funny wishes as chat bubbles above our heads. I of course was dreaming of a white kitchen, my daughter was looking for more milk, my son wanted more toys, and my husband was planning our next vacation.
Be Merry Banner
A beautiful Christmas card for the family can be as simple as holding a pretty banner. We took advantage of a pretty snow storm and took photos of Danny’s family holding a banner that says “Be Merry”. The red banner looks great against the pretty snow. You can easily make one on your own with stock paper or sticker letters from Dollar Tree.
Pick Up Truck Hot Cocoa Stand
This hot cocoa stand is probably one of my favorites. Danny and I were obsessed with getting our hands on a pick-up truck so we could do fun set-ups. First we did this beautiful anniversary picic for some friends. Then we used it for our family’s holiday photo. First we loaded the truck with all this Christmas decor and everything we needed for a hot chocolate station.
We then pulled up the truck into a farm (with permission of course). Half an hour later, the very empty pick-up truck turned into this amazing backdrop for our family photo. After a mini photo shoot, we all enjoyed the hot chocolate. We got so many compliments from many passersbys and from our families who received the card that year. Check out all the details of this pick-up truck hot cocoa stand.
Sleep in Heavenly Peace
As parents we all know the master bed is never without kids. There are hands and feet where there shouldn’t be, stuffed animals, bottles, you name it. So we decided to really polk fun at this. We all got into Christmas pajamas and threw ourselves on the bed in random positions (mimicking real life!). We can Danny take a bunch of photos of us “sleeping”. It all ties together with the headline “Sleep in Heavenly Peace”. We even had a fun pillow fight.
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Get the family together to form the shape of a tree. Then you can add a star at the top along with holiday wishes using canva.com.
Similar to the hand tree, you can have the family put their fingers together to form a beautiful star. Use your tree as the background.
If you have a fireplace, it’s a must for a warm and cozy christmas card. Get fun socks from your local dollar store and sit everyone together. Can’t you feel it?
Here’s an idea where you don’t even have to take a new photo. If your family had a milestone event that year, simply use those photos. The year Danny’s daughter got married, she used this beautiful photo from the wedding. This is a great way to be share the blessings you had that year.
Fun In the Snow
If you are looking for a more generic holiday look, the best way to do this is to show the family having fun in the snow. You can get great photos of the kids sledding or tubing for really awesome action shots. Make sure to have your camera on burst to get the perfect shot. But you can also get awesome family photos together.
Here are a bunch of photos we took on a family trip in upstate NY. We got really lucky that the sun was out and always in a great position for the photos. A few position ideas include facing each other and talking, holding hands (siblings, or with the entire family), jumping up and down in the snow, and even making snow angels.
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These days we are constantly on our devices and not paying attention to each other. We really poked fun at this with this Christmas card. We had Danny’s whole family on a different device while taking this family photo. Danny was on her iPad, her husband making a business call, two teenagers on the phone and the youngest playing video games.
Your phone is probably full of photos from the past year. Here’s a great way to share them on your holiday card. Select one photo from every season and label them with the corresponding season.