Tips for Taking a Holiday Photo

Tips for a Perfect Holiday Photo -

I am making a public service announcement that I want EVERYONE to hear:


Yes, that’s right.  In our world of social media, it seems like everyone’s life is absolute perfection.  But trust me, it’s just the Instagram filters and Photoshop tools that make everything seem fantastic as you scroll through your newsfeed in your favorite sweatshirt, listening to your children bicker in the background while you guys eat bland chicken for dinner.  Again.

I struggle a lot with this notion because I love home decor and maintaining a neat and tidy house.  But I have two energetic, sticky-fingered little boys.  So yes, I have some gorgeous wall hangings that I just love…but I also currently have seven Melissa and Doug puzzles stacked on the fireplace and rogue plastic coral and whales strewn about, as well as a bookcase that is so full it looks like it is going to collapse.  Sigh.

Three years into this parenting gig, I have figured out some sneaky ways to make our messy life seem a bit more “Pinterest Perfect,” starting with what can be a dreaded element of the holidays for me:  our holiday card.

Card Conundrum

Since we are a family that celebrates both Hannukah and Christmas, we send out a TON of cards to our family and friends and I always tend to struggle with finding the right wording to appease everyone.  So before we had kids, I simply bought different sets of cards to send to people who celebrated either holiday. Everyone was happy, mission accomplished!  But once adorable son came along, we just had to change our holiday card to include photos.  I mean, he was just too scrumptious not to!  So then my holiday card stress moved to getting a perfect picture of the three of us, and it never worked out the way I wanted to.

Enter one of my favorite people in the world, Tracy, a budding photographer.  She was more than happy to spend a couple hours with us to photograph our growing family (including the dog) each year, and all of the stress I had about getting the perfect shot and editing it just right fell onto her shoulders (sorry, T!).


Here are links to her blog to check out our family holiday photo sessions:

When it was just the three of us.

A family of five, including Rylie!

The best part, other than hanging out with one of my favorite people in the world and having her make us all look great, was that I didn’t feel any stress at all and felt uber prepared to send out our family holiday card.  And since most of our yearly photo shoots with T were scheduled in the fall, I had a disc of tons of great pictures to choose from by the time Cyber Monday rolled around, and I scored a GREAT deal on my holiday cards.


So here are my general tips for having a successful holiday photo for your cards:

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If any purchase is made through these links, I will earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

*Plan early!  If you live in a chilly climate like Chicago and don’t want to be in heavy coats in your pictures, set up a photo shoot between September and early November.  You’ll probably have some gorgeous fall foliage in the background as well!

*As for your photo shoot, find someone who you feel comfortable with.  If you are new to this whole idea, ask friends for recommendations.  Prefer someone who will come to you?  Want to be outside?  Rather go to a studio?  The opportunities are endless!  I’m so glad that I have T and have recommended her to many happy families.

*Happy kids make the best pictures.  So make sure to keep their schedule in mind when planning your photo shoot, and bring lots of snacks and something fun to keep their focus during photos (bubbles work great for toddlers).  Also, that super cute dress you picked out for your little princess might be super itchy.  Maybe do a dress rehearsal at home.

*As T taught me, lighting is key!  Early morning and late afternoon lighting is gorgeous.

*Chose a great photo card site. I have gotten great Cyber Monday deals on photo cards using sites like Shutterfly (even though the website can be EXTREMELY frustrating) and Tiny Prints.

*Find a great spot for photos.  Need suggestions?  Check out this post, as well as this one.

And if all else fails, post a family picture on Facebook and call it a day!

Looking for more winter fun? Check out my ideas on how to celebrate Christmas in Chicago, as well as how to simplify your holiday season!

Namaste, my friends!
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  1. unsweetenedt says

    “Pinterest perfect” ha, this post was so well said, and not just for holiday cards but for every day! Thank you so much for the shout outs and for always giving me the opportunity to capture your beautiful family! I love spending time with you guys! I’m looking forward to our session this weekend and can’t wait for more from your holidays simplified post series!

  2. cityhippyfarmgirl says

    Ahh nothing is quite like ‘pinterest perfect’ is it!
    I never bother getting my kids to pose…well, hang on I do try initially, it doesn’t work and so I then take a picture of whatever monkey dance they are doing for me. I figure it’s usually a true indication of life snapped at that time anyway. (As long as the light is good, they can monkey dance all they want 🙂

  3. dogear6 says

    I have a great quote on Pinterest that reminds us to not be comparing our lives to someone else’s highlights reel. It’s so true.

    Of course, since you’ve been reading my stuff now for a month, you’ve seen that perfect it’s not! I actually put a link to my bloopers & failures post onto the Q&A of the photography class that I’m taking. The instructor really liked it, then made a comment that I was brave to do that. It kind of surprised me, because I don’t know any photographer (or anyone doing anything) that gets it right the first time, especially when you’re learning something new. I guess I should have more ego and not show the failure, except they’re so darned funny. And I’m not into blogging to show everyone what a perfect life I have.

    Your post is a great reminder that we don’t have to be perfect. Especially as young parents, it’s easy to lose sight of that and be trying to show everyone we have it together all the time.


    • queenofthelandoftwigsnberries says

      I absolutely love the idea of putting your blooper/oops photo out for the world to see. Embrace our imperfections! But I must tell you, you must only have a few of those…your pictures are really gorgeous!

      Thanks for the wise parenting words!

  4. The Momma (aka Therese Moma) says

    This is an excellent idea! I love the photo cards that people do but always feel like we just can’t get anything that looks quite right with our three wiggly, silly girls plus the two of us. I don’t know if we will get it done this year before Christmas, but we’re going to visit family over the holidays and I might see if my sister in law would be willing to take a few shots of us and then make them into a New Year’s card. I did a New Year’s card a couple of years ago when our youngest was a baby and it turned out so great. Plus, I love that I can make the card ahead of time either with candids we’ve taken or a nicer picture and use the great holiday card discounts that come around through Shutterfly in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Also, I think Shutterfly does printing through Walgreens which means you can save money on shipping by having your cards printed there and you just go pick them up.

    • queenofthelandoftwigsnberries says

      Ooh, I didn’t know about the Shutterfly/Walgreens situation…thanks for the tip!

      Oh, and I love the idea of a New Year’s card…we get a few in January and I feel like I always notice them more because alot of the holiday hysteria is over.

  5. Amanda Huffman says

    I was talking to someone about how i’m so glad I got married before Pinterest. We did a lot of stuff on our own by searching the web and Pinterest would have been a good tool and an enemy. This year we used pictures from family trips and the 1 year photo shoot for my son. 🙂 We also use shutterfly. If you sign up to get emails you can get 10 free cards. 🙂

  6. Anita Ojeda says

    Mpix has some great cards and deals, too :). My favorite family photo was taken by me, with a point and shoot camera sitting on our kitchen counter two years after Pedro’s miraculous recovery from cancer–he and I are in the background kissing, and our pre-teen daughters have genuine looks of horror and disgust on their faces… I love that photo! Thanks for linking up and sharing your great tips on family photos and Christmas cards!

  7. Angie Ryg says

    I love your description of your decor! I always describe mine as a Knock Off Restoration Hardware Meets Legos! And are you in Chicago? We are neighbors! Thanks for linking up and I look forward to reading more of your tips for Inspire Me Monday!!

  8. Natalie Busch says

    How cool that you celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah. I love all your photos and I totally understand about the the stress you speak of. Great tips though. Holiday cards are a big deal for us. Although this year I have the photo and I am still not sure about what kind of card I am going to do! I am not even sure how that happened. I usually plan WAY ahead. Oh well, it will all work out 🙂

  9. Barbara says

    Thanks for sharing, Amanda! Your family is precious…I am thankful that my 3 “children” and their spouses and ALL 6 of my grand kids will be in the same place for Thanksgiving…and we have planned a Family Photo session for Friday after turkey day! Looking forward to having some wonderful pictures to share – by the way, we are in Florida; so no worries about the snow!!

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