Five Tips for Taking Great Holiday Photos

You may be taking your own holiday photos from home this year, rather than sending the kids off to get their portrait snapped with Santa. Don’t be intimidated! Your annual holiday update will get rave reviews from even the most critical cousin when you follow these simple steps:

Add Some Illumination

When you’re scouting the perfect location, don’t forget to think about the light you have available. If you’re shooting indoors, watch the windows and consider the time of day. Are there lamps or other light fixtures available? All of these variables will help you decide where to set up your subjects.

Family photo with christmas tree lit up by jonathan borba

If you don’t have enough light in your perfect location, consider adding a speedlight to your camera’s hot shoe. It’s a fast, easy, and relatively inexpensive way to increase light. And finally, for a softer look to your lighting, try bouncing the light from your flash off the ceiling. Simply tilt the flash head upward (swivel and tilt for vertical shots) so light softens as it bounces back down. One caveat, though: if your ceiling isn’t white, this technique will pick up whatever color is there and inadvertently introduce it into your final photograph.

Keep an Eye on the Background

It’s easy to overlook household clutter, or not notice that unfolded load of laundry in the background. Don’t ruin your perfect holiday portrait by not straightening up the area you’re using for your shoot before you begin. Watch placement of items you do want to include relative to your subjects, so nothing looks like it is “growing” out of anyone’s head.

Couple Dan and Chelle Madsen in the mountains

If you're brave enough to trek outside in the cold, check out your local tree farms for some perfect festive scenery or head up the mountains for a shot in the snow. Whether it's in your own home or outside, you can take your own initiative this year with your own camera and tripod, all you'll need is a wireless shutter remote which can be hidden behind a family members back or in your pocket. Above is an example from our Pictureline Pros Dan & Chelle Madsen

Set the Rest of the Scene

Consider your color palette, and have your subject(s) dress accordingly. Use tones or patterns that complement each other as well as the background. When posing your subjects, rather than verbally explain how you’d like them to pose, consider showing them yourself first. This method works magic, especially when shooting kids. Remain flexible and open to other options if something isn’t working and be patient as you talk your subjects through any changes.

family sitting under the tree at christmas time

Think Outside the Box

Why not try something unconventional this year? When you’re setting up for your shoot, consider every angle you have available. If you set your subjects on the floor, consider getting down on the floor with them. Or shoot them from above (using plenty of caution, of course), group them around a large chair or ottoman—even shoot them through the doorway. Get creative!

mom reading to daughter during christmas time

Make it Fun!

Make sure you keep things light and interactive. Holiday photos don’t have to be a chore. Shooting small kids? Make funny faces or silly sounds to elicit genuine laughs and smiles. Photographing the family dog? Don’t underestimate the power of treats to get Fido to pay attention or look where you want him to. Keep your shoot short—you shouldn’t need more than about 20 minutes if you’ve done all the prep work ahead of time.

photo of mom trying to kiss son in family photo taken by any lane

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