It seems like a great concept: Get the family together and take a picture for the annual holiday photo card. But entire websites exist just to showcase bad or awkward family holiday photos, all of which seemed like a good idea at the time. Don’t become a victim of the ridiculous family photo—you can take a great holiday family photo just by following a few simple picture-taking rules.
Look on any bad photo website and you’ll see tons of bad holiday photos, most of which have family members dressed up in some version of matching clothing. It might be a collection of bad Christmas sweaters, T-shirts in the colors of a rainbow or everybody in the same outfit (jeans and a white shirt, anyone?). Contrived costumes always come off looking like a gimmick. You may be tempted to dress up everyone in their finest clothes, but your loved ones would much rather see you as you are every day. Dress in everyday clothes to make everyone more comfortable, which makes for an easier photo shoot.
Choose Your Spot
Consider the background of your photo an additional character in the picture. Don’t let it overshadow everyone else. Scout out photo backgrounds long before picture day. Take a camera with you and look through the lens finder to see what the photo background will look like. Go to the middle of a field to get a mass of flowing green behind your family. Stand them on a hill in front of autumn trees for a blaze of color in back. Decorated mantelpieces are a classic background from years back; use this setting if you’re looking for a formal holiday look. For a more casual approach, a play room, game room or living room on the couch makes for a homier feel.
Every family has its own quirks and traditions for the holidays. Why not incorporate them to give your photos some personality? Do you always decorate holiday cookies together? There’s an opportunity for messy but genuine holiday cheer. Do you pick out a live tree every year? Gather everyone around the car with the tree tied on top. Whatever you have turned into a holiday tradition is material for your holiday photo card.
Taking the perfect holiday picture is almost impossible, and it makes no sense to stress everyone out trying. It’s the photos that are a little off-base or with something unexpected in them that turn into classics. Control what you can and let the rest happen. If you have bored teens, bickering toddlers or babies who fall asleep, your photo will reflect your real family dynamic. That’s the moment you want to capture in time, saving it for years to come.
The easiest to get a group to smile is by asking them to fake a laugh first. After the initial groans from the group, you will find that the “fake” laughter turns into real giggling. That’s the moment you wan to get on film! People will be relaxed and their smiles will be genuine and can be captured perfectly!