If you’re panicking that it’s nearly December and you are behind on getting your cards together, these holiday photo card tips & ideas are for you! No need to book a last minute photoshoot & if you don’t have a “fancy” camera, no worries. All you need is your phone!
I LOVE a beautiful family photo shoot, and I seriously admire the professional photographers in my life. I think if you can invest in a professional photo shoot for your holiday cards, you won’t regret it. But, I also know that sometimes time and budget constraints mean we can’t make that happen.
Here are some holiday photo card tips that you can use for taking your own holiday photos, even with just your phone!
OUTDOOR PHOTO TAKING TIPS
If what you’re after is a traditional photo of your family in a golden, sun-lit field, beach, or other outdoor location- and you just need one photo of all you sitting or standing together, looking at the camera…
Coordinate your outfits just like you would a professional photo shoot. Remember matching and coordinating are two different things- no need for matchy-matchy. There’s tons of inspiration on Pinterest.
Choose an outdoor location that is SAFE (please no railroads ever) and that has few background distractions. It is possible to use an app like Touch ReTouch to remove things like telephone poles and wires later, but the fewer distractions the better.
Since light is best an hour after the sun rises or an hour before it sets, try to time your shoot near these “golden hours.” If your family is like mine, the evening is going to work a lot better. But if your location is popular, you’re probably going to have to be careful not to get other families in the background at that time.
Setup with the sun setting (or rising) slightly behind or in front of you, but mostly off to your side. Play around with placement. Typically I have my husband stand where I think I want to shoot and I take a couple pics to see how it turns out.
Avoid the sun directly behind you because your faces will be very dark. Avoid the sun directly in front of you if you’re having to squint while looking at your phone for the picture.
Your location should be either in full shade OR fully out of the shade. Avoid patches of shade, like directly under trees. Literally look down at your feet at the time of setting up your shoot. If you can’t get your whole family into one consistent spot of light or shade, move.
You can learn a lot more about shooting in the golden hour and how to work with light in Picture Play, my ebook that teaches you how to take and edit photos you will love, want to share, and print with just your phone + free & cheap apps.
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If you can, try to get a friend or family member to come with you to take the pictures- of course. But, if you can’t arrange for that, your next best option is a self-timed photo.
Get a tripod for you phone. Bring that with you on location. Be familiar with how to use your timer on your phone before you get there. If you have an Apple Watch, you can use that as a remote for your phone camera. Or get a wireless remote that’s compatible with your phone. If not, you’ve gotta do the thing where you set the timer, press the shutter, then run and get in place.
Don’t set your phone too far away from your family for two reasons:
1. You don’t want to have to run that far to get into the shot.
2. It’s going to look better if you all fill the frame and you don’t have to zoom in or crop much after the photo is taken.
Be patient, offer bribes, be YOURSELF, snap more pictures than you think you need, try not to get frustrated.
OR TRY THIS! Get a selfie stick if you don’t have extra long arms, or if you have an extra large family. Add festive accessories like Santa hats. All lighting tips above apply for outdoor selfies.
I’m featuring Minted photo card options throughout this post because I’ve used them for our holiday cards for years! They have a fantastic Black Friday sale, starting tomorrow 11/27 and running through 11/29.
OUTDOOR PHOTO CARD EDITING TIPS
Here’s an example of some simple edits that can apply to many photos taken in natural light during golden hour.
The photo I got with my phone..
Increase the overall brightness and add a bit of contrast in the free app Snapseed, using the Curves tool and creating a basic, gentle S curve. Here’s what one looks like.
You can also increase the warmth and make colors pop in the (Snapseed) Tune Image tools. Choose Ambiance, and increase it by a little or a lot- whatever looks best to your eye.
Finally, try increasing the Structure in the Details tools just a bit. This will really bring out the details in leaves on the trees and your faces.
Here’s a more elaborate edit using these tools and a few more.
I dig in a lot deeper into Snapseed in my ebook Picture Play! The CYBER2019 $9 off coupon code also applies to gift cards for Picture Play!
Filter If You Fancy
Right now, some of my favorite filters for this type of photo are A Color Story (free app with in app purchases): Organic Pack- “Gentle” & “Hazy.”
I also like the new Twilight pack for some more on-trend edits. The “fable” filter in this pack desaturates greens and can make your background feel a little more wintery.
Always remember to keep an eye on your subjects skin tone and never let a filter make them look unnatural.
INDOOR PHOTO CARD TIPS & IDEAS
If the sunlit field is not your jam, try…
If you want an indoor selfie with your tree lights twinkling in the background, try this:
- Stand in front of a window with a good amount of sunlight shining through.
- Place you & your family between the window and the tree.
- Turn on the tree lights and turn off all the other lights in the room.
- If there are other windows in the room, shut the blinds or close the curtains.
The light from the window you are facing should illuminate your faces and put catchlights in your eyes, and the tree lights should be visible in the darkened background.
Ok, so your family never takes themselves seriously. Roll with it! In fact, set up something that’s bound to make everyone a little silly and messy- like cookie decorating or building gingerbread houses.
Don’t worry about getting a photo of your whole family. Take turns with your partner or older child getting pics of each other with other members of the family. If it’s just you and a bunch of tiny humans, do that self timer thing! Or selfie without shame. Don’t stress about posing, embrace the chaos.
Then choose 2-3 of your favorites, making sure you have a good mix of all family members, and use a card design that’s equally cheerful and funny.
When thinking about where to set up for these photos, consider the light that’s coming into your space.
It’s best if you can do it when a lot of natural light is flooding your space, but not shining directly on you. Be mindful of shadows blinds can make! Pull them all the way up if you need to let more light in or eliminate shadows.
Collage Of Personalities
In a well-lit space in your home, likely right next to or across from a window, hang some festive fabric or tape up some holiday wrapping paper (make sure it’s matte- not shiny- so you don’t get weird reflections) as a backdrop. Then take a photo of each family member individually. Encourage each person to be as serious or as silly as their personality will allow.
*Tip! Have your photo subjects stand a foot or more away from the wall. No backs against the wall! The further they can get away from it while the backdrop still fills the frame, the better.
Then find a card design that puts each individual photo together in a fun way. Maybe like a Christmas tree….
Maybe Brady Bunch style
INDOOR PHOTO CARD EDITING TIPS
Here’s a fun photo of my son from years ago. We hung foam board from the ceiling to look like a polaroid if you’re wondering what that random white frame is. This was taken with my DSLR, not my phone, but phones were nowhere near as amazing back in 2012 as they are now. Your phone is totally capable of this – if not better (this is a little blurry).
For lighting, we had a wall of windows to the right of the photo and we let in as much light in as possible. That was it.
I just want to brighten this photo a tiny bit, making the whites really pop. A lot of times all you need is a very simple edit with the Curves tool to accomplish this- a simple midtones bump. You drop a dot in the middle of the curves line and pull it up.
For well-lit indoor photos with colors you want to pop, I love the Pop filter pack from A Color Story.
TURN A VIDEO INTO A PHOTO
If the mere thought of trying to use the self-timer or a remote, or even getting people in your family to pose for the camera makes you exhausted, set up your phone to take a video, instead! All lighting tips apply, and the more light, the better.
Then use an app like Video To Photo. You import a video, and it breaks it down into frames that you can extract and treat just like photos.
My biggest advice for this approach is to keep the videos short, or edit them into shorter segments before uploading to the app.
I hope these photo card tips you some confidence that you absolutely can capture pictures of your family that will make beautiful holiday photo cards!
HOLIDAY PHOTO CARD DISCOUNTS AND DEALS
- Don’t forget you can get 20% off all Minted orders over $150 and 15% off all other Minted orders from 11/27 through 11/29/2019 with code BF2019.
- And you can get a copy of my 161 page ebook Picture Play (over 75 5-star reviews!) with code CYBER2019 from now through next Monday, 12/2/2019.
Some links are affiliate. I make a small amount of money when you click through and order at no additional cost to you.
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