Pro Tips for Perfect Christmas Card Photos – Guest Post
November 11, 2010 homemaking

As part of my series called Lessons from a Super Mom, I am thrilled to be able to bring you a guest post from a really outstanding mom, Mary Phillips. She has a new website called which she designed specifically to help moms take better photos, no matter what type of camera or equipment they have. Mary is a busy Texas mom and professional photographer who just wanted to help other moms with easy-to-understand and jargon-free advice. On the site you will find tips for everything from an iPhone camera to professional photography equpment. She also includes tip sheets, editing advice, software reviews, contets, forums and much more.

Looking for a perfect gift for a mom? Look no further – a subscription to is $6 per month and makes a great stocking stuffer or on-the-tree present! A portion of all membership fees benefit two non-profit children’s charities, The Tiny Sparrow Foundation (which provides beautiful photography t o families with children who are facing life-threatening illnesses) and Wipe Out Kids Cancer (which funds research on cancer that affects children). I highly encourage you to check out Mary’s website – and I’d love to see YOUR Christmas card photos!

Getting the perfect Christmas card picture can often take a lot of the joy out of the holiday season. Moms find themselves stressing over outfits, locations, kids who aren’t in the mood and cameras that take the picture a second too late.

I can vividly remember our first family Christmas card attempt. We didn’t want to take our sweet 11 month old out into the snow, so I tacked a snowflake patterned tablecloth to the kitchen wall, put the camera on a tripod and jumped in front of the camera over and over again hoping for the right shot. We laughed every time as the silly reindeer antlers fell off her head over and over again. It was a terrible picture, but it’s still a fond memory.

As the years go by, every family starts to develop their Christmas card style, whether it is whimsical or traditional. No matter what your style, we have a few tips to make the process more festive and less stressful.

Mom stress #1 – Wardrobe
Finding an outfit for every member of your family that looks good, doesn’t itch and doesn’t cost a fortune is hard, but don’t give up and go for the jeans and black/white shirt look. Start with yourself (yes, you need to be in the picture), find an outfit you love and feel festive in. If it has a pattern, then pull colors from the pattern to dress the rest of the family in. If it’s a solid, then you can find patterns for the kids or hubby that incorporate your color. No budget for new clothes? Go with a neutral color scheme and dress it up with coordinating scarves or accessories. One of my all time favorite holiday portraits was a family who used small splashes of red plaid along with a base of denim and black.

Mom stress #2 – Location
If you always take the picture in front of the tree, then by all means continue the tradition, but also consider locations such as Christmas Tree farms or malls for more space and better lighting. Also, locations such as these will be decorated early so you can get those cards done and checked off the list. Look for an area without a lot of clutter in the background. Sometimes just a change in camera angle can make all the difference.

Mom stress #3 -Attitudes
I’ve said this more times than I can count, but it bears repeating. Set the tone of fun from the beginning. Make the process about having fun or going on an adventure. If you start by bribing the children for good behavior, you are communicating to them that taking pictures is something to be endured and not enjoyed. Listen to the things you say to your children. If someone told you “not to smile that way” would you be inclined to laugh or would you feel even more self-conscious about your smile? For genuine smiles, hug them, tickle them, and tell them they are beautiful and silly creatures.

Mom stress #4 – The camera
You absolutely don’t want to be trying to figure out your camera while your children are sitting around waiting. Be a girl scout, be prepared! Scope out your location ahead of time at the same time of day you will be there with your family. Try different settings until you know what will work best. A shutter speed of 1/125 or higher will help freeze wiggly kiddos and avoid blurry pictures so try using a sports setting. If you want to capture the glow of Christmas tree lights, try night portrait mode (you don’t have to turn off the other lights in the room to capture a little twinkle and glow).

Mom Stress #5 – Tripods, Timers and jumping in the shot
This one is so easy, just ask a friend for some help and switch off with a friend! You help her one day and she can help you the next. Do not try to do both families on one day. Believe me I’ve tried and it’s a train wreck. The kids are too busy showing off for their friends to fully participate.

Mom Stress #6 – Posing everyone
Look at family pictures you like and make note of how the members are arranged. Pull out your favorite cards from years past and bring them along for a reference on how to position everyone. If your family just isn’t up for sitting still, take a break, have some fun and get a few great candids. You can either try again in 5 or 10 minutes or put together a great card with the best candid shot of each family member.

Above all else, remember that your Christmas Cards are going to loved ones who will embrace and enjoy every glorious imperfection that makes your family unique.

Many thanks to Mary Phillips from for sharing her tips with us today. I would love to see your Christmas card photos, so please – bring them on! If you would like to be featured in this series, please send an email to nowwithbaby (at) gmail (dot) com. I can’t wait to hear from you!

  • A Happy Hippy Mom

    These tips are really awesome! I need all the help I can get when it comes to taking photos. Thank you for sharing!

  • Beeb

    Great tips! Last year, we did photo cards for the first time, and it was a bit stressful. I had the brilliant idea that we would set up a self-timer on the camera, put it on a tripod, and get a shot of us in front of the ocean, since we live on the coast. We got a great photo, but then the wind knocked the tripod over and broke the camera. OOPS!

    This year, we are having professional engagement photos taken during the first week of December, so I plan to use one of those for our Christmas card also!

  • Joanna

    Isn't Mary fantastic? She has awesome tips – I was so thrilled to share these with you guys. Thanks for dropping by and I hope you have GREAT photo sessions for your Christmas cards this year! I suspect my Christmas cards will be more like Valetine's Day cards this year…

  • Brandy

    What a great post! Tips awesome! Thanks for this!

  • tiff snedaker

    These tips are awesome! Where are they every time I try to take family photo? Thanks for sharing them.

  • Simply Being Mommy

    Great tips! Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Sarah

    Great tips! We spent an insane amount of time trying to get a good shot last year. I nearly ended up in tears. We ended up just using a few of the funnier bad ones. Hopefully this year will be better.