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This time of year many families are hustling to get their holiday photo cards ordered. And those of us who seemed to have slacked this year are trying desperately to book their photo shoot for their holiday card. 

When it comes time to get your photo taken it’s important to realize that there is a lot more that goes into planning the perfect family photo than just showing up ready to smile. 

We have researched to bring you some of the best tips out there on just how to obtain that beautiful family portrait that you will be pride to send out in your holiday cards this season. 

First of all it is incredibly important to know what kind of look you want. Plan your shots. Think ahead of what kind of pose(s) you would like. Do you want a very structured straightforward look with everyone standing single file? Or would you like something a bit more organic and candid where your family is relaxed and natural looking?

With plenty of time before the big day search online and in magazines for what you like. Make a Pinterest board or a small scrapbook of the photos that you like. Clothing ideas can go into this compilation as well. The point is to have a sort of plan of action. 

Don’t forget to take your subjects into consideration. Will the poses you love work well with your family? If you have several young children, getting the perfect postured smiling statuesque pose is simply not going to happen. But, that picture with the youngest on dad’s shoulders and the two older ones peeking from around a tree? It will work! 

Really look around for photographers. Just because you’ve heard their name a lot does not mean they are the best choice for what you want. Remember they are professionals but you are the one hiring them. Choose the best photographer for you and your style.

Discuss beforehand with your photographer how much experience he or she has with family portraits and discuss the location you are taking the photo (if not in their studio). They will likely have several tips and tricks on how to get that ideal shot. 

Be sure to communicate with them often. Discuss what you like show them that Pinterest board or scrapbook. Showing them photos ahead of time of what you like will help them. But, please be realistic. Unless you and your family are professional models, not every pose you love will work period.

When it comes to poses do not stress yourself out over out doing your sister or your neighbor. Do what feels good to you and your family. Just because your sister and her three perfect girls all ride horses and have them posed on horseback doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with your families candid shot of all three boys covered in mud playing with a football. The people who receive your holiday cards want to see you and yours happy and healthy. Period.

If you want to have your photos done outside speak with your photographer about this ahead of time. Make sure they are familiar with or can at least visit the location at the time of day you want the photo taken ahead of time. They will want to take a look at the area so to provide the best natural lighting possible.

Always book your appointment earlier rather than later. Photographers are typically very busy and if they do more than just portraits, like weddings etc. they can be busy at all times of the year. Of course don’t go too overboard and book crazy early. You never know when some type of life event could occur that would cause you to cancel. No, you can’t be worrying about every little thing but, if you know you are trying to get pregnant and would prefer the photo not show your bump; don’t book more than three months out.

Clothing choices are definitely one of the most stressful decisions mom faces when planning the big family picture. Repeat after me “when it comes to clothing choices, I won’t overdo it”. 

Sure you all want to look like you belong in the photo together but, you don’t want to look like a wait staff at a local restaurant. Too much matchy-matchy will tend to make the photo look a bit outdated as well. 

Also, always stay away from crazy patterns. They won’t translate well into the photo and are likely to distract and overwhelm the image altogether. If you want everyone to have the same color shirt, fine but change styles. Some people do not belong in v-necks period. And if you must choose the same color don’t make it a hard color to find. Searching for the same shade of teal in a man’s 2x dress shirt as you see in a 2t spring dress is more stressful on you than it’s worth. 

Put, the boys in navy and the girls in lime, clean pressed clothes and big smiles are what is important. 

And since we are on the subject of clothing, make sure the clothes are comfortable, especially if you have younger children in tow. Who wants to stand around in a stiff wool sweater for two hours? Not you and definitely not a five year old boy.

Speaking of kids, please make sure the kids are fed, have gone to the bathroom, and have had their naps. Do not book an appointment close to a meal time or nap time. All this will do is stress you and the kiddos out. Who wants that?

Want to use some props? Okay, but keep them simple. We know you want to show your young children decorating an evergreen tree in a meadow. That’s great, go for it! But, select a small tree, one that is not much taller than they are and it should be thin as well with maybe just one small basket of ornaments to decorate. Much more and we’re now looking more at the stuff and not the people.

Want them to hold a chalkboard with a message on it? Make sure the chalkboard has a smooth finish and the message is written in one color. That way it will photograph well. Also be sure that the people in the photo stand out more than the message. This means no five foot long boards. I wanna see Sally’s face not just her eyes.

Don’t forget to take a long a few things along with you to the photo session. For the adults; be sure to have on hand mascara, face powder, and a pair of spare slip on shoes to change into. What for? Chasing down the kiddos. Or when you are not in the photo and need to give those tootsies a rest from your fabulous heels. For the children and babies bring a non messy snack and a favorite toy or two along with a blanket to sit down on. Definitely bring bottles of water for everyone. 

Last but, not least here is a smaller list of our big don’ts!

Do not try a new ultra trendy hairstyle one week before (unless you are known for always switching your hair) because in the years to come, you’ll think to yourself “Wow that doesn’t even look like me.”

Make anyone cry just before the shutter clicks. Keep calm it’s just a picture. Red faces are not cute ever.

Forget the worries of a toothless smile from your six year old. It’s a right of passage and incredibly adorable.

For goodness sake, do not insist on all white clothing, seriously you are just asking for trouble. 

Tell the photographer every little thing you want done. Or about every article you recently read on using your new camera. They know how to do their job, that’s why you are paying them. Relax and let them do their job.

Always remember that the best photos are not perfect. Some of the most beautiful family portraits have the youngest with a crooked grin, the middle child looks a little pouty, the oldest has an incredibly cheesy grin, and mom and dad simply look wore out. Odds are this is how your family looks pretty often so if it’s not too bad go ahead and use it. It’s an adorable memory and will bring a knowing smile to every grandparent’s face.


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