How to get the Perfect Christmas Card Photo

It’s that time of year again! I don’t know about you, but I’m still feeling like summer just ended, and it’s hard to shift gears and start thinking about Christmas. Maybe it’s the unseasonably warm weather here; it’s so odd to not have any snow in mid-November! But Christmas is coming, snow or not, and this year I’m determined not to miss the boat (again) on getting some awesome custom Christmas cards made. In a pinch you can always buy some pre-made cards and stick a 4×6 photo print inside, but I prefer to get organized a little earlier in the year so I can order some custom-printed cards with our photos right on the front. All the better for Grandma to stick on the fridge and show off our beautiful faces 🙂

Here are some of my tips for making the best Christmas cards, start to finish:

1. Start by thinking about what your finished card will look like

It can be helpful to have some idea of what you want your card to look like before you even go to take photos. Do you want a collage of different images, or just one large one? Is there going to be a photo on both the front and inside of the card, or just on the front? It’s helpful to know what kind of shots you need to get to put your vision together. Maybe you don’t even need a photo of the whole family, and you just need good shots of each individual to put together a nice family collage. Whatever works for your family!

So how do you even begin to plan? Start by browsing the templates that are available and seeing if any grabs your fancy. You’ll need to choose the basic format first (flat vs folding, size, orientation) and then take a look at your template options. Here’s the link to the greeting card section on PixPortal to start browsing:

Browse Photo Greeting Cards

2. Make a photo shoot game plan

So you know what you want and what photos you need: now what? Well, it depends. If you just want to grab photos of each individual family member, you can probably shoot most of them yourself and then have another family member take a photo of you. If you want everybody together, it gets a little trickier. The larger your family, the less likely it is that you’ll be able to stage something presentable with a tripod and a self-timer. Professional photography will definitely yield some beautiful results, but isn’t always in the budget. Sometimes just a family friend who can work a camera is all you need.

Whether you choose a pro or enlist a helpful friend, do some searching around (I love to use Pinterest for things like this) and find a few examples of shots/poses you like. If you’re going with an amateur photographer, you’ll probably want to tell them exactly what you’re trying to do and give as many examples as possible; if you choose a professional, just give a little guidance and let them put their expert spin on it to create something beautiful and unique.

3. Choose a location

I always tend to think outdoor shots are best. The lighting is a lot more fool-proof than indoors, where photos often look very yellow, dark, and dull if not using professional lighting and equipment. If you prefer indoors, going into a professional studio can be a great option, or just make sure you open up all the curtains and pick a time of day when there is ample natural light in your home.

How to get the perfect custom photo Christmas card | The PixPortal Blog
A super-cute example of an indoor Christmas portrait from iStock

I don’t think it’s necessary to worry about your pictures being very wintery or having an over-the-top Christmas theme. Everybody in Santa hats can definitely be cute, but your card can have a festive, holiday feel without needing a lot of special props or costumes. If your picture is a little more generic, it also becomes for versatile. Since you’ve gone to all the effort to get a family photo anyway, it’s nice to get something you’re proud to display year-round without it seeming out of place.

How to get the perfect custom photo Christmas card | The PixPortal Blog
Our family portrait that I used on my Christmas cards last year, shot outdoors in October by my sister

Because Christmas cards need to go out ahead of the season and taking portraits outdoors when it’s 20 below is pretty unpleasant anyway, our Christmas cards usually feature fall images rather than winter ones, and that’s totally fine.

How to Get the Perfect Photo Christmas Card | The PixPortal Blog
An excellent family portrait, taken in October and then used for a Christmas card – courtesy flickr user lorenkerns

4. Have fun!

As always, the mood your family is in will shine through your photos, for better or for worse. Let go of your perfectionist tendencies and just try to enjoy an afternoon spent together taking your photos. If using multiple photos for your card, it can be fun to have one “formal” shot and one or more silly, candid shots to let your true personalities shine.

How to Create the Perfect Photo Christmas Card | The PixPortal Blog
Fun candid shots can come together for a cute, fun collage card from PixPortal

5. Order those cards!

Don’t procrastinate ordering your photo cards! They’ll take 7-10 days to get back to you, and you’ll want to give yourself lots of time to get them signed, addressed, and in the mail ahead of Christmas. The more you can get done earlier in the holiday season rather than rushing at the end, the better. You’ll feel like a rock star dropping your cards in the mail on December 1st and just waiting for the compliments to roll in as they arrive on people’s doorsteps.

And if you don’t get them done ahead of time? Well…we offer plenty of Happy New Year card templates as well 🙂

Good luck this holiday season! I’d love to see your Christmas card creations below – leave a comment!

– Emily

How to take stunning outdoor fall portraits

While I admit that summer is and always will be my very favourite season, fall is arguably the most photogenic one. The light is beautiful but rarely too intense for portraits, the sunsets are early and stunning, and the rich golden colours make the perfect backdrop to any photograph.

Whether you’re just snapping a few candids with your phone on a laid back fall walk, or taking your DSLR out for some family portraits, here are some tips to make the most of photographing this beautiful season.

1. Take advantage of fall fashion

We might not all want to be caught on film in our bikinis in July, but we’re all comfortable and picture-perfect in our sweaters, jeans, and scarves in October. Make sure everyone is wearing enough layers not to freeze, and opt for simple, comfortable outfits, livened up with accessories like bold scarves, cute hats, and tall boots.

How to take stunning outdoor fall portraits
photo credit: Jack Fussell on flickr
How to take stunning outdoor fall portraits
photo credit: Shandi-Lee Cox on flickr
How to take stunning outdoor fall portraits
photo courtesy Emily MacKenzie

2. Catch the best light

With the quick changing of the seasons (at least way up north where we live), sunset always seems to take me by surprise this time of year. When planning an evening shoot, you can always check the Farmer’s Almanac for when sunset will happen in your area on your chosen day. Then I like to head out an hour earlier to catch the gradually fading light and, eventually, the beautiful colours of the sky. Unless you’re taking photos on a cloudy day, you may find the intense sunlight of earlier hours causes faces to be blown out or your subjects to be squinting.

How to take stunning outdoor fall portraits
photo credit: antonio on flickr
How to take stunning outdoor fall portraits
Photo credit: Lina Hayes on flickr
How to take stunning outdoor fall portraits
photo credit: Vandan Desai on flickr

3. Have fun!

Carefully posed photos can look great, be flattering for everyone, and if done well, look surprisingly natural. But sometimes you just can’t beat a great candid photo. Run through the fallen leaves, jump in a pile of them, or just relax and watch the sunset. These little moments can create the best memories.

How to take stunning outdoor fall portraits
photo source:
How to take stunning outdoor fall portraits
photo source
How to take stunning outdoor fall portraits
photo credit: Giacomo Carena on flickr

Got any other great tips to add? What are your all-time favourite autumn shots? Share below!