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Challenge: Reducing Holiday Stress

How to Take the Perfect Holiday Photo

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What is the secret to a great family card? Our family has been doing “creative” holiday pics for over 20 years. It is always stressful – ALWAYS – but I have learned a thing or two. Whether you’re going for the traditional happy family shot or planning something more unusual, here are some basic rules which will help the picture turn out the best it can be.

First - plan ahead so you’re not doing it late. We never do this! We always shoot on December 20 or thereabouts. Then we have the added stress of racing over to Moto Photo the next morning and asking how quickly we can get our copies made. Often we don’t even mail our cards out until after December 25, in which case I refer to them as “New Year’s” cards. I hate the rush. So do as I say and not as I do.

Is a friend coming over to take the photo? Offer the photographer a beer. We just figured this out last year and I thought to myself “what took me so long to do this?” It made things go so much more smoothly! Also, I had a glass of wine myself.

Make sure your kids are fed and not too tired. I was mindful of this when the kids were little, but it holds true for older kids as well, especially teenagers. If it’s going to be stressful – and it is – it will help if people don’t start out cranky.

Who is in charge?In our house my husband is the “director”. He’s the perfectionist, always wanting to try another angle or adjust the lighting. I just want to get it over with. (Oops, did I say that out loud?) It helps to have someone in charge, rather than bickering over details that should have been worked out already. I’m the people manager, feeding the kids snacks, sipping my wine and making lame jokes about how the kids will tell their Christmas card stories to their therapists later in life.

Pick the easiest shot you can. We never do this! We always have to create a massive set, garner props, and get into specific clothing. You however, don't have to that. Think simple.

Not everybody has to have the perfect smile. Sometimes a glance off-camera or a sly peek at their brother can make the photo all the more charming.

Keep the budget down. We never do this! We spend way too much money on set decoration and props. Then we pack it away in case we need it next year, forget where we put it all and end up buying new stuff anyway.

If you’re going for a non-traditional card – meaning anything other than the happy family shot – make sure you like your “fun” idea. Because some people might not get it. Or they won’t like it. And they might say something very un-holiday to you like “What was that supposed to be?” As long as you feel great about your card, you can answer with a smile.

Remember that your cards will bring people happiness, and that is the main reason you are doing it. They will bring you happiness too, one day in the distant future, when you look back and remember what your photo shoot was like that year.


Pam Lobley is the author of Why Can't We Just Play? What I Did When I Realized My Kids Were Way Too Busy.

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