Tips On Taking Photos For Christmas Cards

This post is part of my 10 week Christmas Preparation Plan for 2011.

Each year since we have had a couple of kids, we (me really!) have made a photo based Christmas Card. Over the years I have improved on the card and for the last three years, I have had the talented Kate from Picklebums work her magic and create a design from the photos of the kids I send her. This was last year’s card:

Christmas Photo Cards

Isn’t it amazing! I said to Kate last year, I thought she raised the bar too high and it would be so hard to improve on this. Well from her end it might be, but from my end and my photography skills I still have lots of room to improve.


Thankfully before I took my photos for this years Christmas card, I received a copy of CLICK! How to Take Gorgeous Photos of Your Kids(aff). CLICK! is an e-book from Digital Photography School written by Rachel Devine. I was a little bit worried that this e-book would be way over my head when I read in the introduction that it was “designed for those who are familiar with the basics of light and exposure beyond auto mode”

But I did read many tips that I could apply when photographing my kids and I have been loving the results. These are some of the tips which helped me take better photos during our “Christmas card shoot”:

The real picture

4 + 1 b&w
Rachel shares in the e-book a black and white photo that she took of her kids. When Rachel shared it with her readers it received a fantastic response and it is a personal favourite of her own, now hanging as canvas in her home. The photo wasn’t planned, the kids clothes didn’t match (black and white helped remove that from the equation) and she directed the kids only briefly for the shot. It took less than five minutes and the kids were back to running and having fun.

I think when taking previous Christmas shots, I have tried so hard to have everything “right” that it becomes a chore for everyone involved. It generally starts of with me requesting the kids wear something I have chosen. What I have chosen is not what they want to wear and it gets us off on the wrong foot to start with. This year I wanted to use black and white photos, so I just asked that they wear a pair of jeans, then whatever else they liked. This almost worked. The toddler cried and cried when I put his jeans on, so I gave up and changed to the pants he wanted to wear and didn’t even bother to do the shoe battle with him (he hates wearing shoes)!

Look for inspiration

“Take a moment to stop and breathe in all the inspiration that’s out there….Influences are everywhere; one just needs to learn how to see what it is that makes them compelling to us.”

So I knew I wanted to use black and white photos, but did not have many other ideas on how to take the photo. At the gym one morning, on the TV they were showing a series of photos, one of which had a couple standing in front of a brick wall. I loved the photo and thought it would make a great background for the kids.

Keep the composition of the photo simple

4 kids cinemascope
As the photos are for the Christmas card, it can be tempting to make them look Christmassy by adding extra stuff to them. I had it in my head that I wanted to try and photograph the kids altogether and thought about having them hold presents or have a Christmas tree near them, but decided to take the advice in the e-book:

“Keep. It. Simple……The fewer elements you include, the stronger your statement.

While the photo above isn’t going to be on the Christmas card, I love it. Without even seeing their faces this tells me so much about them and the day – the fact the toddler just did not want to co-operate at all! (I used Picnik to add the Cinemascope affect to this photo.)

Fun first

Fun first b&w
As Rachel is also a mum as well as a photographer, she really gets how kids work:

“let these kids run off a bit of the excitement first. You can still be taking photos, but consider this time as more of an introduction to you and your camera”

So once we arrived at our brick wall, I let the kids run, wrestle and just be themselves. I took photos throughout and took some magic shots – not what I wanted for the Christmas card, but gorgeous moments of my kids being themselves.

Running bw

This year I am not showing the photos that will be on the card. Going for a surprise, but Kate who is designing the card for me at the moment, said they have turned out brilliantly in black and white, so cannot wait to see the card when she is finished.

Do you make a photo Christmas Card? What tips do you have for taking these types of photos?