It’s that wonderful time of year when the to-do list is longer than a CVS receipt and the time to complete it is essentially non-existent. Add to that list family holiday photos, and you’re sure to be at each other’s throats — or at least that’s how it’s been in the past. Let’s do it differently this year by following our top six tips for stress-free holiday photos.

1. Know the Purpose of the Session

Why are you having portraits taken? Is it just for the holiday card? Do you want to give the grandparents a photo album for Christmas? Do you want to put family portraits up on your walls? Knowing why you’re going through the effort will help you make every other decision. If you just want Christmas cards, then a photographer offering a mini session may be the way to go. If you’re wanting to create a photo album for Grandma, you’ll want to opt for a full-length session, ideally with a photographer who offers albums.

stress free holiday photos

2. DIY or Pro

Photo sessions are not just as easy as sitting down, snapping a picture, and calling it a day. Besides, it’s the holidays, and you’re busy!

If you’re a DIY person, you can go that route. Snap photos of the kids or set your timer and run into position, then design and order your own cards and photo gifts. But, you need to evaluate how much time you have to devote to coordinating, planning, designing, ordering, packaging, and delivering products you want to gift to family members.

If the thought of all that is bringing out your inner Grinch, you can take some of the stress out of the season, and enlist the help of a pro photographer or a company with fillable Christmas cards or photo gifts. It’ll be done a whole lot faster with a lot less effort on your part.

3. What to Wear

It’s not the 80s anymore, so ditch the matchy-matchy outfits unless it’s a tradition for your family or you’re going to be fun with it. Try to pick clothes that are in a similar color palette, but not exactly the same color. Pinterest is a great place to find inspiration. Ultimately, pictures should represent you and your family as you are at this moment in time. Let the kids pick clothes that match their character and current style. This will help you avoid some of the pre-session battles over clothes as well. Even if your daughter is in a crazy hair phase, let it be! You can laugh and use it as blackmail at her wedding in years to come.

stress free holiday photos

4. Funny or Serious

Like the clothing, be who you are in real life. If you’re a quiet, stoic family, then the superhero picture may not be appropriate for you. On the other hand, if you’re an intense sports family, you don’t need to have every hair perfectly in place and wear your bowties and ballgowns in your pictures. Cuddle with your kiddos, tickle them, or smile sweetly at the camera. Relax, and be you!

5. Find the Right Photographer

Being able to answer the previous questions will help you decide who the right photographer is for you. Styles can vary greatly. Not all photographers offer products. Not all photographers offer digital images.

If money is the most important factor, you’ll likely want a mini session specifically for holiday photos with a less experienced or less involved photographer.

With an easy process and more professional guidance, expect to spend more, but not have to make every decision on your own. If you have crazy kids, find a photographer who works well with kids like yours. If you’re a quiet family, you may want to opt for a more reserved photographer. A quick phone call will give you a good idea if they’ll be a good match for you.

Pro tip: Ask about turnaround times. If Christmas is in three weeks, you need a photographer with a fast turnaround.

stress free holiday photos

6. What if Someone is Deployed

Incorporating deployed service members into family photos can be a challenge, but it can be done if you’re creative:

      • Work a Skype or Facetime session into your photo session if the time zones work out OK.
      • Ask your service member to send you a picture from where they are right now. You can hold that picture during your family session.
      • Create a holiday card that has a Brady Bunch-type layout with a separate picture of each individual person (you can use that photo we mentioned above).
      • See if your photographer can Photoshop them in. To do this, it’s best to have a finished product in mind before you start, and you may need to be more selective with your photographer. Make sure it’s clear that person is deployed and not deceased though. Having them faded in or super serious faces will make people wonder.

Ultimately, holiday photos do not have to be stressful. Make a fun day of it instead of a chore. Go to lunch afterward or take your portraits at one of your favorite places. Most importantly, pick your battles. When families fight before the session, it shows in the finished pictures. Instead, just enjoy the scheduled time together, even if there’s a photographer there.

Sending those photo gifts from an OCONUS spot? Work in some extra time. Be sure to check the 2018 U.S. Post Office’s Overseas Shipping Deadlines.

Stress-free Holiday Photos


Photo Credits: Eastern Sky Photography NC

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