Tips For Taking Truly Memorable Holiday Photos

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Do the words “holiday photos” make you think of itchy, tacky sweaters and posed group shots, destined for a feature on Awkward Family Photos? No more!

With a few simple tips and ideas, you can get unforgettable shots of your family and friends, brimming with festive cheer.

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Image: Ashley Thalman Photography

Don’t leave yourself out. If you’re the designated family photographer (either by choice or by default), there are probably few photographs with you in the frame. This is not okay! Make sure you’re in some of the photos too. Hand the camera off to someone else (even your kid; you might be amazed at what they capture), or use the timer function.

If you’re relying on your phone for holiday photos, you can find timer apps in the App Store or Google Play Store (I use TimerCam on my iPhone). Get candid shots by setting the timer and then getting back to the business at hand, like baking a pie or putting the finishing touches on the tree. Camera remotes are another option if you’re using a DSLR – and they’ll run you all of $20. It’s a small price to pay to make sure you won’t be missing from the family photo album!



Image: The Intrepid Cow

Get close. Whether you’re capturing the joy on your children’s faces as they tear into Christmas presents or want to remember your artfully arranged mantle vignette, get in close. Remember that with point-and-shoot cameras, you’ll get better results by actually moving in close than relying on the zoom.

While you’re at it, get on the same level as your subject; it’s a flattering angle for everyone. If you’re taking photos of children, you might have to squat down or even lay on the floor to get to their eye level. Get your subjects to fill a good portion of the frame for a photo with true visual impact!


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Image: Heather Mariano Photography

Go candid. Sure, it’s nice to have a group shot of the whole family. But it won’t be nearly as interesting 20 years from now as the shot of your daughter making her grandfather laugh or formerly-feuding cousins peacefully playing a board game together. Be ready to capture candid shots by keeping your camera handy and making sure the battery is charged. And an extra SD card isn’t a bad idea, either!


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Image: Amanda Soule

Capture the traditions. Every family has beloved traditions, whether it’s assembling epic sandwiches from leftovers the day after Thanksgiving, lighting the menorah or the annual hunt for the perfect Christmas tree. No matter how silly they seem, document them; they’ll mean the world to you, your children or your grandchildren down the road.


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Image: Elise Blaha

Use flash sparingly. OK, this one doesn’t just apply to photos during the holidays. Yes, you need light to take a photo, but the light produced by a tiny camera flash is rarely flattering (leading to those awkward holiday shots everyone wants to avoid). So turn off the flash, especially when you’re indoors.

Get the illumination you need for evening and night shots by turning on every lamp you can find. It’s also helpful to get between your subject and the light source (this keeps your subject from ending up backlit). On the flip side, you’ll probably want to use your flash when taking outdoor shots in the evening.


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Image: Emily Clark

Don’t forget the food. Sure, the holidays are about family, but they’re also very much about food. What better way to immortalize Grandma’s famous fruit cake or your husband’s Turdurken than by taking some photos for posterity? Food photography can get a little tricky – and you want the food to look appetizing, not icky.

Get your shots before everyone digs in, but be quick about it – no one likes a cold holiday dinner. Think multiple angles (including overhead shots) and of course, skip the flash.

We hope you’ve been inspired by these holiday photo ideas – and don’t forget to share these memories with family and friends! Use the Kicksend app to quickly mail photo prints to everyone in your address book; photos are much more fun than the holiday letter that everyone else is mailing out.

Julia Garza is passionate about documenting everyday life by any means necessary. She enjoys getting crafty and drinking tea. You can follow her adventures over at

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