How to Take Amazing Family Holiday Photos

Christmas is here! And the holidays call for amazing photos with the family. Sadly, a lot of times, this is easier said than done. No matter what you do, there will always be the inevitable fake smiles and arguments every time you want to capture a few memories in photos. 

If you are not planning to have a professional photoshoot, what exactly do you have to do to take the perfect family photos every time? Well, this guide is going to offer tips and tricks that will help you take your photography skills to the next level. Whether you’re using your phone or a professional camera, here is how to capture some stunning family photos this holiday season. 

  1. Get Down to Their Level

One of the best ways to achieve stunning photos of your children is to crouch down to their level and just observe them for a while. It makes everything more intimate and personal. Plus, it is also a great way to get a sense of what they are experiencing, allowing you to compose interesting shots!

  1. Use Negative Space

You do not have to fill the frame with people every time. Sometimes, allowing lots of space to surround your subject allows the photo to breathe. It also gives context to the picture, telling the story of where they were and what they were doing or what they were looking at when the picture was taken.

  1. Use a Simple Backdrop

The simpler the backdrop, the better. You want to keep it plain and uncluttered, for example by using a plain white wall. Simplicity in the backdrop focuses the attention of the photo on the subjects, which in this case, is your smiling family all posed up. It gives the photos a professional look. 

  1. Keep the Shot Stable with a Tripod

This is a little-known tip that lots of amateur photographers pay no attention to. Using a tripod for the camera can vastly improve the quality of the pictures. It will keep everything stable and level, allowing the results to look well-composed and professional. 

  1. Do Not Take Photos in Bright Light Sources

Avoid things like bright sunlight, open flames, lit candles, and bright lamps. Sunlight washes out photos and the glow from open flames affects the overall lighting of your picture. Consider moving bright light sources out of the frame to prevent unsightly shadows or bright sports. If you have to take photos in front of the tree, make sure no one stands too close to the lights. 

  1. Capture Natural Emotions

Family photos will almost always turn out bad if you try to pose everyone. If you want to capture true emotions, especially from children, take your time and have a chat with them or a few cuddles while your partner snaps away. If you are lucky, they will be unaware that these precious moments are being captured, and that’s what makes the best photos!

  1. Capture Their Personalities

Photos with everyone smiling are great, but that’s not who they are most of the time. It’s the moments in between the smiles that make the person. So with the camera ready, watch your family as they interact with each other. As the kids start winding up each other, capture that moment. When everyone is opening their presents, capture the anticipation and their happy expressions. You’ll treasure these pictures a lot more than the smiley ones.

  1. Try to have Natural Poses

Avoid the temptation of arranging everyone in a stiff group pose. Instead, go for natural poses like hugging or holding hands. Everyone can also pose around the dinner table or do semi-posed actions like decorating the tree, opening presents or walking outside. Avoid distracting movements like waving or making hand gestures as they take attention away from other subjects and may also block other people’s faces. 

  1. Wear Matching Colors or Patterns to Tie the Photo Together

This is a simple yet highly effective way of making your photos look festive and cohesive. Coordinated outfits, textures, and patterns can tie everything together. You do not have to completely match the outfits; you can have everyone wearing complementary colors or colors that go well together such as Christmas green, white, red, gold, and black. That said, avoid shiny outfits or clothes with reflective designs as the shine can be distracting.


  1. Leave Some Space Around the Border of the Photo for Framing

If you are planning to print and frame the photos, leave some space above your subjects and along the sides. This will allow you to frame the pictures without cutting off the tops of people’s heads or their arms. Allow at least two heads' worth of space at the top for framing. 

  1. If You have to Use Props, Keep Them Simple

The easiest props for Christmas family photos are hats, mittens, scarves, and perhaps simple wooden sleds and ice skates that are tied together. When used well, they can add a fun element to the photos. Avoid elaborate props or costumes such as Santa suits.

  1. If Taking Photos with Your Phone, Use the Back Camera

The camera at the back of your phone is far superior to the front camera. While you may want to use the front camera so you can see what the photos will look like, if you want to go for quality, use the back camera instead. The best way to do this is to take a few test shots with the front camera to help you compose everything, then use the back camera for the final shot with a timer to allow you to set it up and get back into the shot with your family. 

Other Pro Tips for Taking Great Family Photos

  • Remember your gear: Chargers, spare batteries, and extra memory space are all essential to have. If you are taking pictures with a DSLR camera, also carry the lenses that you’ll need. 
  • If you are traveling for the holidays with your family, you do not have to bring your camera with you everywhere you go. Depending on the activities you’ll be doing that day, you can decide whether or not you need to capture the moments or simply relax and enjoy the company of your family. 
  • Capture the details: The scenery, the views, the food, the decorations… These are the things that come together to create the experience. While capturing moments with your family, do not forget to include these details as well. 
  • Be in the photos: It is not unusual for the photographer to take great photos of everyone else and not be in any of them. Try to include yourself in a few pictures by using the timer function on your camera or a selfie stick. 
  • Back up, organize, and edit your photos as soon as you can to avoid forgetting about them once the holidays are over. 

Final Thoughts

Now that Christmas is here, it is time to relax and bond with your family. With the Christmas spirit comes moments and experiences that you’ll enjoy looking back at and remembering a few years from now. That’s why this is the perfect time to take lots of photos. With the tips outlined above, you should be able to take amazing pictures every time. Merry Christmas!