Making Christmas card

How to Take Great Holiday Family Photos

‘Tis the season for taking family photos for Christmas cards. Parenting School Years magazine offers four tips for snapping the best pictures of your crew this holiday season.

Chances are you’ve got plenty of holiday photo postcards of friends and family peppering your refrigerator–or you soon will. With Christmas just less than a month away, families will be striking poses in the hopes of getting that perfect picture to grace their holiday card.

More and more, families are opting for natural settings and incorporating their personalities, sending that super-posed photo to the wayside.

Parenting School Years magazine cornered some professional photographers, who offered advice like abandoning the pose–and more–for help on how to score the ultimate family photo. Here’s what they have to say.

1. Say no to the pose. Posed family photos are awkward and impossible to make happen anyway. The trend now is to go with unposed shots. Says Charleston, S.C., photojournalist Joshua Drake, “Candids let you capture those intimate, honest moments that happen in everyday life that best reflect your child’s mood and personality.”

2. Keep them in their native environment. If you want the kids to look relaxed and happy, then it might be better to photograph them in their natural habitat–amongst all their toys. “Kids feel most comfortable on their own couch or on their playroom floor,” says Carmel Zucker, a photojournalist from Boulder, Colo. And nothing gets them more delighted or animated than a favorite toy–I know, a blow to the ego for sure.

3. READY, set, click! Just last night I was wishing I’d had my camera nearby to capture my twin girls holding hands and singing. Of course, the minute I move for the camera, they follow me. “You should always have a camera sitting around the house that’s ready to go,” Zucker says. And out of reach of sticky fingers.

4. Snap away! Brent Clark, an award-winning photojournalist based in Raleigh, N.C., confides, “Small facial movements can make or break a photo.” What about redundancy? Clark suggests moving around the room to get different angles, even “lying on the ground or standing on a chair.”

Perhaps the best advice is to let go of so many ridiculous expectations for the perfect family photo. Aside from hiring a professional photographer and paying a fortune, it just might not exist. Besides, the best photographs help us remember special moments and phases of life–none of which will be, “Remember that awesome day we spent taking a family portrait?”

Tell us. What’s your secret for capturing the best family photos?