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7 Tips for Successful Holiday Family Photos

By Tracey Dowdy

Thanks to the splendor of Awkward Family Photos, there’s no shortage of advice on what not to do when it comes to capturing those holiday memories. Sometimes being creative can go horribly, hilariously wrong.

If your goal is to become an Internet meme or the brunt of family jokes for years to come, by all means, wing it, but if you’d like a few tips on creating photos you’ll actually want to share, here are a few suggestions:

Have fun

Break away from the old “mom and dad in front, kids lined up in the back” pose. Unless your family really is that uptight, let your photo reflect your family’s personality. Arrange yourselves around the tree, on the front porch, by the pool, on a blanket in the backyard, sitting, standing, leaning, cuddled up…you get the picture.

Pick a location

Outdoor photos have built-in natural lighting and endless possibilities for your backdrop. Take the time to drive around and find an interesting spot that reflects your style and who you are. If it’s too cold or you’d rather stay at home, look for creative ways to use the space. Stagger family members on the stairs, pile up on a bed, or curl up in front of the fireplace.

Pick a theme

I’m not suggesting you force your family to dress like The Avengers, though if that’s your thing, go for it. Instead go with a color palette that suits you and your surroundings – neutral clothing choices keep the photo from being too busy in a room full of holiday decorations, but can be a pop of color in an outdoor setting. Decide if you want everyone dressed up or if jeans are more your family’s style.

Be creative with your pose

Don’t be afraid to be silly in your photo if that’s who you are in real life. Perch your toddler on your shoulders; stand in a circle and have the photographer shoot from above while you look up; get in close and sneak a kiss under the mistletoe; or have the baby sit in a gift box.

Use props

Here’s a great tutorial on simple props that will make your photos unique. Plus, if you let the kids help make them, you just bought yourself a whole other set of memories. You can get inexpensive oversize letters from stores like Hobby Lobby or Michaels to spell out a simple word like “love”, “joy”, or even your family name.

Act natural

I know, easier said than done. That’s why it’s important to pick a location where you feel comfortable. If you have lots of little ones in the family, Nana’s living room full of antiques may not be the best choice. Use your props to interact with one another instead of the camera. Your smiles will be more genuine and the poses won’t look forced.

Have reasonable expectations

When we somehow bend the space/time continuum and all land at my in-laws, there are 57 of us. That’s not a typo. Fifty-seven. Elite strategists at the Pentagon would be hard pressed to get a photo with everyone looking forward let alone no-one blinking. Think about your group. If there are babies, just before nap time is a bad choice. If mom is preparing the family feast, squeezing it in between dishes may not be a good idea. Just remember that no matter how much you plan, things will never be perfect.

For more suggestions on everything from what to wear to how to display your photos, check out sites like The Dating Divas or the Harvard Homemaker for inspiration.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, Ontario. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology.

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