How To Nail Your Holiday Card Photo

Ah the great American tradition of Christmas Cards. Love it or hate it, after you have kids, chances are you'll get on the bandwagon at least one time. Once you've committed to the challenge, it's time to drum up all of your holiday spirit and get that photo! Now, I don't know about you, but I like to keep the adults out of our cards and just focus on the kiddos. It's way less pressure and frankly, I can take the photo myself rather than having to rely on another photographer or the self timer.

So here are some tips I've learned along the way for mastering the holiday photo card (kids edition).

How to nail your holiday card photo. Pixels & Pigment

#1 Plan Ahead, Plan Ahead, Plan Ahead

There are so many things that go into making a great holiday photo and I suggest you get your ducks in a row before you even get near your camera.

Start Shopping. If you're looking for a specific prop, outfit or matching PJ's, get them on order, washed and tried on before game day. 

Think About Haircuts. If you're little one hasn't had a haircut since Spring, it would be a good time to freshen up their cut so they're looking sharp for the photo. Caution...this can also backfire if the hairdresser goes shorter than you'd like or daddy makes a clipper mistake but don't's nothing that a winter beanie or a Santa Hat can't hide.

Get Some Inspiration. Start a Pinterest board for family photo ideas and try to come up with the type of image you want to take. This really helps give you something specific to focus on and it'll keep your shooting time to a minimum.  Sometimes a Santa hat is all you need but other times you might get more ambitious and try for a full blown Christmas miracle snow scene...I say go for it!

Check Lead Times. Make sure you check the production times for the card company you're going to use. I always do my cards with Minted. They're not the cheapest but they've got great designs and top notch quality. 

How to nail your holiday card photo. Pixels & Pigment

#2 Choose The Right Time To Shoot

Getting your kids dressed and set up for this photo is going to take some patience, especially if they're little. Make sure they're not starving and have had a nap or a good night sleep or you risk total meltdown. 

How to nail your holiday card photo. Pixels & Pigment

Also, think about the time of day you need to shoot. If you're doing something outside, just before sunset or dusk is usually a great time for that golden light. If you're shooting inside, you might want to shoot in the morning or whenever you get the most light through the windows.

#3 Prepare The Shot Before The Kids Come In

Make sure you're all set with your camera settings before you bring the kids into the mix. I find that it's almost always the first few shots that are the best so you'll want to make sure you're ready. Set everything up and fire off a few test shots to make sure the lighting is good and your exposure is spot on. It'll give you a chance to edit the scene without worrying about the kids.

Here's a test shot I did before bringing in my little one (fancy setup...nope!). End result with both of them is below.

How to nail your holiday card photo. Pixels & Pigment

#4 Give Them Something To Fidget With

Holiday photos are all about capturing a magical moment. Sometimes kids need something to hold on to or focus on to make them relax and give you some genuine smiles. If you set up a scene and force them to sit there with nothing to do, I can promise they'll be bored and frustrated before you even get started. I used a simple strand of lights in the image gave the kids something to focus on and added a little extra Christmas feel.

How to nail your holiday card photo. Pixels & Pigment

#5 Enlist Some Help

You're job is to be the photographer so you're going to need some extra hands to help with styling and entertainment. 

And just to prove you don't need fancy lighting to get a beautiful image, I'll share the setup for the photo above. No expensive lighting here...just a patient husband with our table lamp  :)

How to nail your holiday card photo. Pixels & Pigment

Final Thoughts

It may take a few tries but eventually you'll come up with a keeper. Once you've got that photo you can spend the rest of your time pouring over the ten thousand card designs out there (it's a job in itself) so make sure you factored that into your timeline!

When you take the time to really plan and execute these photos, you get rewarded with beautiful cards that are a pleasure to look back on year after year. Good luck and Happy Holidays!

PS: Tag me in your pics if you get a good one...I'd love to see them :)  @pixelsandpigment

 How to nail your holiday card photo. Pixels & Pigment


Glass Has 2 Disadvantages

First of all, it's heavy. I don't know about you but the thought of busting out the wall anchors, level and power tools just to hang a print seems like a lot of effort to me. That, plus the risk of the frame falling and shattering all over your floor is enough to give me anxiety (very possible with my two young sons running around). Going with plexiglass is a good alternative but it can be even more expensive than glass when you need a big piece. 

Second, glass creates a glare. You can spring for the non-glare version at your frame shop but, let's face it, if you're trying to frame your art on a budget, it just isn't in the cards.

Now, I'm not one to spend hundreds of dollars on framing my prints...I like to change them out too often to invest in any kind of expensive, breakable solutions so I found a way around it.

The Old Days

When I was in photography school at SCAD, we used to print, mat and frame all our own work. One of the things we used to do was dry mount our prints onto a foam board before we presented them for critique.

This basically glued the print to the board, creating a rigid image that was easier to frame or hang. The process involves using a heat activated adhesive film and a press which melts the film and adheres the photo to the board.

Here's The Trick

For larger prints I take them down to Michael's (or your local frame shop) and for about $25 they'll dry mount your print to a piece of 1/4 in foam board. You can then just pop it right into your frame, no glass needed. This actually looks really nice when your print is on glossy just the right amount of glare so it almost seems like there is glass but without all the weight.

A Few Words Of Caution

1) Make sure your frame has enough room to fit the 1/4 inch board inside the lip or the backing won't close. Some frames have very shallow depth (the area where the glass, print and backing sit) and you could end up with a print that doesn't fit your new frame. If your frame has a shallow depth, see if they can use a thinner board...maybe a mat board or an 1/8 inch foam board to be safe.

2) Be sure to call Michael's (or your local frame shop) to check that their heat sealer can accommodate the size print you have. I believe Michael's can do up to a 30x40" but it may vary from store to store so make sure you call first.

To Sum Up

Framing your print without using glass is a great low-cost and lightweight option for framing your photography prints. Once you find a good frame shop that can dry mount your prints, you are well on the road to success. Just be sure to measure your frames carefully and you'll end up with a stunning piece of art that will elevate the look of your space.

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