How to Take the Best Christmas Card Photo Ever


My name is Christie, and I’m a Christmas Card addict.
Not just in the typical sense of collecting and displaying friends cards – but imagining, creating, staging, designing, and storytelling the most elaborate and cinematic moments of the holiday season.
And luckily for me, my husband is always game for my crazy antics -we begin our jolly concepting pretty early, let’s say – maybe July?  At the risk of sounding slightly obsessed.

We start with a simple concept that no doubt snowballs into a massive production by the time we’re ready to shoot – I’m talking makeup, costumes, props, shot lists, photography, graphic design…oh yes and I rope all my industry friends in to help!

The result is always crowd pleasing, “How do you do it, I could never create a card like that”.
But oh, you can!
Of course it takes time, commitment and a high level of ambition to stage an elaborate Christmas tableau vivant for your holiday photos but it’s totally doable.  You just need to be a little creative and think outside the standard Christmas Card Box!
It all starts and ends with great photography, so I turned to my incredibly talented friend (the guy I con every year into shooting my card)  – fashion and lifestyle photographer Jerry Metellus for advise on getting that perfect image for your holiday card.

Q: What makes for the most memorable holiday cards?

JM: Something either touching or humorous. Something the recipient can relate or connect to.

Q: What types of setting do you recommend?

JM:  First decide what you want the photo to say. Next, figure if there is a location near you to capture the photo live or is your photographer (that could be you or a family member) able to photograph you on a neutral background and photoshop you against a background of your choice?

Q: You mentioned shooting the card yourself.  If shooting it yourself what type of equipment do you need? 

JM: If you take the time to figure what you’re doing, you can get away with shooting with even a smart phone. There are tutorials out there to help you best understand the camera functions. I suspect that someone must have come up with ‘Smart phone photography for dummies’ (…) If you want to go in the ‘pro’ direction, DSLR camera manufacturers offer consumer friendly models. In that case, practice makes perfect. Don’t wait for the day of the photoshoot to pull the camera out of the box and attempt to read the instructions. Take a thousand to a million test photos with various lenses and settings until you figure out what you like to do, what you want your photos to look like and what look do you prefer to create, repeatedly. Lucking out once doesn’t mean that you’ve magically evolved into a ‘photographically anointed genius’. Just saying’…

Q: What is the best way to compose the image?

JM: These days, the rules have been broken so many times. The former ‘thirds’ and ‘geometric guides’ for composition, no longer apply to the same degree. The rule for YOUR card is to make it as personal as you can. Compose the photo according to the ‘story’ that you want to tell. The beauty of the digital world, is that you can apply the ‘trial and error’ method, on the spot. Try a set up, take a shot, take a look, take a like (or dislike), take another and another…

Q: Concepts, themes ideas. Do you have any expert tips for making the photos Pinterest-perfect?

JM: Have an idea before you get started.  Do some research- look at other cards online to inspire ideas.  Discuss the plan with anyone involved (family members, photographer, graphic designer etc).  Next figure out the wardrobe and possible props, if needed, plan on the best, available place to shoot in and keep it lighthearted- have as much fun as possible.  Make sure to take way more pics than you need, it is important to do this and get the shots that everyone is happy with. Do it while you’re there. It’s easier to take 10 more minutes and get a big selection than to have to do it ALL OVER AGAIN!!!!! If the people that you’re photographing aren’t into it, stay calm and don’t snap at them for not ‘participating’ as you’d like. If any of the people that you’re photographing don’t like their photos, change their pose(s) / position, change the angle of the shot and try again.

Q: What should people keep in mind when they pick out their family’s outfits?

JM: Since this is a very personal card, the choice of wardrobe should be discussed between the participants and make it a fun adventure, preferably NOT the morning of the shoot, to avoid tensions, fights and calls to 911. As far as textures and patterns, the larger the number of people in the photo, the simpler the clothing (solids vs patterns) should be to avoid confusing the eye too much. Basics work well too: black or white shirts/tops and jeans (blue or black).

Q: How in a normally lit room do you get a great photo without having to use the flash, or if using the flash, how do you prevent whitewash?

JM: To avoid using the flash, it’s best to shoot during the day, with as many uncovered windows as possible. There’s a way to change the exposure on your smartphone (look it up online).  If using a DSLR camera, take a shot from the angle that you want to take the final photo from. Review your test shot. If it’s too dark, change the settings to lighten the photo. Repeat until you see what you like, on the LDC. 

Q: Best places to get them printed?

JM: There are some really affordable places online like VistaPrint and MooCards which allow you to design the card online, add text and banners, order and print with a pretty fast turnaround.  You can even choose from postcard style or folded cards.

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  1. I loved your card from last year!! The one on the bottom right is awesome too – so unique & non-traditional. Love that you guys get so creative with it. Have a great holiday season <3

  2. Any collaboration with you and Jerry is always amazing! Two very lovely and passionate people, and it doesn’t hurt that you’re both so incredibly talented 🙂

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