Christmas card photo ideas and tips from professional photographers

A stack of personalized holiday photo cards lies on a table covered with a bright red table cloth, surrounded by envelopes, a pen and holiday greenery.

Tis the season for taking Christmas card photos. Capturing the perfect family photo for your Christmas card—especially if your family includes toddlers, teenagers or pets—can prove challenging for even the most patient of Santa’s helpers. 

Looking to snap a photo that goes beyond the family selfie this year? Try some of these tips from our studio photographers. From Christmas family photo outfit inspo to tried-and-true tricks for getting kids, babies and family pets looking their best, we’ve got all the best Christmas card photo ideas right here.

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First: Take a deep breath  

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just take the perfect family Christmas photo without any drama? Of course. Is that likely to happen? LOL, NO. 

Those tights are itchy, that sweater is hot and just when you’ve got everyone smiling, the dog runs out of the frame. 

Therefore, the best thing you can do for yourself and your family is take a deep breath and accept that, like most beautiful things worth treasuring, getting a great Christmas card photo takes some time and effort.

It may sound silly, but deciding on your mindset from the outset will make you more patient in the long run. Our photographers said so. Even better? Get your spouse or partner in the zone, too. 

The next thing they say you can do to help ensure a great family Christmas card photo? Plan. Don’t worry…we’ll help. 

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You can now print Christmas cards personalized with your family photo at! Browse all our holiday photo card designs here and get ready to make lots of people merry.

A message that reads

Explore all the other ways you can personalize your Hallmark card—including adding photos, videos, your own special message and more, right here.

Where to take your family Christmas card photo  

When it comes to locations, Hallmark photographers have some go-to ideas. Try for a balance between what’s possible and what’s best for your family. After all, it’s hard to look cheerful if you’re miserably cold.

Outdoor photo locations and tips

You can’t beat the outdoors for backdrops. Here are some outdoor Christmas card photo location ideas to help you make the most of nature’s beauty:

  • Stand on your front doorstep. Decorate your front porch with some holly, hang a cute personalized wreath on your front door and gather everyone on the top step. The best part: You get outdoor light but it’s close to inside, in case everyone needs to warm up or little ones need a potty break.
  • Find a snowy yard or field. The light reflecting from snow does great things for making faces glow with holiday cheer. If you’ve got some snow-dusted evergreens, they can make a great backdrop. But trees—with or without twinkle lights on them—also have a quiet beauty. 
  • Get a post-activity shot. Build a snowman together and then pose with it. The kids will be happy, red-cheeked and proud to show off their work. They’re also likely to be pleasantly tired from the effort, so there won’t be much energy for silly stuff.
  • Don’t face the sun. When is natural light not flattering? When it means you’re staring (read: squinting) into the sun. Direct sunlight also tends to overexpose or wash out people’s features. A shaded area on a sunny day is going to give you the best of both worlds.


Indoor photo locations and ideas

If you put a ton of effort into decorating your home for the holidays, you may want to show it off in your family Christmas card photo. Here are some tips and ideas to help you do just that:

  • In front of the tree. This one is tricky, but if done right, it can be really pretty. Do take the picture during the day, when you have some natural light coming in the windows. Do plug in the lights—they’ll still show up. But don’t feel like you have to get the whole tree in the shot. Often, this can mean backing up so far that the focus of your portrait—you know, your family—is lost. Think of the tree as a textured, pretty, and lighted backdrop. 
  • On the stairs. Especially if you spent a bunch of money on one of those super-full evergreen swags or garlands to dress them up up. Stairs can be an easy way to group lots of folks in a small space and still see everyone in the shot.
  • In front of the fireplace. But not, like, RIGHT in front of it. Step forward from it a bit to help create some depth. (This is a good tip for posing in front of the tree, too.) 
  • Don’t back everyone against a wall. This isn’t a suspect lineup at a police station. Unless you’re looking for who ate the last Christmas cookie, of course. The wall creates harsh shadows and everything will feel kinda flat.

Arranging people in your family Christmas card photo  

It’s all about “casual clumps.” That sounds like a bad thing, but our photographers swear it’s the key to natural-looking family photos. And it makes sense! Casual clumps are totally what happens when you get together at a family holiday gathering.

Rather than lining up people, experiment with putting people in different positions. For example:

  • Taking a multigenerational picture? Put the oldest generation in the middle and work outward from there. 
  • Need to pose with a baby? Have two adults hold the baby together. Or if you’ve got baby and an older sibling, one parent can hold the baby while the other parent hugs big brother or big sister.
  • Got a group of school-age kiddos? Put the youngest or smallest child in the center, with older/bigger kids on either side and parents or caregivers in the back.
  • Up for getting comfy? Have people sit on the arms of chairs, hug each other and overlap as much as possible. This creates a more relaxed but still emotional photo.

Tips from a pro: Our photographers suggest being a little goofy, especially if little kids are involved. Make faces, talk in a silly voice—whatever works. And if you’re having a hard time getting a real smile out of them, tell their favorite joke or even—and we’re serious—make fart noises. Kids can’t keep a straight face around that kind of thing. Most adults can’t, either.

What to wear in your family Christmas card photo  

Like we said above, planning is key when it comes to getting a great family Christmas card photo. And clothing is no exception. Here are some tips from our photographers for dressing yourselves and your little ones for the photo shoot.

  • Keep clothing simple. You want the people in the picture to shine, not that sequined Christmas tree sweatshirt. (Unless you’re going for wacky, in which case, you do you!)
  • Wear matching pajamas. Lots of families do Christmas card photos in matching jim-jams, and we think it’s the cutest. It’s a great visual way to signal “family!”
  • Solid colors and subtle patterns work well. Again, they allow the people to be the focus of the photo. Seasonally appropriate colors like rich browns, dark blues, deep reds and evergreens are great. 
  • Let the kids pick their outfit…from a selection you’ve chosen. This might help give them a sense of control if they’re in that “I can do it myself!” phase—and make them much less likely to throw a tantrum about wearing it. 
  • Avoid wearing white. You’d think emulating a winter wonderland with your outfit would look nice, but due to lots of white in the winter landscape, it can make people’s skin tones look washed out. Unless you’re perfectly tan and in just the right setting…like a Caribbean beach.

Children and baby Christmas card photos  

Want the focus to be just on those cherubic faces this year? We love that. After all, if you catch them in the right moment, photos of kids and babies can be the sweetest, most heartwarming things—during the holidays and every day!

Our Hallmark photographers have spent lots of tummy time with adorable babies and children, so they’ve got lots of tips and tricks for getting the cutest Christmas card photos.

  • Be prepared. Before you gather your angelic subjects, make sure you are as prepared as possible. After you have your child front and center, you may not have very much time before her mood shifts or he tries to escape. Try to plan for these contingencies by having favorite toys at the ready to draw their attention. Having a way to confine them somewhat during the shoot also helps.
  • Give them a fun activity. You have a better chance of getting the perfect shot when kids are doing something that makes them happy. Think ribbon wands, bubbles or an interactive Christmas plush. Anything that might generate that gleeful expression!
  • Grab an assistant. Babies and children are moving targets. Have someone help you corral them or focus their attention.
  • Don’t be afraid to get up close. Some of the best photos are of feet, hands and even eyelashes. Our photographers say these kinds of photos can be the most emotional for parents to have later.
  • Pick the right time. The best time to photograph babies and small children is during their peak happy times. It seems obvious, but the best time of day for you may not be the same for your little one.
  • Don’t be afraid to be silly. The best photographers are the least self-conscious when it comes to photographing children. Get down on your belly, make goofy faces, use silly voices. What’s a little shame when a priceless photo is the result?


Christmas card photos with pets  

Many of the tips for taking pictures of children also apply to taking pictures of animals because pets are also easily distracted and have short attention spans. 

Their main advice? Be patient and have your equipment set up before you start taking pictures. Here are some more tips:

  • Pick the right place. You want an environment where the pets feel as comfortable and safe as possible.
  • Desensitize pets first. Get pets used to the camera equipment, lights and any costume items by having the equipment or props around several days before the planned shoot. Even a cell phone in their faces can make them nervous. If you want your pet to wear reindeer antlers, get them used to wearing the antlers before you try to take pictures.
  • Take your time. Be prepared to spend at least half an hour taking pictures of your pet. If you want cats sitting in a specific spot, for example, you may have to pick them up and put them back 75 times before you get the shot you want.
  • Reward your pets. Give pets a toy or treat when they are doing what you want or sitting where you want. If you are using some kind of costume, reward them when they keep the costume piece on.
  • Recruit a wrangler. Taking good Christmas card photos of pets is hard to do by yourself. Having someone on hand to corral, cajole or comfort them is ideal.


More fun Christmas card photo ideas  

Every family has its own take on the holidays. For some, nothing says “happy holidays” like their kids tangled up in Christmas lights. Others might showcase the family wearing the ugliest Christmas sweaters they can find. 

Why not capture the moments that scream “season’s greetings” as only your family can? Here are some ideas to get you thinking:

  • Pet project: Play dress-up with your pets for precious photos loved ones won’t soon forget. Think antlers, elf hats and floppy ears, or Santa suits, angel wings and mistletoe.
  • Spell it out: Get the kids in plaid pajamas and position them to spell out J-O-Y. Or gather the whole family to deliver your season’s greetings with signs saying “Ho Ho Ho,” “Naughty and Nice” or “Peace on Earth.”
  • Show off: Little chefs with milk mustaches and a tray full of cookies go a long way in spreading holiday cheer. Kids make the best presents of all, so show them all tangled up in festive lights, dressed up like Santa with bubble bath beards, bursting out of giant gift-wrapped boxes or gently placed in a jolly red stocking (for newborns—and definitely lying somewhere safe). 
  • Family favorites: Capture your most-loved movie moments and holiday jingles in a fun-loving photo. Take a snapshot of your son pretending to stick his tongue to a flagpole or Mommy kissing Santa Claus. Or try making an oversized naughty-or-nice list since it’s certain to be checked…twice.
  • Get playful: If a winter wonderland isn’t in the cards for your family—or it’s just not your style—share warm wishes from a recent beach vacation. Or get your seasonal garb on by decorating everyone in candy cane colors from head to toe.
  • Make a collage: Share the happiest moments from the past year in a photo collage—kids in Halloween costumes, at sporting events and in school performances.

With all these tips and ideas, you’re bound to capture a family Christmas card photo everyone will love. Or at the very least, have a good time trying!

Want more ideas to make or share Christmas joy? Let’s keep ‘em coming, then!