Creating Magic Portraits

Greetings Fellow Photographers!

With school holidays behind us and Christmas around the corner, I figured it was time to give you some great tips on how to take a family photo to use on a holiday card this year! Once you have the winning shot, transfer it over to your online photo account, then get creative with your holiday cards! I promise your friends and family will be impressed. Read on for my family holiday card photo tips...


We all know that getting your family or group together for a formal photo session can be a challenge. People live all over the country, attention spans are short, and everyone is running around shopping, eating, and visiting. So, give everyone advance notice about the photo shoot. Specify a day and time, and make sure everyone in the shot is onboard. Then, scout out your location a day or two in advance. It is especially helpful to go during the same time of day you plan to take your photos to get an idea of the lighting is for your particular spot. 

Next, plan your colour tones. I strongly recommend having everyone dress in similar colours, but not wear the exact same outfit. Choose colour tones that will complement your chosen background; lighter tones will work will against a dark forest, and so on. Finally, make sure you know who will be photographing your family. Do you have a family friend you can bring along that knows how to work your camera? How about the self-timer? Another fun idea is to get another family to come with…you can take their family photo and they can take yours. Then, you can all go celebrate together afterwards! Getting some of these chores done in advance will save you lots of time and stress during the shoot.


When you all arrive at the location, make sure you pay attention to the arrangement of the people. Find different vertical levels for everyone, and try not to line people up directly in front or in back of one another. That way, everyone gets the same amount of space in the finished shot. Start with the "anchor" of the photo (usually the person who may need assistance or needs to be in a comfortable position), and arrange around him or her. Bring a ground cover for people to sit or kneel on, unless everyone will be standing. Finally, arrange everyone so the sun is behind them. This creates a nice hair light and adds depth to the shot, as well as helps to avoid squinting.

Say, "Cheese!"

When it is time to start shooting, make sure you pop your flash (unless the sun is extremely bright), even if your camera tells you it doesn't need the flash. If you have any young children in the shot, it's best to arrange everyone else first and know where the child will be positioned, but don't put the child in place until just before you take the picture. That way, the child is not crying or complaining about having to stand still for so long. Start with posed, formal portraits. Try a few different arrangements to make sure you have alternates in case there is anything wrong with your favourite shot. Then, once you know you've got at least a few good formal portraits to choose from, let everyone relax a little and have fun, and keep shooting. Gather everyone in for a group hug, then take several photos immediately after they release. You'll capture some great smiles and genuine emotion from almost everyone. Finally, don't be afraid to take 50 or 100 pictures; you only need one good one, but many of the cards in your online account allow you to use multiple images if you wish.