How You Can Easily Take Your Own Holiday Family Photos

So here we are, the dawn of another December. Most of us are far from family, some of which we haven’t seen in ages. Holiday cards sometimes get a bad wrap for being an expensive non necessity during an already commercialized season, but to us-they are a token of our efforts to maintain connection to those we love, and haven’t forgotten though the Military has taken us elsewhere.

Now that the sentimental jargon is out of the way let’s address the bloated reindeer in the room- MONEY.

When you add a professional photo session on top of printing, addressing, and mailing your holiday cards you are left with a substantial dent in your wallet.

I get it.

I am professional photographer. I’m the gal droves of folks approach when that wretched calendar hits 1 December the day after Summer (or so it may seem). The common denominator I see year after year is that clients don’t necessarily want a whole photo session in the dead of Winter just for a couple of photos to put on a holiday card, BUT most do want QUALITY.

Nothing replaces a professional photo session.

Angles, perspective, and proper knowledge regarding manual camera settings are something that are well worth investing in-BUT sometimes not all of us are able to indulge in such a luxury. For this reason and purpose I wish to share the next best thing: A toolbox filled with tools to help you capture, create and send a holiday card to those lovely individuals we find ourselves apart from but hold very near at heart.

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One of my most prized tools is the ability to capture my own photos. You don’t need to be professional to admit that your eye is more often than not the one behind the camera. My children have often asked, “Hey mom…where were you?” while peering at a photo I took of a special or even an underwhelming moment. I wanted to be in those memories. So here is how I manage to get in the frame. You need three things:

  1. Camera (if you don’t have one the next best thing is your phone).
  2. Stabilization- Preferably a tripod but I’ve used a dresser, box, and even a jimmy-rigged backpack fastened to a tree branch when my tripod all the sudden broke. An inexpensive option can be found here.
  3. A remote shutter release-If this sounds scary let me explain. You were probably thinking I would say “the internal camera timer.” While this will work, I don’t recommend it. A remote shutter allows you to control when the photo is taken with the simple push of a button rather than continual running back and forth (can you say… “STRESS?!”). For a DSLR this is the one I use here. For a cell phone- try this.

Now for the scene: It’s best to stabilize your camera in a safe place. 

Set your focus point(s) on a constant. This can be your spouse or your most responsible (or stationary) child. This will ensure that your photo will be in focus when you hop in the frame (note: I use a method called back button focus).

Now get in the frame and start pushing the shutter release button. You can go for the everybody look at the camera and smile approach. Or most often we opt to PLAY… these are some of my best memories with my kids. We often play ring- around- the- rosies, we tickle, hug, play telephone, and a number of other games. Take a million photos! Keep pressing that button with a few breaks in between scenes to make sure your camera settings and focus are in sync. Here are some of my favorite memories captured using this approach: 



Now that you have your family photo(s)- you’ll want to insert them into a card template that compliments the mood and scheme of your photos.

I recommend using the website: Basic Invite. Not only do they have a plethora of holiday designs that are brilliantly illustrated and easy to insert your photo into right on their website-but they also offer an address collection service. What does this mean exactly? This means that you don’t need to contract a case of carpal tunnel by writing addresses on envelopes (they do it for you) by allowing you to share a link where your friends and family can simply input their information (these addresses will also be saved in your address book to use year after year). The address collection is a free service- go ahead and take all my money! Addresses are printed on envelopes with your address as the return address.

In one stop you can design, collect addresses, AND PRINT! Here’s a quick look at their interface:


The best part? Basic Invite is having a holiday sale for 30% off holiday orders just use the code: Holi30

Relationships within the Military are no doubt unique. We invest in friendships with others we know will eventually turn into long distance relationships. Our families are often miles and even oceans apart. The Holiday season is a great time to remind these special people that though they may not physically be near, we still think about them and cherish them in our lives. Happiest of holidays to all of you.

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