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How to Take Great Christmas Card Photos at Home (for FREE!)

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I took some gorgeous pictures of my kids using these tips!

Would you love to have some great photos for your Christmas cards, but can’t afford a professional photographer? Good news! You can do it yourself at home FOR FREE! You probably already have everything you need for a studio-style photo:

  • Background. Blankets make excellent backgrounds. A Fleece or woven blanket is best, and make sure it’s wrinkle-free. Look for something that is a neutral color and plain or subtly patterned. Other ideas include curtains, bulletin board paper, or shower curtains. If you want to go the more professional route, you can order some photographic background paper.
  • Background stand. You can make a background stand out of 2 ladders with a broom handle as a cross bar. Other tall and sturdy things work too, like floor lamps or Christmas tree poles. If you don’t have any of those things, you can use two people standing there, holding up the blanket or paper. If this is something you expect to do often, you could also invest a background stand.
  • A Way to Secure the Background. You’ll need to attach the background to the background stand in some way. I used some photo clips, but you can also use safety pins, clamps, or strong tape.
  • Bench or Stool (optional). If you’d like something to sit on, it’s best to have something backless. Any sort of backless stool or bench will work, especially if it won’t show in the photos. Sitting on the floor or on the background (if it’s large enough) is always an option too.
  • A camera. The camera you have is probably fine. Yes, I mean the little digital camera or the camera on your phone!  You can take great pictures with any camera. If you do have access to nice camera equipment, that always helps, but don’t let lack of a fancy camera stop you.

Clothing

Clothing matters a lot in photos. To make everyone look their best:

  • Use patterns as accents, especially if there are multiple people. A patterned scarf can be lovely, but several different patterned dresses just look crazy.
  • Coordinate without being matchy-matchy, if there are multiple people in the photo. You don’t want to clash, but identical outfits are a bit too much.
  • Layer your clothing, as it adds dimension to the photo.
  • Look for clothing with texture, like woven sweaters.

Lighting

People have written many books all about photographic lighting, so I certainly can’t cover it all here, but for this kind of photo, you want to be close to a very large source of light. Where can you find that? Here’s what to look for:

  • A north-facing window or garage is ideal.
  • You should be close to the light source, but you don’t want the sun shining directly at you (which is why north is best since the sun is shining east or west).
  • You only want one type of light (sunlight or artificial light) in the photo. Don’t mix multiple light sources.

Example Set Up

My daughter demonstrating my set-up in the messy garage.

My daughter demonstrating the photo set-up in the messy garage.

What we used:

  • A ladder on one side and an outdoor Christmas tree stand on the other side.
  • A broom handle across the top.
  • Brown woven blanket as the background. Ideally this would have been set up farther away from the subject, but it was a bit too small.
  • Large clips to hold the blanket up.
  • An old bench. We had to sit on the floor to get me in the shot, though, because I was too tall for the small background blanket.
  • My phone camera (Google Nexus 5x).
  • North-facing garage. Notice that I set up near the garage opening on a sunny day.

Results

Here’s what we got! I did not do anything to these photos except crop them.

Christmas Card Photos at Home

Picture perfect!

 

Christmas Card Photos at Home

I love this one, but it’s maybe a bit too solemn for a Christmas card!

 

Me and my girl.

 

Our sample card

Our sample card

Would you have every guessed that these were taken in my garage with a phone camera? I hope this inspires you to try taking some great photos at home! Have you ever tried to take your own photos at home? Comment below!

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