How to Take a Last-Minute Holiday Card Photo

My secret sauce for getting awesome holiday cards

tossing snow up in the air in a family holiday card photo

This year, man. It was such a mixed bag, right? For me, at least, it was simultaneously one of the most joyful years of my life (hello, new baby!) and one of the most challenging from a political and professional standpoint. But because of all the hard reasons, it felt really important to lean into happiness wherever I could. The more frivolous the better. (There’s a reason I went bonkers for my friends’ weddings this year. Other than, you know, loving them.) And one of the most frivolous things I do each year is put together a very over-the-top holiday card. So when it came time to coordinate this year’s, I figured why not go all the way in and coordinate bonkers holiday cards for the whole staff. I mean, what’s the point of having a studio and a professional photographer on staff if you aren’t going to use them?

children running on a couch while parents prepare winea handsome gentleman pours wine into a glass

So we all rented ridiculously formal evening gowns from Rent the Runway (again, if the account is just sitting there). And then I found this amazing tuxedo at The Black Tux. I’ve been itching for an excuse to try out their tuxes ever since my friend rented this beauty for a mutual friend’s wedding, and they generously loaned us all the suits for this shoot. And the absurdity sort of unfolded from there. But if you don’t have a professional photo studio in your house, that doesn’t mean you can’t still have just as much fun as we did and get kick-ass holiday cards at the same time. Here are few of my best pro photographer holiday card photo ideas making the most of yours.

a dashing man poses towards the light

1. Wear something crazy or fun or that you just plain love.

I used to think that if we were going to get our holiday card picture taken, it should reflect who we are in everyday life. (Which is a totally valid option.) But then last year I said eff it and decided to use our holiday card as an excuse to wear a formal gown I’d bought on a whim with an expiring gift card. And surprise, it was way more fun to get our picture taken when we weren’t taking things so seriously. So wear a silly sweater, or that sequin dress you found at the thrift store, pretend to be a model, and have fun. (Hat-tip here to Michael, who is such a good sport. The man has been putting up with my themed nonsense since I made us go to homecoming ’02 in matching cowboy hats and bolo ties.)

an attractive couple pose together

2. Find a good wall.

Most holiday card designs look best with a minimal background. But you don’t need a professional photographer’s backdrop to make that happen. A simple white wall is often the best backdrop you’ll find. Just make sure to put a little space between you and the wall (to avoid lots of shadows) and leave lots of space at the top or bottom of your photo for holiday card overlay text.

a good looking man standing heroically

3. Download a photo editor.

If you’ve got a newer smartphone, you probably have a better camera than I had on my first DSLR. But you can improve the quality of your photos even more with some basic editing software. My favorite is VSCO, and I use the A6 minimal preset on pretty much everything. (It looks pretty similar to the photos you see here.)

a beautiful couple smile as confetti falls from the ceiling

4. Put some confetti on it.

Props are the easiest way to take a simple photo and make it 🎉. Two years ago Michael and I used smoke bombs for our holiday card (that I got for, like, $15 at a paintball supply store). But for something slightly less fire hazard-y, you can’t go wrong with confetti. Flutter confetti is especially great for photos because it falls to the floor more slowly (that’s what we used in our photos here).

behind the scenes photo of a family holiday card photoshoot

5. Don’t bring your giant dog.

They are the worst models. And they will try to eat your plastic snow.

So if you need an excuse for some frivolous fun or a last-minute holiday card solution (heck, even if you aren’t going to turn them into holiday cards—wedding website, anyone?), then throw on something you love, stand against a wall in your house (perchance with a glass bottle of champagne), and set your self-timer for confetti. That trifecta has never steered me wrong.

P.S. I want to see your holiday cards! Leave them in the comments for me?

Big thanks to The Black Tux, who supplied all the suits and tuxedos for our holiday cards this year. If you’re looking to rent formalwear for your wedding, they have amazing styles (including some, ahem, more normal looks than Michael’s), and their rentals start at just $95. Thank you The Black Tux for helping us make our holiday cards 💯.


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