Fun, Easy DIY Holiday Family Photo Ideas

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Haven’t gotten around to professional Christmas photos this year? Me neither! I swear it’s been on my list, but with the pandemic and local restrictions, we haven’t visited santa and probably won’t. That got me thinking… let’s take some memorable DIY holiday photos this year. 

decorating the tree for christmas photos

So I’ve enlisted the help of photographers, mom bloggers, and photo enthusiasts to inspire fun DIY holiday family photos. Today, you’ll learn tips and creative ideas for getting the best 2020 family Christmas shots to capture your fam’s holiday spirit. 

Dust off that tripod and put it to use!

Without a professional photographer (or a very talented dog who can take the shot for you) you will need to use a tripod, or prop up your phone on a stack of books or a shelf. Once you set up the self timer, there are just a few things to figure out. 

using a tripod for christmas photos

As professionals know, getting the right angle is key to a great shot. Briana of Briana Parks Photography has a tip for working with a tripod… 

“Get a tripod and put it at eye level. Compositionally speaking, having a tripod at eye level will give you the most flattering result.” 

in bed holiday photo shot for christmas photos

Consider your wardrobe

If you were meeting a professional photographer at a park, you probably would dress in outdoorsy clothes. But when capturing your own pics inside, you can have a bit more fun with the wardrobe. 

“A fun and easy way to capture a DIY family photo is by utilizing the comfort of your own home” says Krissy, founder of The Hadicks. “You could gather everyone in front of the Christmas tree or have a pajama party in bed. To capture the image, you can set up a camera on a tripod or your cell phone on a dresser and use the timer.” 

using golden light for diy christmas photos

Get the right lighting!

Make sure to utilize natural light, preferably in what pro photographers call “the golden hour” – a time of day when the light is most beautiful and soft for taking pretty photos. 

“Really use that golden hour!” says Brandon, Compose Click. “If you take your photos during this time, your shots will automatically come out more professional looking, as it creates a warm color cast that sort of glows and makes for a very flattering look on people.”

“The more natural light, the better. It will brighten your images, make your skin look better, and makes the images much easier to edit if you choose to do so.” Says Briana of Briana Parks Photography. She adds, “Lighting is the number one tip for achieving crisp, clean images. Also, using the hour before sunset or during sunrise will give you even lit images, which makes them easier to edit and will make you glow!” 

Learn more about the best times of day to capture photos here

making cookies for diy christmas photos

Low light?? No problem… 

Being a food photographer, I’m lucky to have a plethora of lights on hand to capture the perfect shot on gray PNW days. But what if you don’t have a stash of lights in the house?

“Lighting is the key element in creating great photos. If you are not satisfied with the results, chances are that it is because of inadequate lighting.” says Tim Koster, semi-professional photographer and founder of CleverCreations

He suggests, “Adding extra light often solves this issue. One way of doing this is by opening any curtains in the room, but don’t be afraid to take it a step further. Bringing additional lamps into the room is a great way to add more light that gives you precise control over where you want the light to go. This is something you do not have with natural light that shines through a window.”

Have fun with some DIY props!

Michael Freeby, Michael Freeby Photography has plenty of ideas when it comes to props. 

He says, “I would recommend making paper cutouts – either with printed images or images drawn by hand (if drawn by hand, preferably trace over with marker or paint to ensure thick lines for most photogenic results). Most professional shoots are all about the props, so by making your own you’ll be ahead of the game! No delayed or lost USPS shipments required, no trips to the mall required.”

Recommends holiday photo cutouts: 

  • Santa hats
  • Elf hats / ears
  • Santa’s beard
  • Reindeer antlers
  • A big red nose like Rudolph
  • Gingerbread cookies
  • Presents
  • Giant peppermint sticks
  • Mistletoe
  • Jingle bells
  • Hair like Elsa from Frozen

cookie decorating for christmas photos

Be prepared with poses, but also capture the candids!

Taking candid shots is one of my favorite ways to capture the moments our family has. Sometimes I’ll capture clips of videos, like when we decorate holiday cookies together, or make a batch of fudge brownies from scratch. 

Especially during the pandemic, making 1-2 minute movies has been a great way to share family memories with extended family. Especially as my toddler’s vocabulary is expanding. The grandparents love getting videos!

Here are some more tips on capturing candid shots for DIY photos. 

“If you have young children, they don’t tend to last long during photoshoots. It’s important to prepare a list of poses ahead of time so it saves time and keeps the kids happy throughout every single image.” -Briana of Briana Parks Photography

“Another recommendation I have is to take candid photos on the day you do your photoshoot.” says Brandon of Compose Click. “This can be of things like your kids getting ready and playing before and after the shoot. When you put your images together later in an album, the collection of photos tells a little story of the day.

decorating cookies for christmas photos

“If you want to make pictures of kids, then distracting them is a great way to get amazing results.” says Tim Koster of CleverCreations. “Place a variety of interesting objects around them that they can interact with. This lets you shoot the photos while they are busy looking adorable. Theme-appropriate props like candy canes, Christmas lights, or Christmas ornaments are perfect for this, as they also add an extra ambiance to the photos themselves.”

What will your DIY photoshoot look like?

With Christmas just around the corner, I’m coming to terms with the fact that we probably won’t get a 2020 shot of our family with Santa behind plexiglass this year. So far, we’ve created a short video and gotten some candid shots while decorating cookies with our kiddo. 

Next, with ideas from this list, I’m planning on getting some “golden hour” photos outside our front door with the family and in PJs on Christmas morning. 

Happy holidays to you and your family!

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