How to Get the Perfect Holiday Family Photo in 10 “Easy” Steps


Tis’ the season to receive holiday cards from friends near and far. You’ve probably spotted a holiday-themed family photo or two and thought, “Wow, how did they get that shot?”

The kids are behaving, the clothes match, and everyone is having a totally not-faked grand old time. If you’re asking yourself, “What is this magic and how do I get some of it?” you are in luck!

Yes, you and your family can score the perfect holiday family photo in just 10 easy steps:

the Wong family holiday photo in the forest looking happy

Step 1: Furiously browse Pinterest, creating an impeccably curated board of family holiday photos that creates impossibly high expectations… especially for small children.

Step 2: Spend the better part of a week putting together everyone’s coordinating outfits because contemplating the implications of going with a contemporary Buffalo Plaid palette as opposed to the more modern “Ironic Ugly Christmas Sweater” theme is definitely the more productive use of your time.

Step 3: Schedule in both hair and make-up for yourself because this will be the sole opportunity to get a shot of yourself with your kids that doesn’t include a messy bun. #noshame, but for serious, we all just want to look nice every now and then.

Step 4: Schedule your photoshoot outside, preferably in a forest or on a farm because that’s obviously where your family just hangs out looking fancy. It’s really important that you plan on getting pictures OUTSIDE, because… nature. Don’t even worry about the fact that you live in the Pacific Northwest (and it’s post-Halloween so it’s probably going to rain). 

Step 5: On the day of your photos, remind your partner that you know they get annoyed doing this every year but as a condition of your partnership, active participation is mandatory. It was in the fine print of your vows. They agreed to it and all they really need to do is show up looking half-way decent which, come to think of it, isn’t really asking all that much.

Step 6: Okay, so it’s raining. No big deal, this is Portland. Your kids are definitely going to cooperate and won’t want to be held constantly causing you to fend off getting mud before the first 10 minutes have passed.

Step 7: So maybe the kids aren’t cooperating after all. Oh, wait. Now they’re definitely fighting. Remind them that you are in charge and aren’t above bribery or threats. For the love of Christmas, you do what you gotta do.

Step 8: Spend what seems like a solid 20 minutes trying to get one shot. ONE. Take a lot of shots, like, a whole lot. Can’t use that one, you’re obviously yelling at the kids. Or that one because the baby saw a squirrel. And that one has the toddler picking her nose. Forge ahead. One of them is bound to work out.

Step 9: Come to terms with the fact that you made it half an hour before getting covered in everyone’s snot and tears, a new personal best. Embrace the chaos. Everyone seems to be happier in those shots anyway. Maybe things didn’t work out quite as expected but look on the bright side, at least no one threw up this year.

Step 10: Several weeks later, receive a fabulous surprise when your very patient photographer (we used Molly Yi) provides a number of fantastic shots that you genuinely did not think were even possible after the circus that was your family photoshoot.

See? We’re all just faking it (not the love part, just the looking fancy like it’s no big deal part.)

Wong family holiday photo session with everyone looking silly but more true to form

When all else fails, just remember: everyone really just wants to see the kids anyway.

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Katie C
Katie is a stay-at-home(ish) mom to a strong-willed toddler and a velcro baby. As an East Coast transplant, she is now fully embracing the Pacific Northwest lifestyle. She spent her pre-children years in the laboratory, working in clinical genetics. Though she still has a great love of science, she has since focused her passion into her writing. Her personal blog is Raised on Love and Science. You can come for the articles but stay for the silly parenting memes. Katie also writes content for a variety of websites and businesses.