You can be a Holiday Photo Hero!

I get it – the Holidays arrive quickly and we never feel fully prepared.

If you need great Holiday photos for cards, or desire to document your family’s time together, because many of us skipped it entirely last year. And this year, the importance of togetherness, family and capturing those moments feels more important than ever, know that you are capable of creating amazing photos.

Whether posed in your backyard, candid shots trimming the tree, or your parents playing with your children, now is the time to take out that camera, grab that phone and snap some new memories.

No idea where to start? Read on for tips to help you take your best Holiday photos yet!

4 tips DIY holiday photos

Tip #1: Tripod + Trigger are your secret weapons

They are definitely MINE! Honestly, most of the photos you see of my family were taken with my trusty trigger.

This is the BEST way to get the entire family together in one photo at your holiday gathering when you don’t have anyone to help! You can also get it done super quickly, which is helpful when you have little ones (or big ones, let’s ne honest…) who won’t sit still.
Set up your shot and tripod before gathering your family, make sure you have the settings the way you want, take a few test shots and be ready to click that button so that when everyone does gather, you can get started right away. Again, those attention spans don’t last long. I like the use the wireless trigger remote option with my DSLR, but you can also set the timer and have it take a few shots in a row.
Don’t have a “real camera”? That’s ok! Phones these days are more than capable of taking a pretty decent photo. Best done outside where the light is brighter of course. You can buy a small phone tripod just about anywhere, or simply prop it up on something. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve used random fences, trash cans, tree branches, you name it, to prop my phone on and set that timer!

4 tips DIY holiday photos
Actual tripod family self portrait of us being ridiculous.

Tip #2: Candids for the win!

Don’t feel pressured to make everyone “pose and smile” for the camera, you will absolutely get the best results when you let them play and be themselves.
Use prompts like “everyone hug, tickle your sister, smile at mom, jump on dad”, etc. While posed can be gorgeous and great, I’m a big believer in capturing real life moments. They just feel better.
Come at it documentary style. My favorite photos are the unplanned ones, where you truly catch a genuine moment. Give them something to do, a prop to use, an action to create. Then just snap away. You may be surprised with what you get.
A great example of this is decorating the tree or making cookies. One of my favorite phrases has become, “Just let them play”. Because you get fun, unique photos capturing emotion, which more important than you realize, because, when you look back at photos, you often remember how you felt when they were taken. And you want to make sure that feeling is a great one.

4 tips to diy holiday photos
iPhone photo of the first year my little one helped decorate a tree!
4 tips diy holiday photos

Tip #3: Swap with a friend!

If you feel too overwhelmed with taking this on yourself, are short on time or waited too long to hire a professional, consider swapping with a friend!
I actually do this myself each year and it’s great! We go to a local nursery and use Christmas trees for the background, hand off the camera and take turns. It’s quick, fun and we get some wonderful shots!
Of course it helps if you have a good camera, but dont let that stop you! See the next tip on how to find the light, which can truly make or break your photos.

4 tips to diy family photos
4 tips to diy holiday photos

Tip #4: Learn to Find the Light.

Nothing kills a good photo quicker than having terrible light.
You don’t need anything extra or fancy. You just need to know how to find your light. If you are shooting indoors, turn off artificial orange lighting (but you can keep that twinkling holiday light ambiance of course) and find the biggest, brightest window you can. Shoot with the window to one side of you, in front of you or behind you if you are going for a silhouette.
Outside, it looks best when the sun is low. Luckily in the winter, it’s generally low all day! But early morning or late evening is ideal. If the sun is an issue, just look for large shady spots so no one is squinting or covered in harsh shadows. Typically outdoor light looks best when the sun is behind and a bit the one side or the other. This will ensure even light on everyone’s faces, and maybe some of that pretty “hair glow” that we all love. Doing this around sunrise or sunset is also how you get that pretty sunny light leak we often see.
Bright sun directly behind you, unless around sunset, will overexpose the background. You want the light to be even on their faces. And please, please, please, turn off that built in flash. Don’t be afraid to take a minute to see how the light is casting shadows on someone’s face, turn them and observe the difference as the light moves. You may find you like a more dramatic look. Experimenting is half the fun!

4 tips diy holiday photos
4 tips diy holiday photos

I hope these DIY Holiday Photo tips empowered you to one, be motivated to capture some new memories this year, and two, have more confidence in how to do it! But most importantly, be sure to enjoy and soak up every moment you get with your families.


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Tina Thomas is an award-winning Professional Personal Branding and Family Photographer & filmmaker in Chesterfield, Virginia. RVA. With a passion for capturing real, intimate and joyful moments, and over a decade photographing everyone from babies to news anchors, my experience allows me to take a laid-back approach where I can guide, observe and record genuine connection and celebrate individuality.