I think that one of the biggest challenges my husband and I take on every year for our large family is doing the annual family photo shoot for our holiday card! We start gearing up for it during the week- reminding ourselves that we will need to have an endless amount of patience at our disposal on picture day, making sure that we've thought up the right “incentive plan” (read: bribes), and that we've actually remembered to charge the camera (although the last two years we just went with our iPhone). And that doesn't even cover the work that goes into planning what we'll wear. Quite frankly- it's exhausting to capture a great photo that is meant to look effortless!
Over the years, I've learned a few things on how to pull this off. And I am sharing all of this hard-earned knowledge with you today- here are my 5 Tips for Your DIY Family Photo Shoot!
Why Tackle a DIY Family Photo Shoot?
Hiring a photographer by the hour can be expensive- and that's before you even get into the cost of buying the photos. But let me just say- if you are going to hire a photographer- go with a pro who knows how to take pictures of kids and book a one-hour photo session.
Do not (seriously- just don't) opt for one of those photo packages at the mall- where they snap five shots in front of a staged set like the photo above. You cannot get kids to relax and work with a photographer in just five shots. Instead, you'll end up with a picture of your son, not smiling, grabbing the snowman's nose.
And after spending $60 for the photo package and waiting more than 2 hours at the mall for the photos to print- you'll vow to never do that again!
#1. A DIY family photo shoot needs a remote shutter release!
Since we are generally DIY'ers in most aspects of our lives, we choose to be our own photographer too. We've learned that as the # of kids increases, so do the # of takes before we manage to get an acceptable shot! I mean really- getting 6 kids to look at the camera at the same time? It’s not easy!
Our approach is to use our own DSLR or iPhone camera with a remote shutter release which is so much easier than using your camera's timer. That way, we can burn through 200-300 takes if we need to, or we can put the camera down and re-assemble the kids an hour later (or even a day later) if our current “photo shoot” is going poorly!
You'll also need a tripod for your camera or smartphone- this smartphone tripod even comes with a remote shutter release!
#2. Have the Right Bribe to Take Your Family Photo!
We learned early on that having the right bribe is important. And clear lollipops were the magical solution for us! You can show them to the kids and let them know that once you get everyone to look at the camera at the same time and offer a big smile- they can have the lolli.
And if you need to take it away for a moment and take a few more photos, they won't have bright red lips if you use a clear lollipop!
Because sometimes kids would rather do cartwheels than take a picture with his brothers!
It helps if you have “the right tools for the job”! Busy Moms need a great calendar or planning system (you can find my favs here ) and an efficient command center to keep things running smoothly for the whole family! You can find more great resources for busy Moms over on my Amazon influencer page !
#3 Prepare the Setting and the Equipment in Advance of Your Family Pictures
So there was this one holiday family photo shoot that went completely wrong. I got the kids ready in their cute matchy-matchy outfits and then decided to quickly light a fire to create a beautiful background while everyone was in a good mood and ready to go. Except that I forgot to open the damper… so the house filled up with smoke!
And then once I opened the damper, and all of the doors to clear the smoke, and tried to quickly take a few pictures anyway… the camera wasn't charged. So literally- I would plug it into the charger, unplug and then snap five pictures, the camera would then die, and I would have to plug it in for another 5 minutes. It was ridiculous!
Plan your outfits, the setting, and the background ahead of time. The morning you intend to take the photos- get everything set up before you ask the kids to get dressed. And by all means, charge your camera or phone the night before!
#4. Edit Your Photos and Select the Right Printer for Your Holiday Cards
No matter how great the outdoor lighting was or how perfect the setting- all photos can be improved with the right photo editing. Now I am certainly not an expert in this department- which is why I use PicMonkey for all of my photo editing. It is a super-simple application you can use on your desktop or phone that takes your family photos from “nice” to “amazing”!
If you are a total newbie at photo editing on PicMonkey – you can use this tutorial on photo editing for beginners which will help you to get started. And now PicMonkey also has an online print shop so you can order cards, framed prints, and other photo gifts and have them delivered to your home.
Like pretty much everything else I buy for my family, I order our holiday cards online. I love that I can find a unique design at a reasonable price, and that I can do all of this in the comfort of my jammies after the kids have gone to bed! My favorite place to order holiday cards has long been Shutterfly . Their prices are reasonable, and I love how crisp the prints are, and the weight of the cardstock. These cards are definitely keepers!
We also use our DIY family photo shoot to take individual headshots of each of the kids which we give as gifts to the grandparents as well as display in frames in our home.
(Pro Tip: I no longer buy the photo packages from school photos- it is much more economical to do our own “school photos”- not to mention, we usually get much better shots of the kids than any school photographer has ever captured!)
#5. Buy the stamps online and print your address labels ahead of time
The same day that I order my cards, I also order my stamps online from the USPS.com website. I pick out whatever adorable holiday stamps that I like, and for $1, our nice mail lady delivers them to my home along with our mail. I don’t even have to venture out and wait in the long lines at the post office! I also print off my address labels, so that when my cards arrive- I am ready to stuff, stamp, and mail them within a day or two!
Looking for Some More Holiday Ideas?
- Free Holiday Planning Printables!
- 50 Christmas “Would You Rather” Questions for families (free printable game)
- Mason Jar Photo Centerpieces (perfect for the holiday table!)
- The 16 Best Christmas TV Specials and Movies for Families
- 10 Great Stocking Stuffers for Busy Moms!
- 15 Gift Ideas for the Organized Mom
What is your biggest challenge when it comes to taking the annual holiday photo?