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30 Tips and Ideas for Festive Holiday Photos

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featured image holiday photo tips
Quick summary

Ideas, inspiration, and some advice for capturing holiday photos that convey the joy and meaning of this special time of year.

What a great time of year to be a photographer! Indeed, it’s the season for family photos, good times with friends, cozy scenes with the dog or cat, and holiday decorations and festivities.

It’s a good time to test your photography skills. You may need a flash for indoor shots, long exposure for nighttime scenes, or burst mode to capture pets playing in the snow. Be prepared. Also, when you get that card-worthy image, make sure it’s print quality. It may look good on a computer screen but turn out a little soft or pixelated when it’s printed. Ensure that the image resolution is 300 DPI.

In this article, we help you find inspiration for those next holiday card pictures. It’s not as easy as it looks to capture the perfect pose or moment that makes a lovely Christmas card, but here we compiled some ideas for you. Smiling faces, candid shots, or staged fun, we’ll help you with this list of top holiday card photo ideas.

holiday photos Christmas tree farm and girl
A young girl at a Christmas tree farm makes a cute holiday photo.

1. Visit a Christmas Tree Farm

These businesses usually open in autumn, and the beautiful scenery makes tree farms a good setting for family photos. Also, churches, fire departments, and charitable organizations often sell Christmas trees as part of their fundraising activities. So, if you don’t want to travel out of town, you can probably find cut trees close by.

2. Deck the Halls and Hang the Stockings

A wreath on the door, candles in the window, and a pine cone garland on the mantle help to make the season bright. With stockings hung by the fireplace, Santa dolls, and Holly, you have plenty of charming Christmas card photo ideas, so keep your camera clicking.

3. Decorating the Tree

This is a family favorite during the holiday season. Get shots of the kids hanging ornaments and close-ups of the decorations. You don’t need to be a professional photographer; just have a good eye for the special moment and look for interesting details.

Christmas tree ornament closeup
Tree ornaments are great subjects for close-ups.

4. Go Downtown for Inspired Holiday Photos

Cities and towns dress up for the holidays. Giant trees with Christmas lights, wreaths on streetlights, and decorations in stores and offices inspire dramatic photo ideas. Find one-of-a-kind scenes for a stylish photo shoot. Also, be courteous. If you’re on private property, ask permission before you start snapping photos.

5. Attend a Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

In big cities or small towns, most have an official Christmas tree, with festivities around the initial lighting of the tree. It may include musical performances, food vendors, celebrities, and of course, Santa. He wouldn’t miss this. All those holiday twinkling lights make a great background for a Christmas family photo.

city park holiday trees with lights
City parks often feature giant Christmas trees.

6. Use Holiday Displays as Background

Look for stores, parks, and public spaces decorated for the holidays. These make festive backdrops for group photos or romantic shots of a newly engaged couple. A nice bokeh of blurred ornaments, real or fake snow, and multi-colored lights set the stage for your holiday photoshoot.

7. Take in a Parade

Parades, especially Christmas parades, are full of color and joyous activity. These make great photo opportunities. If the parade is at night, bump up the ISO. Look for different angles. Get low or try a higher elevation. Go for details or shoot wide. You enjoy endless possibilities.

holiday photos Christmas parade with Santa
Santa is the main attraction at holiday parades.

8. Let It Snow

If the weather brings snow, you’re in luck. Landscapes, snow-covered trees, and couples walking a snowy path make wonderful holiday photos. Colorful outfits against a snowy backdrop stand out in a photo album. Mind the exposure if you’re shooting a snowscape in bright sun. It’s easy to get over-exposed and blow out the highlights with all that white surface.

holiday photos outdoor skier on slope
A skier on a snow-covered slope embodies the thrill of winter activities.

9. Outdoor Activities Make Great Family Memories

Sledding, skiing, and skating top the list of family photo ideas for favorite winter fun. So, head to the mountains or a skating rink. All that movement and color brings life and personality to your photos. Or look for a newly married couple walking in a winter wonderland, a classic Christmas photo.

10. Shoot a Snowball Fight

Of course, we hope it’s not a real fight but another way to spread holiday cheer. It’s competitive, fun for the entire family, and makes a great idea for light-hearted holiday cards.

11. Catch a Sleigh Ride

As the song says, “A one-horse open sleigh” is a great holiday experience. It’s also a chance for a great photo that recalls earlier times. Horse-drawn sleighs are a bit rare these days, so you’ll have to do a little research. But it will pay off with memorable images.

horse-drawn sleigh with driver and couple
A holiday photo of a sleigh ride harkens back to simpler times.

12. Let the Snowman Star in Your Holiday Photos

Capture kids putting faces, arms, and hats on a snowman. Snap a group photo of the finished product. This is a family photo full of cold weather fun that’s sure to warm hearts and find a place on holiday cards.

13. Make a Snow Angel

A winter-time tradition, snow angels idealize the holiday season. Wear colorful and comfortable clothes. Work at getting a good angle from above. This is an ideal situation for a drone.

woman and child make snow angels
Go for a high angle when photographing snow angels.

14. Warm Up with Indoor Holiday Photos

A favorite holiday image, a glowing fire in the fireplace, or a roaring outdoor bonfire add warmth and ambiance to your Christmas card picture. Bring the whole family together with the fire in the background to create a sentimental Christmas card photo.

15. Photo Ideas with Holiday Decorations

A holiday wreath, candles, a nutcracker soldier, and a gingerbread house are cheerful subjects for close-up shots. These decorations convey the spirit of the season and expand the limits of your Christmas photoshoot.

gingerbread house closeup
A gingerbread house that looks too good to eat makes an enticing holiday photo.

16. Christmas Card and Gift Photo Ideas

Gifts under the tree and Christmas cards on the mantle or wall in soft indoor lighting make magical holiday pictures. A simple photo with good composition and photographic technique captures the holiday feeling and makes a sentimental holiday image.

17. Matching Outfits

The whole family in matching holiday pajamas is a memory to cherish. It’s a tradition with many families and something the kids look forward to, even if they think it’s a little too matchy-matchy. As the years pass, you’ll have a collection of family Christmas card photos showing the evolution of seasonal jammies.

18. Santa Hats and Festive Sweaters

It’s the only time of year to wear these items, so embrace it and keep the camera ready. Anyone, from toddlers to grandparents, looks adorable in holiday outfits or Santa hats. Get everyone together for this traditional family Christmas photo.

santa hats and holiday sweaters
Santa hats and holiday sweaters brighten up holiday photos.

19. Holiday Treats and Christmas Dinner

Don matching aprons and get together in the kitchen to cook up some holiday treats. It is an opportunity for candid shots that spread holiday cheer. And this is a good place to start the family photoshoot as dinner is prepared.

20. Fun with Hot Chocolate

This gets a category all its own. Hot chocolate is a perfect way to warm the tummy and capture a holiday tradition. Sprinkled with spices or marshmallows and served in a festive mug, it’s a heart-warming Christmas photo idea. Add candy canes as a final holiday touch.

holiday photos hot chocolate in mug
A bright-colored mug with hot chocolate and candy canes makes a card-worthy photo.

21. Sweeten Up Your Holiday Photos

Christmas is the most wonderful time for treats. So, cookies, cakes, and gingerbread men or women are seasonal props that make a charming theme for your party pictures or your Christmas card photo shoot.

22. Candy Canes, Fudge, and Chocolate Covered Cherries

Cookies may get the most screen time, but Christmas candies also have a starring role in holiday photos. Creamy mints, divinity, toffee, and of course, anything with chocolate make up a tasty and colorful tray of treats and a fine selection of holiday-themed props.

23. Christmas Dinner

A vital part of the season, holiday dinners are usually sumptuous and an ideal time for the Christmas family photo. The meal varies with local customs and regional cuisine. In addition, it may involve a ritual element connected to the religious celebration. Be respectful.

family at Christmas dinner
Christmas dinner brings out the smiles, so have the camera ready.

24. Feature Pets in Your Photos

Dogs and cats in holiday settings bring fun to the Christmas photoshoot. A cat with a regal attitude under the Christmas tree or a dog frolicking in the snow are photo ideas sure to bring a smile to people’s faces. Of course, pets aren’t always cooperative models, so be prepared and have the camera ready for that perfect moment.

romantic couple with dog and holiday wreath
Pets with holiday props bring warm thoughts and make fun photos.

Pets are often part of the family, and images of people with their pets are cherished holiday pictures. Remember to get low. Get the camera down to their level so you’re not focused on the top of their heads.

25. Celebrate the Holidays at the Beach

I’m dreaming of a tropical Christmas. Without the snow, it can still be festive. Reindeer antlers with shorts and sandals or a Santa hat topping a bikini evoke Christmas cheer from a warm climate. Add a simple tree, star, and a few holiday-themed props, and you have plenty of holiday sparkle in the sand.

family in Santa hats at the beach
No need for snow if you have Santa hats at the beach.

26. Holiday Photos at an Event

Keep the center of attention on people. And this can be challenging. Candid shots reveal people at their most natural but posed photos also produce great results. Parties and events include a mix of holiday outfits, decorations, and food and drink. Catch couples dancing or stealing a kiss under the mistletoe. You may want to shoot in burst mode so you can select the most satisfying shots at a later time.

27. Office Party Photo Ideas

Make it a memorable event. Meet with the organizers for a little pre-event planning. Know the venue and if natural light is sufficient. Be unobtrusive, mingle, and allow people to relax around the camera. Capture a mix of group shots with candid moments, and rely on your artistic vision to ensure a variety of images in the spirit of the occasion.

holiday photos people at office party
Holiday parties bring opportunities for fun-filled group photos.

28. Christmas Morning and Family Photos

The perfect occasion to shine the light on your family’s personality. Have the camera ready for the moment of surprise when someone opens a special gift.

If you shoot photos of your own family, you can still get in the frame. Opt for a camera with an interval timer or a remote shutter release. That gets you into the photos, and you can still spend quality time with the family.

29. Tell a Christmas Story

Go for the details. Capture a child’s hands opening a present. Get the family together around the tree. Look for interaction between family members. Christmas morning is more than just opening gifts. It’s a time for each family member to enjoy being part of the family. Capture those moments.

mother and daughter with Christmas gifts
Exchanging gifts brings plenty of camera-ready moments.

30. What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?

Taking pictures, of course. Go to a party, head to Times Square in New York, or a First Night celebration in a city nearby. Or, just relax at home with the ones you love. Welcome the new year with beautiful photos, and resolve to take even better photos next year.

Refine Your Photos in Post

Select only the best shots. In this case, less is more. Employ some basic techniques to get the most out of your Christmas photos.

If you work in Photoshop or Lightroom, you may be able to make batch adjustments. Then, fine-tune each shot individually to get the most from that genuine moment.

If you shoot in low light and a higher ISO, apply noise reduction. But don’t overdo it. Find a balance between reducing noise and maintaining detail in your final images.

And when you don’t have the composition you want, crop it to get that perfect Christmas card photo.

holidays photos image decorated tree and fireplace
A decorated tree, gifts, and stockings by the fireplace tells a story of the season.

Parting Thoughts

Capturing the holiday spirit in photos is challenging but full of possibilities. A family in front of a beautifully decorated Christmas tree showcases the festive atmosphere and creates a lasting memory of this special time of year. Candid shots of family members unwrapping presents with expressions of delight make heartwarming and genuine holiday photos.

Incorporating holiday decorations into your photos adds a touch of magic. These elements create a visually appealing backdrop for your holiday pictures. Snow-covered landscapes, city parks with giant Christmas trees, cars, and trucks decorated in holiday themes capture the spirit of the holidays. Embrace the bright atmosphere, incorporate meaningful elements, and capture cherished moments with loved ones.

I hope these Christmas photo ideas inspire you. Get your camera ready. It’s a great time of year for photographers. If you have any questions or comments, please submit them in the space below.

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Daniel has been providing photographic and written content to websites since 1995. He maintains a photo gallery on Pictorem.com, showcasing his most recent work. In addition, Daniel is active in stock photography, with portfolios on Adobe, Getty/iStock, and Shutterstock.
Daniel has been providing photographic and written content to websites since 1995. He maintains a photo gallery on Pictorem.com, showcasing his most recent work. In addition, Daniel is active in stock photography, with portfolios on Adobe, Getty/iStock, and Shutterstock.
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