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It’s not the holidays without family photos. If cash is tight, why not skip the photographer and save money by taking your own family pics?

With a little planning, you can create a polished family portrait that captures everyone at their best.

Here are 6 tips for shooting great holiday photos you’ll cherish forever. 

1. lighting is key

Great lighting definitely enhances photo quality. Soft, natural light is best.

Your best bet for excellent lighting is outside on a cloudy day. Or try to schedule your photo shoot around sunrise and sunset — the perfect times for capturing a soft, golden glow.

Avoid sunshine, which causes harsh, unflattering shadows. 

If taking pictures outdoors won’t work, experiment with lighting where you’re planning your photo shoot. Open the curtains and raise the blinds.

Try turning out overhead lights and moving lamps. Take some photos ahead of time to figure out what works best.  

2. set the scene

If you’re planning an outdoor photo, finding a nice backdrop probably isn’t too hard.

A natural setting is perfect for background scenery. You may find a lot of options in your neighborhood or at a nearby park. 

Indoors, you have lots of fun options. Sitting on the couch or in front of the fireplace? Gathered by the Christmas tree or on the staircase? Piled up in bed? The possibilities are endless.

Whatever you choose, pay attention to what will be in the frame. Remove clutter.

Rearrange things as needed to create a backdrop that’s not distracting from the main subject: your beautiful family.  

Consider any props or decorations you might like to have in your holiday photo. Holiday stockings, a gingerbread house, a wreath, candy canes, candles or wrapped gifts are all great choices.

Be careful not to go overboard. Again, the focus should be on your family, not the decor. 

3. what to wear

Put some thought into your outfits. It’s best to stay away from bright, distracting colors and large patterns.  

If you’re going for a fun vibe, you could try matching pajamas or Santa hats. Simple color coordination works well, too.

Be creative, but be wary of uncomfortable clothes that young kids can’t tolerate for long. And don’t forget to dress up your furry family members.  

4. camera and tripod

No matter what kind of camera you’re using, it’s a good idea to learn the settings. If you’re using your phone camera, get to know all the cool features.

Take some test photos ahead of time to see which features and settings you’d like to use. Become familiar with using the timer. 

The burst feature is great for family photo shoots. It allows you to take several photos in a couple seconds. 

A tripod isn’t necessary, but it certainly comes in handy. It gives you some flexibility for placing the camera, and it’s steadier than a human hand. You can find many kinds of tripods that are designed to hold a smartphone.  

If you don’t have a tripod, you could ask someone to take photos for you. Or try to figure out the best place to set up your camera before your photo shoot.  

5. the photo shoot

By this time, you hopefully have lighting, location and a backdrop figured out. So now you can focus on snapping photos.

Your time is probably limited if you have little ones. Make sure they’re rested and take frequent breaks.   

To keep the kids happy (and grown-ups too), be sure to make the experience fun. Their genuine joy will shine through in the pictures. 

Shoot as many photos as possible to increase your chances of getting great shots.

Take pictures from different angles. Sit down, stand up and try different poses.

You never know what you’ll like best in the end. 

6. be flexible

You probably have an idea of what you want your family photo to look like. If you don’t achieve exactly what you’re imagining, that’s OK. You’ve still captured some one-of-a-kind moments that you’ll treasure forever.

As the years go by, these pictures will become even more precious. 

Once you’ve chosen your favorite photo, the next step is getting it printed at your favorite retail shop or through an online service. Or if you want to save a little cash, skip printing and mailing altogether.

Instead, send the pics via email or text — or post them on social media. And that means you don’t need to worry about buying postage stamps and handwriting addresses. Woo-hoo! 

Looking back on family pictures is so much fun. And you’ll feel especially proud of the lovely holiday portraits you’ve captured on your own. 

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