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How to Take Great Holiday Pictures at Home: 5 Tips from a Rockland Photographer

How to Take Great Holiday Pictures at Home: 5 Tips from a Rockland Photographer

A child and family photographer shares helpful hints for taking great holiday pictures of your kids at home.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year—and that means it’s time to take your family’s annual holiday pictures. But with so many things on your to-do list, you can feel overwhelmed, exhausted, and worried that you won’t possibly be able to get everything done. Sending out holiday cards is just one task on that oh-so-long list. Here’s how to happily check off that box and take holiday pictures at home—all without complaints, cries, or whines from your adorable subjects.

5 Tips to Take Holiday Pictures at Home

1. Consider your clothing choices. 

You want coordinated outfits. That doesn't necessarily mean going all matchy-matchy (although photos with coordinated PJ's are adorable!). You don't want clashing patterns or brand-emblazoned shirts. Instead, think simple and clean. Choose neutral colors if going for a timeless look, or holiday hues for a fun, vibrant feeling. Colors that complement each other make for a cohesive photo.

2. Pick the right time of day. 

First and foremost, make sure your children have eaten. Hangry kids won't smile for photos! For toddlers and babies, plan your photo shoot around nap time so you'll have happy, well-rested kiddies. The harshest sunlight shines down on us midday, so try for early morning or late afternoon. If that's not possible, pick a shady spot so the bright sun won't cause your kids to squint their eyes.

3. Choose a simple backdrop. 

There's no need to go crazy, crafting a spectacularly involved setting or spending hours searching for a locale that looks exotic yet effortless. Just pick a spot that’s easy for you to get to and that’s away from any distracting objects. Simple is best: The focus should be on your family, not on the shiny objects behind them.

4. Capture true smiles.

No "Cheese," please! Saying this dreaded word makes for fake grimaces and stiff bodies. Instead, let your children relax and make them laugh instead. Tell a funny joke, sing a silly song, or even use some potty humor—whatever it takes to get those beautiful, real smiles.


A post shared by Joy Gillespie (@thejoyouslifephotography)

5. Let the kids be themselves. 

The best photos are not the ones where everyone is smiling directly ahead. They’re the ones that show movement, fun, and personality. Go ahead and have the kids huddle in close, hug each other, creating a sense of family. Let them look at each other, swing an arm around each other. That love and togetherness will shine through the photo. And that is truly the meaning of the season after all.

Main image by Joy Gillespie

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Joy Gillespie is a magazine editor and child and family photographer who lives in Pearl River with her husband and two children. Her career as an editor has included work in InStyle, Redbook, and Food Network Magazine. Check out Gillespie’s portfolio at and on Instagram: @thejoyouslifephotography.

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