How are you going to take a professional-quality photo for your holiday card if you don’t know the difference between aperture and ISO speed?

Thanks to today’s tools, you don’t have to be an expert to produce a memorable portrait. All you need is a good eye and some tips from the pros. For example, you might not have considered that a good photo happens thanks to what you do before, during, and after you take a photo. Here’s what I learned while talking to some pros.

Pre-Photo Shoot

There are several things you can do before you even get in front of the camera to ensure you take a high-quality photo. Here are some things that professional photographers will tell you:

  • Plan out your wardrobe. You don’t need to wear matching Christmas outfits, but everyone in the photo should, for example, be dressed in a similar level of casual or formal wear. Simplicity is the key.
  • Pay attention to your color scheme, as photos will look better if the people in them are wearing complementary colors and tones. It not only looks better, but it also signals that you have put thought and preparation into the photo. Plan your wardrobe as if you were creating one outfit.
  • Keep patterns, slogans, and logos to a minimum (or avoid them altogether). Dramatic clothing choices can pull focus away the rest of your family and “date” the photo too quickly.

Day of the Photo Shoot

When it comes to location, taking your family photo at home is the most convenient choice. Select a spot that gets good natural light, or one where you can easily adjust the light if necessary.

  • Evaluate your setting in advance. Consider where the photo will be taken, whether in a casual or formal location. Bring in lights, timers, tripods, and other necessary equipment required for the location. Remember that lighting should be placed behind the photographer.
  • Consider adding props to your photo: photography studios use a variety of props to enhance a setting. Even though this is not necessary, you can add a poinsettia or wreath to signify the time of year.
  • Add the people and pets last—this way, you can get a natural shot quickly before everyone tires of the process (photographer included).
  • Make sure you have fun! Compose the shots to focus on the smiling faces of people and pets, not your decor or location.

You’ve Got the Perfect Shot. Now what?

Upload your image to a site that specializes in creating holiday photo cards. From there, do this:

  • Choose a holiday-themed backdrop for your card. Try not to change fonts if the backdrop already includes them, because the designer had a good reason for choosing a specific font.
  • If the backdrop doesn’t include fonts, just use one, as the wrong mix of fonts can make a card look unprofessional. Choose something simple, so the viewer’s attention remains on your photo.
  • When selecting your envelopes, postage, and ink, keep your eye on matching or complementary design details. For example, when possible, match the same pattern or font to the envelope, and select an ink color to address the cards that matches, too.

These tips work together to ensure that your family has a professional-quality holiday photo, without splurging on the cost of a professional photographer. You’ll be happy to send your photo to family and friends across the country, and make sure you display it proudly in your own home, too.

Featured photo credit:  Couple walking at alley in night lights via Shutterstock

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