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How to Take Great Holiday Card Photos

Use these expert tips to avoid red eye, overexposure, and more seasonal photo no-no's.

By Sarah Engler
Camera and photograph of children playing in the snowWendell T. Webber

Remember your last holiday photo? A screaming toddler, placid Fido morphed into a hellhound with vermilion eyes, and what looked like a tree growing out of Grandpa’s head. A few tips from the pros should help.

  • Keep it simple. “I just want to see a good, clear view of the people I care about,” says Chuck DeLaney, dean of the New York Institute of Photography. Get in close, and don’t have too much going on, so nix the roaring fireplace and brightly patterned clothing.
  • Light it right. Inside or out, the light source should be behind the photographer, says Barry Dowe of Barry Dowe Photography, in Lake Villa, Illinois. But bright sun is a minus. “On overcast days, the light is softer, and there are no harsh shadows on faces,” says Dowe.
  • Construct a triangle. For a more interesting shot, Dowe suggests, “think about levels. Have one person standing, one in a chair, one on the arm, one kneeling in front.”
  • Focus the kids. The trick is not to drag the process out. Arrange the shot before you get them in the room, using big teddy bears as stand-ins if you need to, says DeLaney. Consider having a friend take the picture, so your kids are more likely to actually take direction.
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