Looking to save money this Christmas? Find out how to master DIY Christmas family portraits, even if you’re a total newbie. Scroll to get my top Christmas photo ideas for locations, outfits, and props!
This post about DIY Christmas family portraits was originally published October 29, 2020 and was updated September 5, 2021 and may contain affiliate links, which means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.
Are you looking for some Christmas photo ideas?
In this post, I outline exactly what I do in order to get my whole family on board with our Christmas photo shoot.
Whether you are doing an outdoor Christmas photoshoot or a family Christmas pajamas photoshoot, I’ve got you covered!
Keep scrolling to find out how to master DIY Christmas family portraits and save money this holiday season! You’ll also get my top tips for locations, outfits, and props.
It’s the perfect guide if you’re new to photography or just want some fresh inspiration. If that sounds like something up your alley then read on!
And don’t forget to pin it so that you can come back later when it comes time for your own festive photos 🙂
Christmas Family Photos FAQs
There are lots of places to do your family Christmas photoshoot. Christmas tree farms are a popular option. Just be sure it’s okay to take them there (some charge a fee). You can also head to a lake, the mountains, or other natural landscapes. And it’s always fun to do them in the city with a festive backdrop.
Add a little razzle-dazzle to your holiday family photos by including strings of lights, cute ornaments, Christmas books, Santa hats, a Christmas wreath, lanterns, garland, mistletoe, holly, poinsettias, and anything else that reminds you of Christmas.
There are tons of places to find Christmas family photo outfits. Usually, I get Christmas outfits for kids at Target, Janie & Jack, or Gap. For buffalo plaid family pictures, I tend to shop on Amazon. And for a family pajama photoshoot, it’s hard to beat Hanna Andersson.
Photography Basics for Parents
I’ve had friends tell me they can’t get “good” photos of their kids because they aren’t photographers. That always makes me sad because it usually just takes a few tricks to instantly get better photos.
I’m not a trained photographer, but I love watching what other people do and find out what works for me.
Do you need a fancy camera?
Nope! Most of the photos I take for my blog are just iPhone photos.
iPhone and Samsung phones have pretty good built-in cameras and they keep getting better for each new generation.
That being said, it definitely helps if you do have a “nice” camera and tripod to use. My husband is pretty passionate about photography and has a sweet setup.
When to do Your Family Christmas Portraits?
It’s always important to think about the lighting.
Professional photographers love shooting first thing in the morning (like an hour after sunrise) or at golden hour (an hour or two before sunset.)
But, that’s not always realistic for families with little kids.
My suggestion is to think about when your kids are the most easy-going. And if you have babies or toddlers, consider their nap time and mealtime.
In my family, that’s anytime before lunch. After that, I cannot predict any of our moods and it might be stressful.
Sunlight or Shade?
Before I was a blogger, I always thought it was important to shoot on bright sunny days for the best photos.
I had no idea that cloudy days are actually better because of the lighting.
What I’ve learned is that you either need your photography subject to be completely in the sunlight or completely in the shade in order to have uniform lighting.
And always remember to have the sun behind you.
How to Get Kids to Look Natural
We all know the moment kids start to put on their forced smiles. It can be really frustrating when they put on an unnatural smile.
What’s worked in our family is telling our kids to “fake laugh.”
The point is that they start doing their cheesiest laughs which usually get them to actually start laughing at each other, resulting in natural smiling photos.
Another idea is to tell them jokes, ask them about their favorite movie/TV show, or have them start singing a song.
As a final resort, we usually end up asking “Who tooted?” or other potty humor to get them chuckling. In my opinion, it’s totally worth it to get the photo.
Christmas Family Photo Shoot Ideas
Every fall, I start thinking about our Christmas family photography shoot and what I want it to look like.
Pinterest is a great place to find Christmas family photography inspiration. There’s usually a lot of classic photo ides plus some trendy Christmas photo ideas.
Christmas Tree Farm Pictures
One of my favorite places to take Christmas pictures is at a local Christmas tree farm. The trick is to try to go before they open to the public.
This year, we went in October and were able to walk all over the Christmas tree farm without getting strangers in our photos.
We love visiting Christmas tree farms because the trees are fairly close together so we can get a few in our shot.
And we bring a ton of our own props to change it up a bit.
I really think it’s hard to beat Christmas tree farm family pictures. They always come out super cute!
Another idea for outdoor Christmas pictures is at a local park. I actually think dog parks can be a great option if it’s in a scenic area. That’s because they are usually less crowded than other parks/playgrounds.
However, if you are doing family photos with little kids, you can bribe them with a visit to the playground after you are done doing photos.
Or find a park without a playground if you feel that might be too big of a distraction.
Lake or Ocean
We’re lucky here in the Pacific Northwest to have so many beautiful waterfront outdoor Christmas photo spots!
We have lots of peaceful lakes, little streams, rivers, and tons of places along Puget Sound.
Posing in front of the water is also a great way to avoid random people in your photos.
Family Christmas Portraits At Home
This year, a lot of families are opting to take their Christmas photos at home. I mean, we’ve all spent a LOT of time at home this year, so it makes sense.
Here are my favorite places to take photos at home:
Are you as in love with those matching Christmas jammies photos as much as I am?
They are usually taken on a neatly made King or Queen sized bed in a room with awesome lighting.
You can get photos of your family snuggled together, reading a book, or having a pillow fight.
One of the most popular places to take family photos at home is in front of the fireplace. It’s especially cute if you have it all decorated for Christmas.
It can also look cute to do family Christmas pics on the couch.
If you’d like to try something different for your holiday cards this year, you could do one where your family is baking or decorating cookies.
It’s extra cute if everyone is wearing aprons!
In Front of Christmas Tree
Another classic place for Christmas photos at home is in front of your Christmas Tree.
You can either stand in front of it or have everyone sitting together surrounded by presents.
We love adding oversized teddy bears near our tree because it reminds us of the adorable Teddy Bear Suite at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle!
Decorate your front porch with some outdoor Christmas items (like this classic wreath) and you’ve got the perfect spot for a Christmas card photo.
The steps can be helpful if you have kids. Either the kids can stand on the higher steps or the whole family can sit on the steps to be at the right height.
Hotel Room or Airbnb
And if you’re looking for an indoor space that you don’t have to clean, you might consider renting a hotel room or vacation rental home.
This is an easy way to get magazine-worthy family photos on the bed without worrying about anything in the background.
Make sure it’s got good lighting before booking anything.
Plus, it’s a great excuse for a staycation!
Family Christmas Picture Outfit Ideas
What should a family wear for Christmas photos? My vote is for anything that doesn’t clash with your background or each other.
The first place to look for Christmas picture outfits is in your closet. That will save you a lot of money.
The most popular Christmas colors for family pictures are red and green. However, you can also mix in some blue. Neutral colors like grey is also a nice option.
And if you are taking photos in a colder climate, make sure everyone is dressed warmly or you’ll get a lot of photos you can’t use (trust me)!
If you can’t Christmas family picture outfits in your current wardrobe, there are lots of fun options online.
Matching Christmas Outfits for your Family Christmas Portraits
One of the most popular Christmas picture outfit ideas is to have the whole family matching.
You can have everyone wearing the same color, the same shirt, etc. Doing red plaid family photos is always a popular idea.
When my oldest was a toddler, we took a bunch of photos around Seattle wearing sock monkey hats!
It added a fun element to our photos, plus it kept us toasty warm when exploring the city in freezing temperatures!
Themed Christmas Outfits
Or you can run with a theme. Christmas movies like Elf and The Grinch are pretty popular.
But you don’t have to limit it to Christmas.
I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a lot of Schitt’s Creek-inspired Christmas card photos this year!
One of our favorite holiday photo outfit ideas is to have everyone wear sweaters.
My husband and I usually wear a neutral sweater and have our kids wear Christmas sweaters. Some years they match, some years they just go together.
You could totally do Ugly Christmas sweaters, too!
Buffalo Plaid Family Christmas Pictures
Another classic Christmas fashion trend is wearing buffalo plaid.
It’s got that lumber-chic vibe that looks great on just about anyone! And it’s a total slam dunk for cute family Christmas photos.
Family Christmas Pajamas
One of the cutest Christmas card outfit ideas is for your whole family to wear matching Christmas jammies.
These are perfect for photos at home because it feels like you are inviting people in.
Christmas Photography Props for your Own Christmas Family Portraits
Okay, once you’ve figured out where you want to take photos, it’s time to start thinking about ways to get lots of different photo ideas with the same setup.
Our family motto is “anything worth doing is worth OVERdoing” so I always bring way more props than we end up using.
Here’s what I like to bring:
Nothing adds a little razzle-dazzle better than twinkling Christmas lights.
I’ve grabbed a few sets from Target’s Dollar Spot over the years and they always work well for photos. Just be sure to pack extra batteries.
It’s cute to drape them around kids, have kids hold them, or put them on a tree as the background.
Christmas ornaments are another fun Christmas prop idea. Go with the bigger ornaments you have to ensure that it shows up in your photos.
We like taking photos of the kids holding the ornaments and putting them on the tree.
And I love using large ornaments with messages on them (like this Home for the Holidays ornament) for our Christmas card photos.
Christmas garland has SO many possibilities!
You can wrap it around trees, people, or poles to add a pop of color. Or you can have family members hold it.
Or you can place it on the ground for seated photos for a festive touch.
We always bring a Christmas book to feature in our photos.
It’s cute to sit on a blanket and have kids sitting in laps listening to the story. Or having older kids read the story to themselves.
We have a Radio Flyer wagon that we bring on every Christmas photo shoot. Sometimes we use it as a photo prop, and other times we use it to haul our props.
It’s super cute to use in photos if you have babies or toddlers. And you can have older kids pull younger kids.
If you want really easy and recognizable Christmas photo props, grab some Santa hats!
They are cheap, fun, and turn any photo into a Christmas photo.
I can’t stop buying Christmas signs. I actually picked up a Merry Christmas sign from Target a few days before our last photo shoot. You can also find them at Michael’s or Joann’s.
It’s nice to have something to hold onto if you don’t know what to do with your hands. And it keeps kids from touching other things.
We like bringing some sort of outdoor blanket to use on the ground when we do outdoor Christmas photography.
Sometimes it’s a fleece blanket and sometimes it’s an actual outdoor blanket. I think the plaid blankets look best, especially if your family is wearing solid colors.
If you’re hoping to get some romantic Christmas photos, it’s not really complete without a little sprig of mistletoe!
Where to Order Christmas Cards Online
Throughout the past 10 years, I’ve ordered Christmas cards from SO many places!
We’ve done Shutterfly, Costco, Tiny Prints, etc.
Last year, we ordered our Christmas cards through Mpix. We’ve used them in the past for our Disney gallery wall (which turned out so well)!
Best Christmas Photo Captions
After you’re done ordering your Christmas cards, you’ll probably want to post some of your Xmas family pictures on social media.
Here are some cute Christmas photo captions for Instagram:
- Have yourself a Merry little Christmas
- Merry everything and happy always
- Totally sleighed it
- The best way to spread Christmas cheer is to sing loud for all to hear
- Christmas Magic is in the air
- Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way!
- May your days be merry and bright
- Smile like you mean it. This is how we earn our presents
- It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas
I hope you got some great ideas for your next Christmas family photoshoot.
Whether you do family Christmas pictures outside or inside, you have plenty of options that are sure to please everyone in the photo!
Taking your own fun family Christmas photos is a great way to save money this holiday season. And it’s so much easier than you might think now that you know how to take your own family photos.
If you want more content on all things festive-related—from gift guides full of unique items to kid-friendly activities, check out my other blog posts below.