Hi everyone!  My name is Angie and I am the author of The Arthur Clan and a professional photographer who lives in northeast Ohio.  I was absolutely thrilled when Laurie invited me to be a part of her Top 10 Holiday Trends to share some tips on how to make your family photos on your Christmas card stand out this year.  It definitely is that time of year when many of us begin thinking about the card we'd like to send out to our family and friends in celebration of the upcoming holidays.

Homemade Christmas Ideas

Top 10

I think that one great way to make your card unique is to personalize it by incorporating a photo of your family. After Christmas when I am cleaning up all the holiday mess in my home, I know that the cards I usually save (vs. the ones that are tossed into my children's bin of art supplies) are those that either had a personal note included on them and those that are actually a photo of the loved one who sent it to me. Whether you are having your photo taken by a professional photographer, are trying to capture the image yourself or have set up your camera so that a friend can push the shutter button for you...there are quite a few things you can do to make your photo session a successful endeavor and then completely "wow" everyone who receives a card from you this month. Here are just a few simple tips on how to capture the best photo you possibly can:

1| Family Photos ~ Coordinating clothing.

I highly recommend to all of my clients that they choose clothing that coordinates but that isn't all the same. Overall, you don't want everyone in your photo to look like a clone of everyone else...this immediately sets your photo back in time (to when the cool thing to do was to have everyone in the photo wear white shirts with blue jeans) and it also makes everyone in the photo blend together rather than letting their distinct personalities shine through. Your photos will have more style and class if you choose neutral colors with one (or maybe two) complimentary colors running between them.

Photo Credit: Angie from The Arthur Clan

2| Casual is good.

Family photos that I enjoy looking at the most are ones where the family is relaxed, casual and acting like themselves rather than posed and formal with big "Cheese!!!" smiles. If you are taking the photo yourself, you can easily set up the environment to be fun and relaxed for your entire family. If you are hiring a professional to take the photo for you, I would recommend that you really look through their online website, blog and portfolio to see if their style of photography is the right fit for you and your family.

Photo Credit: Angie from The Arthur Clan

3| Choose the right time.

I have four children that range in age from 6 to 12 and I can wrangle them together for a photo pretty much anytime of the day. This was not the case when they were younger though. If you have little ones, choose the time for your photo session wisely by taking into account their nap schedule, eating times, etc. If you are using a professional photographer, they will definitely appreciate being able to photograph a child who is well rested rather than one who happened to skip his nap so that you could make it to the photo session on time. If your photo is being taken outdoors, the time of day can be crucial as well since your photographer will be looking for good light to take the photo in instead of harsh light that will be unflattering and cause squinting, watery eyes.

Photo Credit: Angie from The Arthur Clan

4| Incorporate an activity.

One of the easiest ways to capture your family just as they are is by setting up a fun activity to include as part of the photo session. Grab a big box of decorations and head out to a group of pine trees and let your family decorate them. Put your heads together on a quilt and have your husband reel off a slew of jokes that will give everyone the giggles.  Go on a train ride for The Polar Express and snap away.  Pile on the bed and read a Christmas story together.  When you have your photo session revolve around an activity, you will end up with fun photos that show off a family that is relaxed and having a great time together.

Photo Credit: Jessica Paige from One Willow

5| Bribery can get you everywhere.

It didn't take me becoming a professional photographer to learn that a little bribery can go a long way in ensuring a good family photo....as a mom, it was easy to figure that out too! Whether you have a few treats tucked away for good behavior or you reward through claps, hugs, laughs and kisses, children (and dads too!) deserve to be rewarded for a job well done. At one recent family session I captured, the mom included the treat by having a candy party for me to photograph in the middle of their session! I'd have to say that those kids were some of the happiest that I've ever captured. :)

Photo Credit: Angie from The Arthur Clan

6| Get close and personal.

The background setting that you choose can easily set the entire mood of your photo, but having an incredible background isn't completely necessary for a good family photo. Getting up close and personal is one way that you can really show off the personality of each member of your family and draw the viewer right into the moment. If you have to take your photo in a place that has a "less-than-perfect" background, getting close for the photo can easily cut out all of the distraction that would have drawn the viewer's attention away from your family as well.

Photo Credit: Angie from The Arthur Clan

7| Capture a different angle.

Think out-of-the-box for this year's photo and try shooting your photo from a different angle than you'd typically think of. Even if your photo doesn't necessarily focus on the face, it can still tell a wonderful story about your family.

Photo Credit: Angie from The Arthur Clan

8| Make a collage.

Did you finish your session and end up with 10 wonderful photos of your family rather than just one? Make them into a collage and show them all off! This is also a great way to have one photo of the entire family and then a bunch of other little photos included as well.

And this second version she came up with as well:

Photo Credit: Susan from Short on Words and Susan Keller Photography

9| Plan ahead.

Yes...you can easily dress the kids, line them up, beg them to smile and then capture a photo for your cards. Or, you could spend some time really thinking about how you'd like your photo to turn out and come up with something that is amazing, creative and unique to your family. For our recent family session, I spent several months planning exactly how I wanted our session to be set up (ie. color scheme, outfits for each family member, props, location, etc.) Obviously, my photographer incorporated her vision and style into the session as well but having a prepared mom made everything so much easier for her and gave her something pretty incredible to work with.

Photo Credit: Jessica Paige from One Willow

10| Be creative...in a sensible way.

And finally, please be sure to think your idea through.  Is it going to embarrass your kids? Are you planning to make your husband wear antlers for holiday cheer or pajamas so that he can match the kids? If so, you might want to rethink your plan. While I applaud and encourage creativity, anything that could make your photo show up on Awkward Family Photos should be avoided at all costs. I hope that you'll find these tips helpful as you prepare to have your family captured in photos.  Have fun, be creative and enjoy showing off your beautiful family on your Christmas card this year!

About Angie:

Angie is a happily married mom of four who spends quite a bit of her time capturing and editing photos for her photography business, Angie Arthur Photography. She blogs stories about her family and shares photography tips at The Arthur Clan. She is also the co-founder of I Heart Faces, an online photography sharing forum that encourages everyone to join in their fun (and free!) weekly photo challenges.  She'd love to have you follow along with her on Twitter and Facebook if you'd like to keep up-to-date on her current tips and giveaways.

Homemade Christmas Ideas

More Christmas Tips: