5 Mistakes You're Probably Making with the Family Holiday Card, According to a Professional Photographer

holiday card photo shoot

Anyone else get stressed just thinking about corralling your clan for the annual holiday card photo shoot? You’re not alone. But the pressure we inflict on ourselves can actually be much reduced with a bit of advance planning. We tapped professional photographer Ana Gambuto to learn the five mistakes she always sees when families show up for a shoot.

1. You’re Not Choosing Your Photo Card Design in Advance

Minted, Artifact Uprising, Paper Culture—they all have stunning photo card designs to choose from. But the trick to making it work for your annual holiday mailing is to narrow it down to two to three favorite options before your family lines up and says “cheese.” Per Gambuto, this way the photographer can help you match the aesthetic (say, “kitschy” or “classic”) or even just the specs (think horizontal vs. vertical).

2. You Put All the Pressure on a Group Shot

When it comes to the best holiday photo cards, authenticity matters—even if that means that not everyone is looking directly at the camera. Gambuto is a huge fan of the collage photo card as a way to capture everyone’s happy, smiling faces. She also has some tricks for getting everyone looking great, like taking a few snaps where everyone is running into frame. “Even the most grumbly participant will be laughing and feel more relaxed after that.”

3. You’re Testing a New Look

Family photo cards are not the time to test out a trend or brand-new outfit. Gambuto’s best advice is to just make sure everything fits. “Beware a button-up that might pull or too-big kid clothes,” she says. “Generally, my recommendation is to reach for your favorite outfit since, every time you look at the photos, you’ll recall how much you loved it.”

4. You Feel Pressure to Write Personalized Notes

You’re busy, we’re all busy—gone are the days where you need to add a thoughtful note beside the photo itself. Gambuto has an alternate suggestion that she does for her own cards: Invite your kids to decorate the backs of the envelopes. “Even if it’s just an artful scribble, it adds a personal touch—and one that you don’t have to do yourself.”

5. You Abandon the Whole Plan Because You Didn’t Make it Happen By December 25

The holiday season is intense. We hereby grant you permission to send holiday cards in January. “More and more people are sending out New Year’s photo cards or Valentine’s Day greetings vs. holiday cards that get delivered exactly on time,” Gambuto says. “Lean into that flexibility. It’s the thought that counts!”

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Rachel Bowie

Royal family expert, a cappella alum, mom

Rachel Bowie is Senior Director of Special Projects & Royals at PureWow, where she covers parenting, fashion, wellness and money in addition to overseeing initiatives within...
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