Sending out a holiday card that shows your family’s smiling faces is great, and with Mixbook it really is possible to do it in 30 seconds. But if you have a little time, creating a holiday card that really captures the authentic spirit of your family is even better. To get a photo like that, you’ve got two options: 1. You get really lucky with a fabulous photo from the not-too-distant past; 2. You do a little planning to jumpstart some guided spontaneity, if you will. The key is making the photo shoot fun. Sure, the kids will sit still in itchy sweaters and feign smiles for 7 minutes with the promise of a new toy, but there’s really no reason why the actual photo shoot can’t be fun. Not only will you avoid bribery, you’ll be rewarded with a few photos that feature family members at their relaxed best, which is when true beauty and character come through.
Start by scrolling through Mixbook’s huge selection of holiday cards to activate your creative thinking. Once you have a few templates in mind you can start art directing your own family photo sessions to fit the bill. Here are my five favorite ways to bring a little extra something to the photos you take for your holiday card this year.
1. Twinkle, Twinkle Happy Family
There’s nothing more magical than the twinkle of little white lights. Borrow that ethereal glow for your family photo, and watch everyone’s face light up! If you’re photographing the kids, play around with tangling them up in several illuminated strands (I trust that you’re a responsible adult who will make sure this is done safely. ☺) And if you’re shooting the whole family this way, you can all sit on a shiny wood floor or light-colored rug (to create a subtle reflective effect) with lit strands encircling your group. You may even let some of the strings drape over a bare foot or two. Using a couple sets of those great oversized colored bulbs that were popular in the 60s and 70s would be another option for a fun retro-style holiday photo session.
2. Live-Action Holiday Baking Card
I love when I get a Christmas card that includes a special holiday recipe, but not when it stands in place of a photograph! I want to see pictures of all my favorite people. I can’t imagine a better theme for a holiday photo shoot than getting the whole family in the kitchen and snapping away, flour plumes, cracked eggs and all! Perch children on stools or right on the counter with your family recipe propped up on a cookbook stand in the background. After your photo shoot, you will likely find that one shot stands out from all the rest, and you can feature this portrait on the front of your Mixbook holiday card. But you’ll also have plenty of editorial-style photos, which capture the real fun and action, from which you can choose a series of shots for a photo collage. Place your photo collage on the interior of the card along with the corresponding recipe. Try a little bit of humor for the back of your card by featuring and “after” shot of the state of your kitchen in the wake of cooking up a storm! I also love this version by LilSugar that features a very posed shot of the family in the kitchen, hamming it up for the camera.
3. The Anti-Perfect Holiday Card (Featuring the Non-Pose Pose)
There’s something great about a family photo where everyone’s wearing a neutral enough palette that conflicting prints and patterns don’t compete with the pose. But this matchy-matchy approach can get out of hand, ultimately coming off as far too contrived. If you like to dress up the family in complementary outfits, that’s great, just make sure you modify the wardrobe enough between individuals that it doesn’t look too forced. Look for tonal colors in a range of hues and tiny, complementary patterns. Or, create a modern spin on this classic holiday photo style and dress everyone in matching clothes (nice jeans or khakis with crisp white t-shirts perhaps)—and then introduce some kind of messy element. Commence an epic family battle with paint splatter, paper confetti, or crazy string (in red and green or Hanukkah blue and silver, of course), and capture a series of action shots. Nothing will induce family fun like making a big old mess together! This idea was inspired by one of my favorite shows, Modern Family, when Claire goes to great lengths to orchestrate the perfect family photo and her plans, naturally, go completely haywire—check out Season 1, Episode 24.
4. Tree hunting with the family
While it may be more a an aspirational subject for a Norman Rockwell painting than reality, the act of tromping out into the woods to choose and chop the family Christmas tree is either a rite of passage or a (sub)urban legend—or both. So even if your family ultimately heads to the pop-up Christmas-tree lot to select a pre-felled six-footer for forty bucks, there’s no reason you can’t feign the ritual for a vintage magazine–worthy photograph. Or you can go retro on one side of your card by getting the whole family decked out in flannel and denim and head out to the nearest open space teeming with evergreens for a campy-classic shot. And use the other side of your card to show what the ritual of choosing a tree actually looks like in your family. Another way to celebrate the tradition of choosing and decorating a tree is to take a series of photographs—stop-action style—from bare boughs to heavy with ornaments, and choose a layout that accommodates a grid of small photos to show the entire transformation in your Christmas card. Keep it casual by having family members coming in and out of the shots throughout the decorating, then take one joyful photo of everyone together in front of your sparkly tree at the very end.
Once you’ve captured your new favorite family portrait, it’s time to scroll through the huge assortment of Mixbook holiday card templates and choose one that complements it perfectly. In any template you choose, you can keep everything just as is, or you can play around with customizing your layout for showcasing a photo collage or any other design element you can dream up. And if you like to include mention of the year’s highlights, consider a layout that lets you plug it all in quickly and easily.
5. The Illustrated Year in Review
Using any of the photo ideas above—or a favorite photo or series of photos from the year—it’s easy to create a family newsletter –style Christmas card. Mixbook’s Vintage Year in Review card makes room for sharing major milestones, family highlights as well as overarching thankfulness.