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Perfectly (Un)Posed Family Portraits for the Holidays

English: Reverend Thomas Bridges posing for a ...

One of the most cherished holiday traditions is the family portrait. Whether you send custom photo postcards or a 4×6 print with a holiday letter, a professional portrait showcases your family’s spirit. It’s an opportunity to reconnect with friends and relatives and offer a glimpse into your family’s life. But if you’ve dragged the whole family to the photography studio year after year, you’re probably tired of perfectly composed portraits with unnatural smiles and awkward poses. This year, stop posing and start having fun! Here are some tips for livening up your family portrait.

Incorporate an activity
Achieve a fun, natural look by doing something as a family during the photoshoot. Play a board game, make crafts, decorate the Christmas tree, bake cookies, go for a bike ride. The photographer will be able to capture genuine smiles, and the photo will show what your family is really like. Plus, the kids will participate without pouting if they get to do something fun during the session.

Use message boards
Write your holiday message  (“Happy New Year from the Johnson Family”) on handheld chalkboards or thick paper, one word at a time. Have each member of your family hold a message board. Your words will feel more personal, and the photograph will have a fun, quirky vibe.

Pick a new word for “Cheese!”
Get the whole family involved by agreeing on new word that generates big smiles on cue. Before the photo session, brainstorm funny words that result in natural smiles. It’ll bring the family together and make the photoshoot a pleasant experience.

Include the pets
Fluffy and Fido can lend an irreverent look to a family portrait. Include the cat, the hamster, and the dog in your photo, and extend any thematic fashion choices to the pets. Is everybody wearing a red sweater? Tie a red scarf around the dog’s neck.

Choose an unexpected location
Try staging the photo someplace unique and visually rich. Pile onto the slide at a playground, or rent a few tandem bikes for Mom and Dad, brother and sister. Visit a pumpkin patch or Christmas tree farm, or use a simple, everday location, like the couch or even the family car. Although the location shouldn’t distract from the people in the photo, a noticeable background can bring warmth and sincerity to a family portrait.

By hiring a professional photographer, you free yourself up to focus on the content of your holiday photo. The photographer will make sure the portrait looks good–your job is to make it feel good, for your subjects and your audience.


Amy S. writes for Flash Portraits, a top family portrait studio with locations in Minnesota, Illinois, and Iowa. Find Flash Portraits on Facebook for more information about professional portraits.

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