How To: Get Great Family Photos (For Your Holiday Cards!)

Minted’s newest collection of holiday cards is now available (you can also see all of the winning holiday photo-card designs right here!), which means it’s time to start thinking about which card you’ll be mailing out this holiday season. If you decide to go the photo-card route, we know it can be a daunting task deciding on a single photo that perfectly captures your family. To help, I interviewed San Francisco-based kids photographer Sarah Hebenstreit of Modern Kids Co.—she photographs our founder and CEO Mariam Naficy’s holiday-card photo every year!—for her best tips on getting beautiful family pictures you’ll treasure for years to come.

1. Find the right photographer.
Make sure your photographer enjoys shooting kids. If you still have last year’s batch of holiday cards, go through the stack and pull a couple of favorites, then ask your friends who their photographer was. “Word of mouth is really the best recommendation,” says Sarah.

See Sarah’s seven other genius tips after the jump…

2. Pick the right location(s).
“For more intimate family portraits, I like shooting at the family’s home,” says Sarah. “But for holiday cards, an outdoor location will give you more options.” During a family portrait session, Sarah likes photographing everyone participating in activities together: “I’m based in San Francisco, so we might start out at the Ferry Building and get some macarons at Miette, before heading out to one of the city’s black-sand beaches,” she says. Even a simple activity like going out for ice cream will help everyone feel more relaxed in front of the camera.

Minted holiday photo card 3. Choose your holiday card beforehand.
If you’re planning to use a family photo for your holiday cards, it’s a smart idea to choose three or four favorite card designs and share them with your photographer before the portrait session. “That way, I’ll know to shoot more horizontal or vertical options, depending on the design,” says Sarah. “And if the card has typography up top, then I’ll be sure to frame some shots with enough head room to accommodate the type.” (Above: “Holiday Wishes Texture” by Alethea and Ruth for Minted)

4. Don’t wait until the last minute.
To avoid a holiday-card scramble, schedule a family photo shoot with a photographer by mid- to late-October. “Think of Halloween as your absolute deadline,” says Sarah. “This will give you enough time to get the images back from your photographer and place your holiday-card order with plenty of time to spare.”

5. Dress comfortably.
Sarah advises dressing your kids in outfits that makes them feel happy and comfortable. “Dress the girls, first, since they tend to have more clothing options,” Sarah says, “then, choose everyone else’s outfits to coordinate with theirs.” Stick to mid-range colors, like soft pastels and grey, and avoid high-contrast outfits and cotton clothing in black, which tends not to photograph well. And don’t forget to coordinate your outerwear! “We’ll be able to get more shots since we won’t have to wait for everyone to put on or take off their jackets,” says Sarah.

6. Leave the stroller at home.
Try not to bring too many belongings to the shoot. “I won’t be able to get as many candid shots if you’re holding your purse in most of the shots,” Sarah says. “Since you won’t want your bag or stroller in the picture, it’s easiest if you just leave them at home.”

7. Time it right.
For kids aged three and under, opt for a morning shoot, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. “They’re usually happier in the morning, right after they’ve eaten breakfast,” says Sarah. Older kids will do well in the late-afternoon. “And if you can catch the sun setting, the lighting will be incredible,” says Sarah. But if a mid-day shoot is the only option, then it’s a better idea to shoot indoors since the sun will be directly overhead, which is not ideal for photos.

8. Let your kids be kids.
The key to getting amazing images? Relax and have fun. “I always encourage silliness during shoots,” says Sarah. “I actually want the kids to make goofy faces, because chances are they’ll flash a real, genuine smile right after their silly face, which is perfect for me.” So, instead of trying to get your kids to smile on command—you’re only going to get forced, cheesy grins, anyway—play with them and have fun!

All photographs are courtesy of  Modern Kids Co.