Great Tips for DIY Family Pictures


DIY family pictures during the holidays can be daunting because they are yet another thing on your growing list of holiday to-do’s. However, with a little bit of planning, you can make your family photos look like they were taken by a professional! Here are a few tips on how to take group photos.

1. Coordinate Everyone’s Outfits

Before you schedule your photoshoot with your family, pull up a pin board on Pinterest and create a general holiday aesthetic for your entire family. Feel free to deviate from the norm of having completely matching outfits and, instead, think about a cohesive color palette and be very mindful to avoid mixing warm and cool tones together. You may also find our detailed post about Christmas outfits inspirational.

A few ideas, color-wise can be:

  • Natural Earth Tones: Deviate from the standard bright red and green; instead, opt for more seasonal earthtones like brown, blush, rust, and pine green.
  • Blue Hues: Express the holiday spirit, seasonally, by wearing light blues and neutrals — these colors will be complementary in the context of an outdoor photoshoot.
  • Merry Mauve: Combine the warmth of the season with the coolness of the temperature by dressing your family in mauve for your DIY family pictures. Mix these colors with gray, white, and blush for a softer expression of the holiday.
Family wearing natural earth tones

While you are having fun with the color palette, you can also start thinking about the types of textures and patterns you want everyone to wear. Just be aware that, if you incorporate too many different patterns and textures on your family’s clothing, you risk overwhelming the picture and potentially detracting from your family’s faces. To avoid this, here are a few ideas on how to take group photos while also incorporating textures and patterns:

  • Flannel: Although it may be a little cliched, taking family photos in complementary flannel is always heartwarming and fun to play out, in the moment. Once your family lands on a color scheme (i.e. red and black vs. green and black vs. red and white) you can all buy your own expression of it. The complementary colors with rich texture will make for a great family photo.
Family wearing plaid
  • Knits: Embrace the warm holiday spirit and bundle up in cozy neutral knits. Think chunky sweaters, thick scarves, and pom pom hats with matching mittens. If you find that the neutral knits are too stark, play around with your seasonal accessories for that pop of color.
  • Gingham: Exude classic vintage styling by donning gingham of various check sizes. Play around with the men of the family wearing gingham ties while the women wear a mixture of dresses and headbands.

Ultimately, you should have fun with your family’s outfits. However, the key on how to take group photos relies on various elements, with outfits just being one aspect of it. If you do not have the time to coordinate outfits or aesthetics, you can simply time your photo session during a family event when you know everyone will be looking their best. The primary goal is to capture this joyous time in your family’s life!

Kids wearing pajamas

2. Use What You Have

Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to invest in a shiny new camera in order for your photos to look like they were taken by a professional. Nowadays, the photo capturing capabilities of iPhones and Androids surpass that of digital cameras. Also, due to the increasing popularity of using a smartphone for group photos, companies are now selling tripods and remote controls, specifically for phones.

For your DIY family pictures you can look to Amazon or other retailers for the following types of equipment that will help capture your family’s favorite moments:

  • Smart Phone: Wipe off the lens of your iPhone and Android and enable your phone’s equivalent of “portrait mode” to make your DIY family pictures look like they were taken by a pro. The phone’s feature should beautifully enhance your family’s skin tone as well as blur the backdrop, allowing the full focus to be on you and your family. Further, if you take pictures on your smartphone, you can take advantage of Minted’s Text Us Your Photo service and receive five holiday card recommendations tailored to your family’s pictures!
  • Smartphone tripod with accompanying remote: If you intend to use a phone for your pictures but do not want to fuss with a timer, purchase a tripod that comes with a remote. You can enable bluetooth and snap a picture while you are coordinating your poses with your family.
  • Selfie Stick: If you do not want to invest in a tripod for a single photoshoot, you can opt for purchasing a selfie-stick. Selfie sticks are great because they allow you the flexibility to adjust your angle in real-time and provide different perspectives of your family’s faces. Additionally, they provide a wider view of your family rather than simply using your arm!
  • Digital Camera: If you would prefer to play around with the various functionalities that digital cameras have to offer, take a look at the latest selections by Nikon, Canon, Fujifilm, or Panasonic. Digital cameras can be purchased for beginners for a little over $100.
  • Photo Editing App: You do not necessarily need the entire Adobe creative suite in order to edit your photos. Outside of Photoshop and Lightroom, you can also use phone apps such as Snapseed, VSCO, and Afterlight to color correct and apply any desired filters to enhance your family’s shine.

Alternatively, if you and your family do not have the time to purchase a tripod, or a selfie stick, you can also go the old-fashioned route and call a friend and ask for their help in taking your family photos. It will be a fun excuse to catch up with someone and incorporate them into the memories of your holidays.

3. Find a Familiar Location

Coordinating your own family pictures can be stressful, especially when young children are involved. In order to keep things simple, you can choose a spot that is familiar and comfortable for you and your family, both indoors and outdoors.

  • Outdoor Options: If you catch the right hour (read on for the next tip!) you can take photos right outside your house such as your front porch, backyard, or a nearby park. However, before you find your spot to post up, make sure you’re paying attention to the landscape and ensuring that it is tidy and not too distracting — look out for branches that may obstruct your family’s faces or loose leaves and pedestrians that may detract from the key subject of the photograph.
  • Indoor Options: If you find that taking family photos outside is too much of a hassle, you can always opt for a place inside your home. Look out for locations within your home that have a clean backdrop, plenty of space, and great lighting. If you find that a clean backdrop is difficult to find, you can get creative and set up a curtain to act as your backdrop. Potential places to setup your family photos can be your living room, kitchen, entryway, or dining room.
Kid holding stick outdoors

4. Golden Hour

Family pictures can look completely professional with the right lighting. If you want to take great photos outside, or with natural light indoors, you will want to take them during this period referred to as Golden Hour. Many photographers refer to this term, but what is it really and how does it help taking family photos?

Golden Hour is the time of day right before sunrise and, again, right before sunset. The timing and duration of Golden Hour varies based on your geography and the time of year; however, you can track this time of day as well as its duration by doing a simple Google search. Be aware that, although it is called Golden Hour, it may last less than that; therefore, you will want to plan ahead with your family on exactly when the sun will be rising/setting.

The reason Golden Hour is so great for taking family photos is because, during this time, there is a flattering, warm hue that accentuates the natural glow of your skin and smooths out any blemishes you may have. Also, at the time of Golden Hour, the light will not cast harsh shadows against the contours of your face but, rather, provide soft dimension with long shadows.

In order to enhance your time during Golden Hour, be mindful of the following tips:

  • Face the sun: It seems counterintuitive but, the soft golden light will actually place a warm filter on you and your family’s face, rather than the stark highlight that would occur when the sun is at its highest. Since the light is low and diffused, you and your family will not have an issue with squinting at the camera and will also not have an issue with shiny spots on your faces.
  • Avoid using full flash: If you have a digital camera, you can adjust your settings for a dimmer flash, rather than a full flash. The intent of this lower light flash is to add light to portions of your family photo without overtaking the Golden Hour hue as the primary source of light. If you are using your phone to capture your family photos, you can use a lamp or other item as an alternative light source. You can adjust the lightsource “settings” by bringing your lamp (or other illuminated item) closer and further away from your family.
Kids hugging

5. Poses

The fun part about DIY family pictures is that you can truly make them your own. And, what better way to show off your family’s personality than with having a few great poses?

If you plan on using a tripod for your shoot, you want to first make sure that your family is placed in the center of the shot (watch out for heads and limbs cropped from the view!). You will also want to ensure your bodies are close together, to avoid large awkward gaps in the image. When you are all setup, try out a few of these posed options:

Family smiling candidly
  • Opt for the soft smile throughout the entire family; make sure everyone is looking at the camera and is engaged in the moment.
  • Capture a picture where you are focusing on your children, and not looking directly at the camera — your family pictures will be guaranteed to exude love.
  • Allow your children to define their own posed moments — unleash their creativity and play along! To ensure a great picture of your children, take a look at our inclusive list of tips for photographing children.
  • Bring toys into the mix that your children can play with during the photoshoot and capture the memories of unabashed joy that comes with playtime.
  • Come together in a group hug and play with poses where you are hugging while looking at the camera and also looking at each other.
  • Bring your tripod when you are cutting down your Christmas Tree, capture family pictures while you complete a DIY Christmas tree cutting.
Kids jumping off couch

If you have a friend taking the photo, get a little more creative with poses in motion:

  • Play follow the leader with your child — hold their hand and let them lead the way; this moment will capture the joys of first learning how to walk.
  • Walk hand-in-hand with your child sandwiched between you and your partner — walk naturally and focus on your child, rather than the camera.
  • Gently lift your child in the air, being very careful with them and making sure they don’t get sick.
  • If you have a furry friend, incorporate them into the photo and play fetch with them as a family.
  • Dance and jump with your children — giggles will ensure warmth is captured in the photo.
Father tossing child in air

6. Use photos from the past year

Sometimes the best moments are captured from previous trips and experiences. Take out your iPhone and look through your albums. Look for candid moments of the kids during that latest camping trip, moments of the family enjoying a meal together, or moments celebrating key milestones you experienced as a family. Using moments from the past year will keep your loved ones informed of what you have done and capture these fond memories in print. If you find a photo from the past that you like, download any of the photo editing apps previously mentioned and enhance them! Once you have your photos enhanced, you can then browse through Minted’s collection of photo holiday card designs that feature more than one picture and show all your favorite photos from the year.