Tis the season to gather the gang and pose for a holiday card photo. It’s the perfect time to show off your family and create another classic shot for the family album. While year after year some families pull out their Sunday’s best and head to their local photography studio, nowadays easy access to digital photo editing apps and tripods has prompted more and more families to grab their own cameras and go the DIY route to create their own holiday photo magic. It’s a great way to save money, but capturing professional quality portraits at home, isn’t as easy as it sounds. Washington, D.C. based photographer, Valerie Robinson of Photography by Valerie shoots family portraits often and knows firsthand what makes the most memorable photos, and how things can go wrong fast. Here a few of her best tips for nailing your family holiday photo this season. Ready. Set. Go and make this year’s holiday photo opp count.

Make Sure You Have What You Need
DIY family photos do not have to be costly or difficult to create. Pick out your attire, find a location and prepare your equipment for an easy holiday portrait. You can budget your wardrobe or simply pull out some coordinating pieces that are already in your closets. The location is key, according to Valerie.

Scout The Perfect Location In Advance
When it comes to finding the perfect spot in your home for the photo shoot, “ensure that the location you choose is well-lit and not overly busy with decor and eye sores.”

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Tripods Are A Must
To make the photo taking a little bit easier, purchase a tripod for your camera. “Many cameras, including mobile devices, have timers installed; set the timer and pray that nobody blinks. It may take several takes, but hopefully, something decent will stick, “ Valerie advised. If all else fails, invite your neighbor or friend over to snap some pictures for you.

Be Photo Shoot Fresh
The focal point of your holiday photo will be your family’s attire, so plan your outfits in advance. Whether it’s matching ugly sweaters, color-coordinated shirts or a themed affair, you must come correct.  Valerie has seen a trend in formal wear in holiday photos. “I’ve noticed the ongoing trend of women wearing gorgeous gowns and heels to die for, children in their best-dressed, and men adorning bow ties. I am loving that more families are dressing in formal wear and thinking outside of the box,” she shared.  However, not every fashion trend looks good in front of the camera so she suggests you avoid excessive competing colors and busy patterns. “Outfits do not have to be ‘matchy-matchy’ to coordinate well. Neutral colors, as well as pops of bold colors, tend to photograph really well,” she added.
Make Sure The Kids Are At Their Best
Cranky kids don’t make for cute photos. You never know how the day will turn out when children are involved. The day can be unpredictable when dealing with tots and their moods.  Valerie suggests you plan for the unexpected if you’re taking the photo outside of the home.  “Make sure they are well-rested, changed and fed prior to the shoot. Pack some extra snacks and water, and keep a stroller around for shoots that require a lot of walking.” You can also opt to take your pictures at home that way everyone is comfortable.

Big Families Need Lots Of Patience
Photo shoot days can be hectic, especially if you are taking your own family portraits. Being patient is a must when it comes to getting all of your family members on the same page. “It may be frustrating getting everyone to look at the same time, or to smile on queue.” These things can go wrong throughout the shoot and that’s okay. “Remain positive and keep in mind that the very best moments are the ones that are unplanned or imperfect. Make the best out of what you have in front of you, and try not to overthink things,” Valerie explained.  The time you chase your toddler around the shoot location could turn into a great candid moment for the album.  With a little extra attention to the details you will be well prepared for the things that may go awry on the day of the shoot, so don’t sweat the small stuff. “Have fun, relax and be as creative as you want to be! Formal portraits are nice, but switch it up a bit and let those candid moments flow.”

Turn your photos into gifts
Now that you have your wonderful photos, turn them into the perfect holiday gifts for family and friends. Use them to create holiday cards, calendars, mugs or t-shirts. The opportunities are endless. “It’s wonderful that digital technology exists and makes sharing easier, however, tangible photographs are the absolute best! Greeting cards, a mini album, and some good, old-fashioned printed portraits go a long way!”