My sisters, cousins and I were chatting on the weekend about the lost art of Christmas cards. Remember at primary school handing out those cards ever so carefully and proudly, each one for each classmate, scribbled in your eight year old handwriting, wishing your little friends a fun summer holidays, see you next year! Well, that’s what we did anyway. Do kids still do that? I hope so.
As an adult I have continued sending Christmas cards, probably the only one of my friends who does, but I’m a total traditionalist like that. We started in 2008 with a photo of us, our working dogs (and a puppy Tessa!) on the motorbike at ‘Ythanbrae’. I love how looking back at our Christmas cards from each year is a little time portal into how life was just at that moment. Since then I’ve done both photo cards and more simple non-photo cards, last year though our card was extra special with a little announcement…
This year is obviously our first opportunity to do a family photo Christmas card – hurrah! Clearly, I live for this stuff, and my husband is oh-so-accommodating (when he’s not rolling his eyes very dramatically!) So out came the tripod, the red Christmas bow and skirt for our little bubba girl and hopefully some smiles! Sort of? Not bad for a five month old and a reluctant husband I reckon.
As a photographer (and sender of Christmas cards!) I often get asked about some tips for a great family photo to send out at this time of year, so here are five simple ways to create a lasting memory of Christmas 2014…
1. Co-hesive clothing choices
It seems obvious, but lots of people neglect to put much thought into what they’re wearing in a photo. They think it doesn’t matter, that the photo is about their faces, not their torso or legs – true, but it can really set the overall tone and mood of the entire image. I always advise people to not go matchy-matchy (cringe!) BUT…you do want it to be cohesive. There are some great boards on Pinterest which show how you can do this, one is my friend and fellow local photographer Kellie’s board ‘what to wear’ which you can find here. Try and tie everyone’s outfits together without wearing a uniform, don’t pick one specific colour, or even two, try and pick a ‘colour pallete’ instead and go with that. For example, your little girl might be wearing a blue skirt, you might wear a similar coloured scarf, or even better: a patterned scarf with the same colours through it. My number one, can not break, must follow ‘rule’ is no logos or branded clothing! Cringe. No Billabong tshirts please, no business logos, no, no, no. Sometimes different tones and textures of one colour create a layering effect and work brilliantly. For our photo Eleanor was in red and cream, Matt and I don’t wear a lot of red but I knew I had a cream top and he had a Christmas green polo. The result is we’re not wearing all the same matchy-matchy clothing, but it looks festive and (hopefully!) like we’re not trying too hard to be Griswald-esque!
2. Think about your surroundings
So often I see photos where thought just hasn’t been put into what exactly will be in the background/foreground of an image. As we live in a 3-dimensional world it can be hard to wrap your head around the idea of a 2-dimensional photo as your end result. For example, a tree branch which is actually 3 metres behind you, can end up looking like it’s sticking right out of your head when it comes to the photo. For our Christmas card this year I already had my eye on the design from Tinyprints I ended up choosing (simple, traditional, with hints of red laurel and gold text). I knew that this design would go well with a backdrop of our flowering horse chestnut tree. I also considered using just a lush plain green backdrop of our camellia bushes. Simple is always best, a plain background which is less distracting will draw attention to the main event – your smiling faces!
3. Negative space
Negative what? This might be ‘photographer speak’ but I can’t stress enough how important negative space is in your images! Especially for Christmas cards where you will be needing spacing for text etc. Negative space is just that – blank space around your image or on one side/top/bottom which actually compliments your focal point. Less really is more. Think about this when you’re taking your Christmas photo, you don’t want Dad’s head to be at the very top edge of the frame and little Johnny right down the bottom edge. Take a step back, take a step sidewards, create space, you’ll need it, and it can make your image look far more professional. The best family portraits, in my opinion, have a great use of negative space.
4. Don’t go for perfection
Again, some of the best family portraits in my opinion are often not the ones where every family member is looking at the camera smiling their heads off like Christmas crazies! Shoot your heart out and you’ll find that the most endearing and heartfelt images are ones where Daddy’s tickling his little girl, or Mum is looking lovingly at Dad, not down the barrel of the lens. And that’s fine! I love images like this. They’re candid and real – capturing a true moment of your family just as they are. What’s not to love about that?
5. Work backwards
Like I did! Tinyprints have so many great Christmas card designs it took me awhile to narrow down my favourites – but once I had, I knew what I wanted our photo to look like to go with the design that I had chosen. I would say majority of the time people take a photo and then go choose a Christmas card design – I’m saying you’re doing it the wrong way around! What you end up with when you do photo then design, is a mish-mash look which doesn’t have that ‘wow-pop-cohesive’ factor that truly makes a great Christmas card. So, choose design, then shoot. You might be surprised how it changes the way you will take your photo if you know exactly how it’s going to look on your eventual card.
Do you send Christmas cards?
With a photo? No photo?
A quick ‘merry Christmas’ or the full family letter run down?
If you are the Christmas card sending sort, Tinyprints has 40% off at the moment – off you trot!
Tinyprints kindly provided us with our Christmas cards this year.
Stephie Louise says
This is such a lovely idea. I do Christmas letters with photos. I haven’t done cards this year as l do nearly 100. With family and friends so letter enough.
I’ve just spent the evening writing cards with my 4 and 6 year olds for kindy and prep, and tying little christmas pencils to them got a gift. You card is beautiful!
I love getting a letter or a quick note – better than just the to/from – can’t see the point! I used to do a full on two page letter with photos (I take so many) however these days I do what I call the “concise edition” summarising the highs and the lows of the year on the back of the 4×6 (or this year DL) card. I have friends/family who keep the card I send each year on the fridge for their yearly pic of the kids 😀
Jo @Countrylifeexperiment says
We always do a photo card. I agree totally about the coordinating but not matching look too as well as going for a natural look rather than everyone totally posed. Here is our photo for this year: http://www.laurabluephotography.com.au/Southwell-family/i-WCXBZBZ It is handy having a pro photographer for a sister!
I love to send out Christmas cards I have been making mine for years and probably sending them out since my hubby and I first starting going out together some 21 years ago. (sounding old now hehe) I think it is a wonderful tradition and one sadly I have seen slowly get lost with fewer cards being received each year. My little Miss 10 still hands out Christmas cards each year and mostly gets one from each girl in her class too so that tradition has stayed which is lovely. Thanks so much for all the great information too it really is invaluable. Love your Christmas card this year of the three of you and how the colours all tie in together. Have a lovely afternoon.