Thinking Outside the Box: 4 Photo Ideas for your Holiday Card Photo

By Rachel Castro /

Don’t you just love heading to the mailbox in December? Every day there’s a new stack of holiday photo cards showing off a family portrait of friends and relatives, and they all look so poised and happy. I love these reminders of all of my far-flung friends and family, and look forward to seeing them every year.

But when it comes time to make one for myself? I start to break into a cold sweat. Who has time to shop for matching Christmas outfits and get the baby to the mall to pose with Santa? How long does a photo shoot have to be to get just one perfect snapshot, anyway?

If you’re like me, making perfect custom holiday cards can feel like a stressor in the middle of an already busy season. Luckily, with some creative thinking, you can use an existing photo or take a new one that’s totally unique — no matching sweaters required.

1. Put the Holiday Back in the Holidays

While we Americans go on vacation, the Brits do holidays. I love this phrase, because the person saying it automatically sounds so jolly and well-rested. Chances are, you already have at least one gorgeous photo from your annual vacation, and I bet you look just as lovely as the scenery, all relaxed and happy. Who cares if the backdrop isn’t snowy? Your loved ones will enjoy seeing what you were up to this year, and you can add a note about where you went to personalize the card even further.

2. Merry Hallowmas, Happy Christoween

If the highlight of your year is crafting that perfect Halloween costume and you have a Pinterest board full of dress-up ideas, let your creativity shine in your holiday cards. Consider a fun mash-up of holidays with photos of your family in costume — an especially great idea if you dressed up together in a family theme. To tie it all together, add original text to your personalized holiday cards to make a pun on your costume. For example, a superhero theme lends itself to saying something like, “Wishing you a Super Christmas and a Marvel-ous New Year.” Go ahead and get creative!

3. Embrace Imperfections

When you’re dealing with taking pictures of babies and toddlers, sometimes you have to accept that the perfect photo just isn’t going to happen. Try turning a less-than-perfect photo shoot into a photo essay that tells the story of the moment. To do this, choose a card with three to four spaces for photos and arrange them to tell a story: I got a great one once with a pair of toddler twins crying, hugging and pulling the cat’s tail. There were no perfect smiles, but the effect was to show their personalities in a far more touching way. A series of photos can also be turned into lovely photo gifts as well. Let your family be themselves, and you can’t go wrong.

4. Mark the Milestones

No babies to show off? Young singles and couples can still make awesome holiday cards by marking their own milestones. If you adopted a pet, landed a promotion, or got engaged, snap a photo that shows off your accomplishment and add some text about it to let recipients know what you’ve been up to. If you moved over the year, you can add a photo of your new house and go with a “New Year, New Address” theme to let everyone know where to send next year’s holiday cards.


A great holiday card is an opportunity to be creative and show off your personality. Have fun with the design process, and don’t be afraid to use a great picture that isn’t all about Santa or a winter wonderland. Any photo can make a great card if you think outside the box!

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