How to Take the Perfect Holiday Pictures

435 photographers give you the inside scoop on how to take your holiday photos to the next level and up your social media game.


Picture Perfect

   Jeremey Kirby

    Let there be light!

   In photography, light is everything. Without it, there is no photograph. Whether you are inside or outside, be sure that your subject is properly lit. As good as many smartphones are, they are pretty lousy in backlit situations (when the main light source is behind your subject) so position your subject so that the light is on their face.

   Get outside!

   Outdoor photos during the holidays create context due to the wintery light and requisite attire. Find a Christmas tree farm or cider mill and wear clothes that correspond. In December, the best time for outdoor photographs is between 3:00 and 4:30 p.m. due to the soft light that the low-lying sun provides.

   Pop of Color!

   Have your subject throw an accent color into their ensemble. If the sky is blue, perhaps a yellow shirt. Red hair? A green jacket. Blue eyes? An orange hat. These subtle additions can really make your photo pop. Don’t oversaturate or heavily edit your pictures with silly apps. The color that today’s cameras and phones produce is beautiful and natural.

   Get real!

   Sometimes we need to capture a group shot where everyone is looking directly at the camera, but the best photos are almost always the candid ones. Try to capture real moments. If you are photographing children, get down to their eye level. Pictures of kids from an adult’s perspective can immediately feel amateurish and disconnected. Capture moments of laughter and the unexpected from their perspective. There’s an old saying that the best camera is the one you have with you. With today’s smartphones, the ability to capture candid moments has never been easier.

   Get the flash out of here!

   There is a time and place for flash photography, however most flash photos feel...well...flashy. Natural light not only looks best, but understanding it will also help you become a better photographer in the long run. There is no better, brighter, or more beautiful light than the sun. Learn the patterns of the sun and the type of light it produces at different times. Sometimes the sun creates soft light (best for portraits) sometimes it creates hard light (best for creating contrast) sometimes it creates cool light (a blueish light) and sometimes it’s a warm light (more orange).

   Tell a story!

   The world is filled with smartphones stuffed with meaningless images that say nothing. A great photograph should make the viewer interested in learning more or letting their imagination continue the story. For instance, if you are going to cut down a Christmas tree, capture images that tell the story of that experience, not simply an image of the tree or a group next to it. Capture the action. Show the sawdust and the effort required to bring it home. If you are making a Christmas dinner, photograph the turkey coming out of the oven or the potatoes being mashed. In time, you will look at your images and they will remind you of things that would have otherwise been lost.

   More pro tips

   Amber Dawkins - “Wardrobe: Pick one or two accent colors that can be carried throughout the family's wardrobe in accessories and layers. For example, burgundy and mustard add great pops of color in leggings, jewelry, headbands, cardigans, and as one of the colors in a plaid shirt. Think of different ways to bring the accent colors in to tie it all together.”

   “Posing: One way to get a casual look with lots of real smiles, is to have everyone look at one person in the photo. "Everyone look at dad! Everyone look at mom! Everyone look at baby sister! Ok, now everyone look at the camera!" Looks are fresh and relaxed by the time everyone looks at the camera, the stiffness is lost. And sometimes, the favorite image ends up being the one where everyone is looking at one of the family members.”


   Amber Deery – “I prefer to photograph my families at sunset or sunrise instead of midday...the light is much more beautiful and you can avoid harsh shadows.”

   “I suggest picking a location with broad vistas and some objects of interest. For example, if you’re in a field maybe find a spot that has distant trees or tall grass. Objects like that can help frame the image nicely, without being a distraction. Same thing if you’re at a beach or a park.”

   “Having fun and not overthinking it is important too!”

Best Places to take that Awesome Holiday Instagram Photos


   If you're looking for an amazing holiday backdrop for pictures, our friends at the Crown Center shared their inside intel.

· Across the street for a full picture view of the Mayor's Christmas Tree and fountains 

· On the grassy area behind the tree to capture the Tree, Crown Center and the Westin 

· Second floor of the complex across from Toy Time, to capture a view of some of the wreath and the Mayor's Christmas Tree out the window (and maybe even the holiday choirs)

· Photos with Santa in the Gingerbread Station

· Head up the stairs from the Ice Terrace to take a bird's-eye view photo of the skaters 

· Examples: 

o @estuardokc's picture of the Ice Terrace

o @seanochester's picture of the Mayor's Christmas Tree

o @mollycastano's picture of Crown Center Christmas lights

o @markhoffmankc's picture of Crown Center's Christmas lights and tree

Party Dress Codes

holiday party sequined dress attire


   Holiday parties are fun, but deciding what to wear can be a brain teaser. What’s the deal with the party dress code one-liners you see on invitations? Cocktail Attire, Festive Attire, Dressy Casual, Sophisticated Casual or my personal favorite, Sassy Classy. (I hope that one made you roll your eyes.) It’s enough to make you want to stay home, put your flannel pajamas on and watch Elf.  But, come on, you can do this!

   435 consulted Jennifer Niehouse, wardrobe stylist of it’s so U and she shared this wardrobe hack. “Don’t be shy about adding a dose of festive glamour to your outfit arsenal. And because these days, most EVERYTHING is “denim friendly” simply dress up your top and add some fancy footwear!” 

   Top 5 Holiday Party Outfit Trends

   1. Anything Velvet

   2. Silvery Metallics 

   3. Sequins & Sparkle

   4. Red is on Trend

   5. Brocade

   Niehouse adds that, it's always better to be overdressed than underdressed. So, I guess you can’t go wrong with upping the glam factor.