What Makes the Perfect Holiday Card Photo
In my neck of the woods, the chill that begins to permeate the air each year is a tell-tale sign that the holiday season is upon us! From the hustle and bustle of the stores and malls to the planning of our family’s annual “Christmas Eve Eve” party on December 23rd, there’s no better time of the year in my opinion.
A tradition for many families is the annual creation of a holiday card to send to loved ones near and far. In my home, we like to take all the cards we get every year and hang them in the entryway to our living room. It makes for a beautiful holiday decoration and fills our home with cheer. Holiday cards are a bit of an odd tradition, but it’s a great way to keep in touch with friends and relatives. So, where did this tradition come from?
According to the Smithsonian, the holiday card was invented by Englishman Sir Henry Cole in 1843 as a way to save time during the busy holiday season. Apparently back then, the custom in England was to send a “Christmas and New Year’s letter” to family and friends, and it was considered rude not to read and respond to each one individually.
Cole, a civil servant, innovator, and possibly a frustrated recipient of too many cards, was an enthusiastic supporter of the newly founded Public Record Office and its Penny Post system. Rather than write out individual letters in reply to each holiday card, Cole had the brilliant idea to create a card that could quickly and easily be personalized and distributed to the masses with little effort. He recruited his friend, artist J.C. Horsley, to design a card, which he then reprinted a thousand times. Thus, the holiday card was born.
While controversial in its infancy, the holiday card eventually took off and became a widely adopted custom in both Great Britain and the United States. The first holiday card in the U.S. was created in 1875 by Louis Prang, a Prussian immigrant with a print shop near Boston. We’ve essentially streamlined the whole holiday card process from hand-written notes to simple photos and signatures replicated over and over again, and I for one couldn’t be happier about it.
So, what makes for a great holiday card photo? The answers are of course going to differ from person to person. Some folks prefer a very formal, professionally photographed image, while others are content to line up their family in front of a scenic spot and take the photo themselves. Me? I like to have a little fun with the process! I’ve found that sometimes the best holiday card photos are the ones that you take randomly in July!
A tip I’ve used over the years to try to get a bright smile from everyone is by asking them to replace saying “cheese” with saying “fuzzy pickles!” It’s usually good for drawing out a solid chuckle from your unsuspecting subjects.
In my experience, the greatest photos come from moments in which the subjects aren’t even aware they’re being photographed. In the spur of the moment, not having to ask for a pose or a smile can allow you to capture some of the most genuine feelings and emotions a person can show….
…but that’s not for everyone. It’s also hard to go wrong with the formal route! If we’re being honest though, my absolute favorite type of holiday card picture is the irrelevant and silly picture that will stand out in someone’s mind when they hear the words “Christmas card!”
Don’t worry if you don’t have time to get a card out before the holidays are over. Sometimes the best photos come during the holiday itself. You can always send a holiday card closer to the new year. If you do it right, you may even be the first piece of mail some folks see in January!
Use the joy of the season to help you get creative and create the perfect photo! I hope these suggestions bring you inspiration and that you have a safe and happy holidays!
I did this five years ago and STILL get asked when I’m updating it with my kids!