how to take holiday photos without a photographer!


how to take family photos without a photographer





The holidays are upon us which can only mean one thing. Turkey! Vacation days! Presents! The Grinch! Pumpkin Pie! Just kidding. Clearly the holidays means ALL THE THINGS. I pretty much live the first 305 days of the year just so I can drown myself in gravy, wear jingle bell sweaters and spend three straight weeks watching Hallmark Christmas movies during the last 60 days of the year so…WE MADE IT. Who’s with me?!

My family has so many fun holiday traditions and trips coming up, and I know we all have holiday cards to be thinking about (gotta keep up with those Joneses), so I wanted to share a really simple way to document your family memories without a professional photographer. Whether you shoot for fun on a DSLR or just have an iphone, this is a really simple step-by-step guide to get in the pic with your family without hiring the pros. And we all know what that means. More money to spend on glutton and pie. You are welcome.



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Choose a backdrop for your image. If you’re traveling, maybe you want a historic monument in the background–think Eiffel Tower–or if you’re out and about around town, maybe a simple brick wall or in front of the town Christmas tree. (Remember Stars Hollow at Christmas time?! Dibs the gazebo!)

If there’s a large object in the background (like the Eiffel Tower) I like to divide the frame in 3 and position the building right on an intersection of one of the thirds, or between one of the thirds. If you’re not sure whether to zoom out or zoom in, err on the side of too zoomed out because you can always crop it later.

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The light is always best during the “golden hours” which is when the sun is just rising in the morning or just about to set at night. Which works out great, because you can drive your friends and family nuts snapping pics to your heart’s content… until about 10am, and then you can put that camera away and make memories. I love “batch creating” my images during the golden hours because it takes the pressure off capturing every little thing all day. When it’s time to shoot, you shoot. When it’s time to play, you play.

If you’re wondering if Kevin Bacon is suddenly quoting Ecclesiastes in my head, yes. Yes he is. “There is a time for every purpose under heaven. A time to laugh… and a time to weep. A time to mourn… and there is a time to dance.” Also a time to take really, really great pictures.


Embrace your inner tourist and you get. that. shot. I recently purchased this really lightweight professional tripod off amazon (affiliate link) and I love it so so much. If you take pictures professionally or for your blog, I highly recommend it. It fit (mostly) inside a backpack and we trampsed around Europe with it with no problems. (s/o to husband who carried it around everywhere).

If you’re taking iphone pics, there’s a lot of really cheap iphone tripods that sneak right into your purse and are perfect for taking with you. I’ve used this one before with the bendy legs (v technical term) and it’s nice because it wraps around things like telephone poles or chairs or whatever you can find, really. It also comes with a remote (yay!).


I shoot on a Canon 6D which, wait for it, has wifi! Crazy. Technology these days amiright? If you have a wifi enabled camera it’s as simple as downloading an app (called Canon Connect if you’re a Canon user) and then you just use “remote shooting”. Here’s what it looks like.

Basically your phone becomes a remote plus you get to see exactly what the camera sees. It takes a little bit of practice to get used to but I am convinced the difference between a professional Instagrammer and everyone else is mastery of the self-timer

If you’re using an iphone, you can use the timer built right into the iphone camera. Though, admittedly, you gottsda be speedy to press that button and run back into the picture. Another option is to use an app like iSelfie to turn someone else’s phone into a remote while your phone chills on the tripod and does the work.

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You know what they say, more is more is more. Take several pictures in succession so you have plenty of options to choose from. Pro tip I learned from my travel blogging sister, rather than stand up straight and tall with a big ole cheeser on your face kindergarten picture day style, sway a little. Take a few steps back and forth, casually move your arms side to side, kiss your lover, whatever movements come naturally to you, and just click click click the whole time. You’ll capture a really precious moment in time and bonus points! It won’t look awkward AF.

Take a second to check the images to make sure you have at least a couple of options to choose from later, and reset the frame and take a few more if you need to. Nothing worse then coming home to realize your eyes were closed and your hair was in your face in every single pic.


One word: scrapbooks. Just kidding it’s not 1999. Six words: photo books! gallery walls! holiday cards! Applying a consistent edit to all of your photos will make them look really nice side-by-side and makes for a perfect cohesive gallery wall for the living room, photo book for a gift for grandma, or to make swoon-worthy holiday cards. Or let’s be realistic, New Year’s cards.

One thing I’ve started doing that is so simple is using presets! Lots of photographers offer preset packs–it’s basically like an Instagram filter–a consistent style of editing you can apply to all your photographs at once and boom. It’s like a professional photographer followed you around for the day instead of what actually happened which was you twisting your iphone tripod to a telephone pole. No one will be the wiser. You can purchase these both for iphone photos and for DSLR photos, just be sure to read the description and make sure you’re getting the one you need. More about presets and which ones I use here.

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I’m in the process of printing photos from our Europe trip using Artifact Uprising and I’m so excited to see them in print! I’ve loved how easy the website has been to use (you can upload straight from your phone!) and they’re really high quality prints and have always turned out amazing when I’ve ordered from them.

Pro tip: Take a few minutes each day to jot down a memory from that day–something funny your kids said, a favorite meal you shared, something you saw and loved, etc–to include in a photo book. For our Europe trip, I’m including a copy of our itinerary, favorite spots, and a few memories we shared and I’m so excited to see it in print. I’ve never been great about journaling but trips have always been my favorite memories with my family and this is a great way to look back on them (in style!)



Can’t wait to see all your pretty pics! I expect holiday cards from all of you. My address is 298…jkjk but actually not. DM me. I want that card on my fridge 😉 Okay I’m dying to know: what are your favorite holiday traditions: ready, go! Hop over to Insta and tell me here.