Not everyone has the time, money, or terrifying ambition to stage an elaborate Christmas tableau for their holiday photos. You know, with one kid dressed as an angel harnessed to the ceiling, the dog wearing mysteriously unshredded reindeer antlers and a red nose, and an actual antique sleigh? The rest of us need Christmas card photo ideas that are fun and original, but a little more … attainable.
Enter PicMonkey’s guide to staging your own unique-but-unstressful holiday photos. We’ve focused especially on getting shots that are effective, but don’t take a lot of time or money to produce. Read on to get inspired.
1. Use simple props
Some of the most effective Christmas photos are the simplest. The photos above, for instance, are a fun play on the age-old naughty vs. nice conundrum, and all you need to get the look is a chalkboard and subjects willing to ham it up.
Dog owners will likely recognize this scene. It’s funny, relatable, and only requires a sign and some shredded wrapping paper.
Pro tip: We’ve had good luck getting dogs to be better photo sitters by having a friend hold a treat up behind the camera.
More ideas for simple, effective props to help stage your Christmas photo:
- Go nuts with signs. Made from chalkboards, construction paper, even dry-erase boards, signs give your seasonal message a handmade feel.
- Snow day it up. If you live someplace with ample snowfall, first of all we’re jealous. Second, why not incorporate that powdery goodness into your holiday photos? Try including snowmen or snow angels in your shot.
- Decorate yourself. Gift bows and lengths of tinsel make fun photo accessories—use them to decorate people or pets for a silly image.
- … And be yourself. What do you like to do around the holidays? Bake, craft, watch hours of Christmas movies? Whether heartwarming or hilarious, great holiday photos have a personal slant.
2. Pick a theme
And no, we’re not talking about matching ugly sweaters. (Although if you’ve got some lying around, why not?) We’re talking about a single concept or idea that brings your image together. Picking a theme for your Christmas photo provides the same coordination as a row of identical mohair-blend reindeer sweaters, but it’s a lot less itchy.
Movie posters from classics like A Christmas Story provide a great framework for holiday photos. However, a good Christmas photo theme doesn’t necessarily have to be about Christmas. Once again, personality is key, so choose a theme that speaks to you: cowboys, zombie attacks—if you can add “Wishing you a happy holiday” to it, you can do it.
Here are a few more theme ideas:
- Secret agent fam. Dress in black and pose like secret agents, captioning your photo “Operation: Happy Holidays.” (Bonus points for James Bond-style posing and finger guns.)
- “Where’s Santa?” Make a funny Where’s Waldo reference by taking a collage of photos and hiding a toy Santa—or game friend or family member dressed as Santa—in each shot.
- Choose your own Christmas story. Christmas movies not your thing? Try a photo based around Die Hard, Star Wars, or another household favorite.
3. Set your stage close to home …
Exotic photo shoots can induce envy, whether they’re impeccably frosted winter wonderlands or manicured studios full of perfectly scattered decorations and a chandelier made from mason jars or something. But ultimately, your loved ones just want to know how you’re doing. You can craft unique and charming Christmas photos that are based on your life and a sense of place.
The photo above, for instance, looks great with its lit wreath and giant ornaments, but its charm comes from the adorable kiddo in jeans and flannel.
4. … Or far away
Maybe you can’t be home for Christmas because of school, work, or deployment. This couple created a perfectly coordinated (and tear-jerking) photo despite thousands of miles of distance.
5. Don’t sweat warm weather
Here’s another tricky place-based question: What to do when you live in a climate that’s too warm for snow?
We say work it! If you’re in Florida, why not take a holiday photo of yourself sunbathing? Make a snowman on the beach if you’re from SoCal. We’ve even seen photos of “Cocoa Stands”—wintry versions of lemonade stands for flurry-free folks.
The weather outside needn’t be frightful for your holiday snapshots to look great. Plus, people talk a big game about white Christmases, but you know they’re jealous that you never have to de-ice anything.
Pro tip: Use our Snowfall effect to winterize a beach photo in one click. It’s a tongue-in-cheek holiday look.
6. Add character to your text
Inject extra personality into a photo you’ve already taken by adding a caption. The photo above is a great example of playing on popular holiday lyrics, but there are dozens of ways to create unique captions.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Make a wish. Caption your photo, “We wish you a Merry Christmas and …” Then let everyone in your photo submit something that they wish.
- Get into character. Caption each subject in your photo with a holiday personality: Little Angel, Champion Napper, Snow-Shoveler-in-Chief, Cookie Monster, etcetera.
- Think inside the box (or bubble). If there are pets or small children in your photo, give them a sassy thought bubble.
7. Try a pop of color
Make your photo’s holiday colors pop with selective coloring. PicMonkey has a few tools that make this an easy choice—namely, our Black and White and Daguerreotype effects, which provide a glowing monochrome look. Not only can they monochrom-a-tize your photos, they’ll let you de-monochrom-a-tize them by allowing you to re-paint the original colors onto whatever part of the image you want.
For instance, to make a color pop photo like the one above, you’d turn your image black and white, click the paintbrush, and then brush the original color back onto the ornaments. Presto! A minty-fresh take on your photo.
Pro tip: Let’s say you already have the perfect photo for your Christmas card, but dang! The colors aren’t seasonal. PicMonkey’s Lip Tint in the Touch Up tab can recolor selections of your photo to whatever shade you want. Play with the Intensity slider to find your perfect shade.