Capturing Joy, Creative Family Portrait Ideas for the Holiday Season

Welcome to the most wonderful time of the year!

The best part of the holiday season for a family is being together. As a family portrait photographer, you have the incredible opportunity to freeze moments of joy, love, and togetherness during the holiday season.

Starting with Thanksgiving through to Hanukkah (Chanukah) and extending all the way to Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s Day, you can count on capturing some great family memories.

In this article, we’ll explore creative and heartwarming family photo ideas to make your portraits stand out and become cherished memories for years to come.

Festive Wardrobe and Props

Ensure Everyone Is Relaxed and Comfortable

Some of the best family portraits are captured when everyone is relaxed and not conscious of the camera. So, some unique family photo ideas include encouraging families to embrace the holiday spirit by donning festive attire such as cozy sweaters, Santa hats, or even matching pajamas.

The most appropriate colors for sweaters are green, blue, gold, or red. Earthy tones such as brown, oatmeal, or forest green are alright too.

The best option for a family portrait is cable-knitting patterns or chunky-knit designs. Cozy sweaters can also be layered over shirts or dresses to add warmth and comfort.

Donning Santa hats is another go-to way to add festivity. You can capture a fabulous family portrait by having everyone put on Santa hats and pose around their personalized Christmas tree.

Happy family is celebrating New Year together and drinking at home.

Likewise, having the whole family dress up in matching pajama sets would be ideal for capturing a unified and heartwarming look. Casual wear, such as pajamas, is great for an adorable group photo, as it creates a sense of togetherness.

Add a Touch of Magic to the Scene by Integrating Seasonal Props

Here are some more Christmas family photo ideas. Integrate seasonal props like gift-wrapped packages, twinkling lights, or a beautifully decorated Christmas tree to add a touch of magic to the scene.

The fun part of the holiday season is giving and receiving gifts. And the most positive aspect of this is the gift-wrapped Christmas packages can be used as props that work well in many different ways. For instance, you can stack the packages vertically, one above the other, and have young kids stand next to this tower.

Twinkling lights can add a festive touch to family portraits. Creatively photograph in front of and around the twinkling lights to capture the enchanting holiday atmosphere.

Use a wide-aperture lens. You can create a marvelous bokeh by positioning the lights in the foreground or even in the background of your frame. Find the best angles that ensure the lights are out of focus yet enable you to capture the subject.

A delightfully decorated Christmas tree is an awesome backdrop for family portraits. And a string of lights on a Christmas tree is an effective photo prop that can brighten up images.

Outdoor Winter Wonderland

Capture Family Portraits in Snowy Setting

Take advantage of the winter landscape by capturing families in a snowy setting. Outdoor family photo ideas include emphasizing the beauty of nature with snowball fights, sleigh rides, or a playful snowman-building session.

Snow can create some incredibly memorable photographs. Having snow in the foreground with the subject focused in the background will create a delightful blurred effect framing the subject.

A snowball fight gives you ample opportunities to capture the palpable emotions in your photographs. Freeze those flurries in place by setting the shutter speed at 1/125 or faster and capturing the laughter and joy.

Scenic sleigh rides can simply take one’s breath away. So, capturing photographs of the whole family whizzing through piles of fresh white powder in a horse-drawn sleigh will be breathtakingly memorable.

Nothing is more playful and fun than a snowman-building session. Capture authentic emotions as they unfold in real-time. Colorful clothes will also stand out against the beautiful snow. So, opting for bold colors would be helpful.

Winter Afternoons Can Be the Perfect Time to Capture Sharp Images

Use the soft natural light of winter afternoons for a warm and enchanting atmosphere. Remember, winter sunsets are early and gorgeous too.

Aim to capture genuine smiles and spontaneous laughter. A blanket of fresh snow can make the world seem heavenly and magical. The splendid landscape is the perfect place for a family photo session.

Skiers family lying on snow and enjoy on winter holiday

Ask everyone to dress in warm layers and opt for colors that stand out against the snow. The advantage of wearing the same colors and patterns is that they emphasize unity and the strength of family ties.

Pops of deep blues, greens, or reds will show up well against the background. But it’s best to avoid bright and neon colors, as they can be visually striking and don’t photograph well.

Candid Moments at Home

Candid photos are the opposite of stiff, posed photos. You could come up with several indoor family photo ideas. Suggest an intimate and cozy photo shoot at home, capturing the genuine joy of families baking cookies, decorating the tree, or sharing laughs by the fireplace.

Holiday Baking Fun

Ask everyone to wear festive hats and matching aprons. Let them mix up some dough in the kitchen. Capture cute shots of kids measuring ingredients. Images of flour on the face can be candid, as well. 

Allow everyone to take turns making the festive cookies. Capture photos of each one adding the finishing touches and snacking on them together.

Don’t worry too much about grabbing the perfect picture. Instead, focus on getting candid shots that showcase the unique dynamics and personalities within the family.

Decorating the Christmas Tree Together

The magic of Christmas lies in shared love among family members. Every family is unique, and decorating the Christmas tree is a uniquely family affair.

This activity can be a fun, interactive way to spend time together. And this magical bonding moment is also the perfect occasion to involve children in the celebrations, as the memories made now will stay with them forever.

You will have an opportunity to capture countless candid moments during this momentous occasion. But you need to be an expert at blending into the background so that you can take pictures discreetly and encourage everyone to get into the holiday spirit.

Sharing Laughs by the Fireplace

In many homes, the fireplace is the most preferred spot for relaxation. Since the holiday season is all about celebrations, family time, delightful feasts, and laughter, everyone will end up here sooner rather than later.

The perfect image is not one of everyone sitting still. That would be unnatural, anyway. Instead, it’s best to show off everyone’s natural energy by getting close and capturing the connection between individuals.

You can accomplish this by changing your perspective. Simply go up higher or capture photographs from a lower angle. This way, you’ll end up capturing some candid moments that make for more interesting visuals.

Twinkle Lights and Bokeh Magic

Twinkle lights also labeled string or fairy lights, don’t just light up a space; they add character to it. They are fragile bulbs strung on a threadlike wire. These bulbs impart a special, warm glow and are used to decorate gardens, rooms, and events.

Twinkle lights enable family portrait photographers to craft captivating visuals in a unique way. You can create a dreamy ambiance with twinkling fairy lights. The different types of twinkle lights are LED string, copper wire, and globe or ball.

Twinkle light bokeh is a simple yet effective way to add a holiday touch to family portraits. With minimal fuss, you can capture families surrounded by a magical halo of lights, producing a beautiful bokeh effect in the background.

The bokeh effect in photos is essentially an image with soft, dreamy dots of light in the background. Due to the beautiful, blurry background, your main subject pops. It’s easy to think of several different family photo ideas with twinkle lights in the background.

With the right camera settings, you can easily achieve the bokeh effect. All you need to do is to blur the out-of-focus objects (in this case, it is the twinkle lights). Timing is everything in achieving the perfect bokeh magic.

Twinkle lights photography can feel like entering a magical world, especially during the holiday season. The gentle glow transforms the simplest of moments into unforgettable ones.

From dreamy backgrounds to distinctive silhouettes, each photograph shares its own tale of wonder. The possibilities are endless if you’re willing to unleash your imagination.

A simple rearrangement of twinkle lights and subtle changes in brightness enables you to create fascinating stories with your family portraits.

You can experiment with different lighting setups to achieve a warm and inviting atmosphere. There’s no right way to get the bokeh effect. It depends heavily on the sensitivity of your camera’s sensor, the lens you are using, and the time of day.

Generational Portraits

In generational portraits, capturing genuine interactions and emotions is of utmost importance. The best way you can unite generations in family portraits is by highlighting the interactions between different individuals—grandparents, parents, children, and grandchildren

Unite Generations and Learn to Work with Imperfections

Highlight the bond between generations by organizing shots that bring together grandparents, parents, and children. Capture the wisdom and joy passed down through the ages.

Don’t aim for perfection, as real life is full of imperfect moments. Since imperfections are part of the creative process, you must embrace them.

Overly polished shots are not going to reflect authenticity. So, strive to capture authentic moments because these are the ones that will resonate on a deeper level.

One of the best large family photo ideas is to highlight the interactions between individuals belonging to different generations, as these connections emphasize the passing down of family traditions and bonds.

Aim to capture the unseen, looking for moments that you might easily overlook. Stay alert to the hidden gems of holiday family gatherings—mischievous looks on children’s faces, stolen glances, or quiet conversations. They are doubtless the most authentic expressions of love and togetherness.

Consider Black and White Photographs for a Timeless and Classic Feel

The world is colorful, distracting, and overwhelming.

Black and white photographs limit distractions. For instance, you don’t have any distractions like bright green grass or a bold-colored dress. The frame focuses on individuals and their faces.

Compared to color photography, black and white photography emphasizes the raw essence of human emotions, capturing spontaneous moments of happiness, laughter, and fun much better.

Colors, trends, and styles may change over time. And as time changes, the trends of a culture change too. But black and white photography has remained relevant and impactful all these decades.

The reason black and white photography continues to remain powerful is because it can lock memories in a time capsule. And other than the change in image quality, black and white photography has been static for more than a century.

Holiday Traditions in Focus

Showcase the unique holiday traditions of each family, whether it’s opening presents, lighting candles, or preparing a special meal together. Capture the genuine emotions and connections that arise during these cherished moments.

People take photos of children opening presents for a reason. It’s so much fun to revisit these yearly holiday season photos and see how much the children have grown and changed.

But children can be cranky, and getting them to pose for photos isn’t easy. If you try too hard, you might end up with unnatural poses or forced smiles. Hence, making certain photos a holiday tradition inspires combined effort and cooperation. Things can magically change from “Mom likes these photos” to “We like these photos.”

You can capture the most memorable photos when the photo session is all about togetherness and having fun. Remember, even if the photos aren’t perfect, the family memories will be. So, put aside your high expectations and stop striving for perfection. Good enough should be alright.

When children start unwrapping their gifts, it’s best if they don’t notice you with a camera in hand. They’re more likely to ignore your presence if you are adept at merging into the background. That’s precisely what you want, as it will enable you to capture photographs of the folks being their natural selves. 

Once you start shooting, stay alert for anything that can cause a distracting mess. Move away any item in the background or foreground that could cause a potential disturbance. It’s best to do it now instead of editing it later, as it will save you valuable time.

For a small family unit, portrait orientation will typically work well. But it’s better to use landscape orientation for a large or extended family.


This holiday season, go beyond the ordinary and create family portraits that tell a story. Whether it’s through festive wardrobes, outdoor adventures, or capturing timeless traditions, your lens has the power to immortalize the magic of the season.

Embrace creativity, encourage spontaneity, and watch as your clients relive the warmth and joy of their holiday celebrations every time they gaze upon their portraits. Happy capturing!

Book a session with The Perfect Spot for You photography services for a professional family portraits photographer. Our family portrait sessions are personalized to each unique family, making certain you feel relaxed and at ease right through the whole experience. It doesn’t matter whether you have one child or five children—we aim to make the experience cheerful and unforgettable for everyone involved!

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