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How to Take Professional Christmas Pictures Without Hiring a Professional

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Guest post from Kyle of Shultz Photo School

It’s the end of November already and the holidays are here! The excitement is building, and so is your to-do list. One of the things on the list: Christmas Cards!

Don’t just use any ole snapshot this year. Here are a few tips to get a pro-quality pic for cards or gifts, but without the pro quality cost.

Step 1: Light it well.

Set up shop just inside your front door OR just inside an open garage door. Place your subject inside the door a mere 1-2 feet. You’ll be left with soft, even front light. It’s easy to work with and very forgiving.

One warning: do NOT take the pic in direct sunlight. Shoot at a time of day to where your kiddo is in the shade of the doorway. This will keep the light soft and even.

Step 2: Cover up any distractions with a backdrop.

To save loads of money, find a bed sheet, or better yet, your favorite blanket or quilt. Textures and colors can work great — don’t be afraid of them! This year, I used a quilt I bought for my wife last Christmas.

Drape the quilt or sheet over a shower curtain rod, a paint roller extension pole, or even a long broom handle. Use clamps or some duct tape to keep it from sliding off.

Get it all situated and hoist it up in the air. It should be light enough to make a great volunteer project for the hubby (just have him hold it up). Or simply prop it up between two high backed bar stools, etc.  I cheated by using my backdrop stand, but I’ve boot-legged it many times.

Place the backdrop just a few feet behind where the subject. This way it’ll still get some light on it. The further back you place it, the less bright it will be. Here’s a sneak peek of my setup inside my front door:

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Step 3: Add a bench, a chair, or just stand… and snap away.

The garage is a great place for the whole family as it’s wider. I just found a bench from inside and brought it out for the kids to sit on:

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Simple enough. Here are a few results:

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Kyle Shultz teaches parents about photography at Shultz Photo School. He says all 3 of his kids look like his beautiful wife. If you’re interested in more helpful photography ideas, be sure to register for the FREE $17 DIY Studio mini-course over at Shultz Photo School.

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10 Comments

  • Brenna says:

    Super cute idea & kids! Do you think this would work with an inexpensive camera? Like a Nikon coolpix?

  • Candi says:

    What a fantastic idea! Great tips. My favorite pictures are close shots of adorable faces. I am taking my own pictures this year too.

  • Jamie says:

    Looks great! Thanks for the inspiration.

  • lety says:

    Great tips!! We r doing family christmas cards for the first time this year 🙂

  • Thanks so much for this post! I’ve paid hundreds of dollars in the past for professional photos. It’s not in the budget this year so I’m excited to see what I can do on my own.

  • Alicia says:

    Thank you! I love the idea of doing it in the garage with a quilt or blanket hanging! I have taken our pictures for the last 3 years after a very disappointing $200 shoot! I have a Nikon D40 from about 8 years ago and it has served us well! We took our photos this afternoon in Branson, MO and we had some gorgeous outdoor backdrops but can’t wait to try this this week! Thank you so much!

  • Meri says:

    I saw this posted to Facebook today and it was perfect timing. We decided to take our own pictures to save money and neither of us had any idea what we were doing. But we followed as many of these tips as we could and had a successful photo shoot with our 20 month old.

  • Ashley P says:

    We took our own photos last year, too. My church usually sets up a fake fireplace and lots of lights. My sister has a pretty decent camera, and we had her take pictures of us in the church lobby next to the fireplace. Came out great. We used it for our Christmas cards last year. Not doing it this year. Can’t even afford pre-made cards this year. 🙁

  • Jenetta says:

    Love these ideas. I used to be a professional photographer (for 15 years). A white sheet can work, too.. if you want to keep things really simple.

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