You found the portrait photographer (or the iPhone angle and filter) and consulted with them on outfits and location. You’re ready for your annual holiday photos with your family, partner, or pet. You can even use the takes of the kids screaming and the dog running away into the sunset if you want to keep it real. But which is the photo (or photos) that will make it into the coveted spot(s) on this year’s Christmas card?
You want your holiday card photos to stand out, and luckily, there are plenty of options when it comes to the big picture day (and when you’re scrolling through the proofs). To make things easy, we’ve paired each photo idea with the perfect card design and rounded up important tips from expert portrait photographers Savannah Young and Justine Knight to help you get the perfect shot.
Classic family photo ideas
Taking the annual holiday card photo may be a hassle—but it’s worth it. Eunice and Sabrina Moyle, co-founders of Hello!Lucky, agree. “It motivates us to take a good family photo, which we otherwise might forget,” they say. “Though it can be nerve-wracking to get everyone to cooperate!”
Whether it’s wrangling kids, bribing pets, or just getting a picture where you and your partner aren’t blinking, you do what you have to for that winning shot. Find inspiration with these ideas for holiday card photos for the whole family, and pair them with our suggestions for Christmas card photo templates and designs for the winning combo.
1. Formal pose
“Shiny and New (Christmas)” by Paperless Post featuring the Speaker Block with family bios.
Start your family photo shoot with a formal pose—preferably in front of a sunlit scene or festive décor. Dress everyone up in their holiday best, and try to get a few nice shots in before someone throws up bunny ears.
Add a little personality to your formal photo with a Block detailing all the family updates from the past year, from your daughter’s leading role in the school play to all the mischief your dog got into.
2. Kid play session
Kids don’t need direction to be cute. Just dress them up and let them play—you may get your cutest Christmas card photos in those moments between formal poses.
If you have a baby or toddler, the classic baby-in-a-stocking or baby-in-a-gift box pose isn’t one to miss, especially when paired with the “Bright Spirit Marquee” Card by Paperless Post.
3. Newborn photo gallery
Photo Gallery Block in action, featuring images via iStock.
Having a baby before the holidays can be doubly exhausting, but it also presents the perfect opportunity for an unforgettable photo shoot. Add a few holiday poses to your newborn shoot, such as your infant in a Santa hat or your baby nestled in a wreath of Christmas lights.
Add a Photo Gallery Block to your card to showcase all of the shots of your newborn for the grandparents to ooo and ahh over.
4. Snow day
Whether your family always enjoys a white Christmas or you have to take a special trip to the mountains to get it, snowy photos go hand-in-mitten with Christmas photo cards.
5. Matching pajamas
If there’s a cuter family Christmas card photo idea than the matching pajamas pic, we haven’t seen it. Dress up in your finest red-and-green sleep attire and cuddle by the tree or fireplace—or even in the big family bed—for a cozy photo.
Pair it with the “Little Elves” Card by Paperless Post for maximum cuteness.
6. Candid family shot
Nine times out of ten, your favorite shot from your photo session will be the one where no one knew the photographer was watching. A candid family shot showcases your family’s authenticity and love in a way that no pose can, especially when your kids are little.
Once you’ve captured that genuine shot, add your photo to the “Lights Twisted on Dasher’s Paw” Card by Mr. Boddington’s Studio.
7. Snuggly family
Blankets, cocoa, Christmas lights—if that’s your family’s vibe, that should be on your Christmas card. Gather ’round on the couch and cuddle up together for a photo shoot that makes everyone feel warm and fuzzy.
Pair your cute shoot with the cozy “Family Stockings Photo” by Rifle Paper Co.
8. Decorating the tree
If setting up the Christmas stuff is your favorite holiday moment, capture it in your Christmas card! Invite a photographer to take candid shots as you and your family hang special ornaments on the tree.
Then channel a retro Christmas feeling with the “Feliz Merry Joyeux” Card by kate spade new york.
9. Kissy face
Show your baby or kid some physical affection with a kiss on the top of the head or cheek. You can create an intimate scene with mother and child or each parent can lay a kiss on the kid’s cheeks—the squishier the cheek, the better.
Feature this adorable moment in the “Cranberry Bower” Card by Felix Doolittle.
10. Heads together
If two heads are better than one, surely a family of heads is the best. Lie down on the ground with your heads touching, and let the photographer capture those cute upside-down expressions and smiles from above.
Pair your photo with the lovely “Kultakero” Card by Marimekko to hit the moment home.
Funny Christmas card photo ideas
If you and your family are a bunch of goofballs, opt for a Christmas card idea that suits you—even if it’s not a formal family pose. Channel your silly selves with these funny Christmas card photo ideas and matching cards that’ll have your recipients chuckling.
11. Christmas chaos
The best-laid plans often go awry, especially during the holiday season. Don’t despair over messy cookie-baking sessions or toddler meltdowns during a photo shoot—turn them into your star Christmas card photo!
Your loved ones will appreciate the dose of reality mixed in with all those other perfect Christmas cards in their mailbox. Add it to the “Very Merry” Card for just the right touch of festive pandemonium.
12. Glamour shots
Bring back the ’80s with a classic glamour shot for your family. Find the most decade-appropriate wear possible—yes, we mean shoulder pads—and stage a fuzzy-filtered shot at a photographer’s studio. The look isn’t complete without bland smiles and big hair.
Go for a classic Christmas look with the “Holly Folly Photo” Card by Mr. Boddington’s Studio.
13. Christmas movie scene
Re-enact your family’s favorite Christmas movie scene in as much detail as possible for a hilarious holiday card photo. From “Home Alone” to “Elf” to “Die Hard”—it counts if you want it to—the possibilities are endless.
Frame your photo in the “Sprinkled Confetti” Card by Paperless Post for a Hollywood touch. Add a Video Block with the scene so everyone can get in on the joke.
14. Mommy kissing Santa Claus
All you need is a Santa outfit, a warmly lit Christmas tree, and a few surprised-looking kids to make this one work. Capture the little ones spotting Mommy kissing Santa Claus (Hint: It’s Daddy) for an adorable pic.
Keep the focus on the funny photo with the “Jaunty Holiday” Card by Paperless Post.
15. Naughty and nice
This one doesn’t count for Santa’s list. Set up a scene of your kids doing something “naughty”—such as tying up Mom and Dad in Christmas lights, opening their presents early, or fighting over sitting on Santa’s lap—for a surprisingly nice photo.
The “Christmas Spirit Frame Photo” Card by Rifle Paper Co. makes a nice companion to the holiday shenanigans.
Couple Christmas card photo ideas
Unless you were recently engaged or married (in which case, congratulations!), you and your partner may not have many professional pictures together.
Change that this year with a festive holiday card design paired with these couple Christmas card photo ideas below, perfect for whatever life stage you’re in. Or, we’re *positive* you have several cute selfies in your Favorites folder that could make a cute collage on a photo card.
16. Forest walk
Recapture that first-date energy with a stroll through the woods, and let your photographer follow you into the forest for posed and candid shots. If the beach is more your scene, take a walk on the sand instead.
17. Under the mistletoe
You know who you want to spot under the mistletoe this year. For a sweet, romantic photo with festive flair, get cozy with your loved one in a spot brimming with holiday decor.
No worries if you don’t have mistletoe around—the “Mistletoe Kiss” Card by Paperless Post has it ready for you.
18. Scenic photo
Show off your favorite spot with a scenic Christmas card photo. Whether it’s at the top of a mountain, in a booth at your favorite pub, or strolling along the beach, it’ll make a great backdrop for you and your partner.
Then add your photo to the “Grinning and Glowing” design by Mr. Boddington’s Studio.
19. Favorite activity
Do you and your partner love bowling? What about swimming, playing video games, or traveling? Snap a shot of the two of you enjoying your hobby to give people a glimpse into your life.
If you have different hobbies, take a picture of each of you engaging in your respective favorite things in the same room. (You can knit while they cook, or they can read while you cheer on your favorite team.)
Put it all together with a festive touch in the “Well Wrapped Photo” Card by kate spade new york.
20. Piggyback ride
Love lifts you up where you belong—and so can your partner! Jump onto their back for that cuter-than-cute couple shot everyone wishes they had. Bonus points if you do it somewhere with a holiday background, such as a tree farm or Christmas village.
Use the “Happy Merry Jolly” Card by Paperless Post to capture that truly merry feeling.
21. Bless this home
If you and your partner bought a home this year, use your Christmas card to show it off. Have your photographer take pictures of the two of you by the front door—and remember to include your new mailing address in your Christmas card message so loved ones’ cards arrive at the correct place.
Choose several shots to put in the “Five Windows” Card by Paperless Post, which includes a spot for a short year-end review.
22. Just married (or engaged)
Good news: If you got engaged or married this year, you’ve got plenty of professional pictures to choose from. More good news: You can still take Christmas card photos to send out this year. Consider a sweet couple picture by the tree, showing off the engagement or wedding rings with a “We said yes!” sign.
Add your favorite photo to the “Merry and Married” Card for a sweet yuletide announcement.
23. Laugh together
You’re together for lots of reasons, but your shared sense of humor is up at the top. Tell some inside jokes or give your partner some light teasing to get a great laugh on camera. Better yet, hire a photographer who has lots of laughing couples and families in their portfolio.
Frame your funny scene in the “Nixon Holiday” Card by Jonathan Adler.
24. Cuddle by the fireplace
The best part about being in a relationship during the holidays is having someone to snuggle with when the weather outside is frightful. Stage a photo shoot by your fireplace—or borrow someone else’s—adorned with stockings, Christmas décor, and a plate of cookies.
Choose the “Pine Mantel” Card by Linda and Harriett to add more festiveness to your fireplace photo.
25. Candy cane heart
For this classically adorable shot, all you need is two candy canes and a good photographer. Get close to your partner and hold up the candy canes to form a heart just below your smiling faces.
What better way to feature your candy cane heart than with the “Candy Stripe” design by Linda and Harriet?
Pet Christmas card photo ideas
Friends and family want to see you and your family, but let’s not forget the real star: the pets. Feature your furry family members with these holiday card photo ideas sweet enough for Santa Paws himself.
26. Under the tree
Most pets gravitate to that glowing, interesting-smelling thing in your living room, so capturing a photo of them under the tree shouldn’t be hard. If you can get a photo of them sniffing a branch or batting at an ornament, all the better.
Use the “Bright Stripes Photo” Card by kate spade new york to add to those sweet Christmas morning vibes.
27. Christmas outfit
Dogs wearing antlers, cats in Santa hats, ferrets in elf costumes—we’re there for all of it. Take your photos quickly, before the costume ends up on the floor, and you’ll have a shot worthy of framing.
Once you capture the perfect costume pic, add it to the “Dog Bulb” Card by Cheree Berry Paper & Design.
28. Part of the family
Your pet’s not just a pet—they’re a member of the family. Incorporate your favorite animals into your family shots, whether they’re at home, outdoors, or in a studio shoot. Take some photos on a walk with the dog, a portrait with the cat, or a snuggle session with the ferret.
Pair your classic shot with the “Mistletoe Accent Border” by Rifle Paper Co.
29. Naughty (but cute)
They may be adorable, but pets aren’t exempt from Santa’s naughty list, especially around the holiday season. The next time your dog tears up all the wrapping paper or your cat gets tangled in Christmas lights, take a shot and show the world.
Add these cute photos to the “La La La” Card by Linda and Harriett.
30. Fur baby
If you have a fur baby instead of a human baby, pose with them the way all parents do—cradled in your arms. The bigger (and squirmier) the pet, the better the photo, so don’t be afraid to hoist those hefty dogs and cats into a cuddly position.
Use the multi-colored “Wrapped in Plaid” Card by Paperless Post for these frame-worthy pics.
Business holiday card photo ideas
This year, don’t paste everyone’s business headshot onto a Christmas card template, or—worse—make everyone in the office pose for a stiff group portrait. Use these professional holiday card photo ideas and matching designs to show clients, customers, and colleagues your festive side. Then pair them with our business holiday card message ideas.
31. Santa Claus boss
Dress the boss up like Santa Claus for a new spin on the “He knows when you’ve been bad or good” business. It’s a cute way to show stakeholders that your company knows how to have fun. If colleagues are up for it, ask a few to be Santa’s elves.
A simple gold border will adorn this cute photo in the “Holiday Trim” Photo Card by Paperless Post.
32. Department collage
Feature each department in your company with a multi-photo card. Come up with a unifying theme for each photo to follow, or take professional shots of each team before compiling them into a collage.
Choose the “Panneaux” Card by Paperless Post as a pretty way to feature these professional shots.
33. Office pets
If you really want to get some attention from your clients and customers this year, opt for an all-pet photo instead of a team picture. Have colleagues bring their furry friends into the office for a photo of your company’s pets. Give them branded gear to wear to show they’re really part of the team.
Add the photo to the lovely “Midnight Wreath” Card by Rifle Paper Co. for an elegant touch.
34. Ugly sweater party
This one involves a little advance planning, but it’s well worth it for a festive photo. Have employees bring in their ugliest sweaters for a photoshoot in the fall—or supply the sweaters from the company—and then hold onto them until your ugly sweater party occurs closer to Christmas.
Use “This Line is Tangled” from Mr. Boddington’s Studio to bring out the bright, bold colors of your ugly sweaters.
35. Santa stops by
What would it look like if Santa were a customer at your business? Whether you’re a doctor’s office, bank, or repair shop, set up a photo shoot of Santa doing business with you—such as getting his temperature taken, applying for a loan, or getting his sleigh repaired.
Pair the cheeky shot with a classic photo card template, such as the “Snowy Sprigs Photo” Card by Paperless Post.
Tips for taking Christmas card photos
When it comes to taking Christmas card photos, it’s best to listen to the experts. Portrait photographers Justine Knight and Savannah Young are giving their professional tips for taking the perfect shot—and making it as enjoyable and easy as possible.
Schedule a fall photoshoot
To have your photo cards ready for the Christmas season, you need to take them weeks earlier—and schedule them even earlier than that.
“The earlier in the fall, the better!” says Ms. Knight. “Schedules can get a little crazy, leaving not enough time for a session. Weather is more reliable earlier in fall for outdoor sessions, too.”
Later in the fall works, too. “Thanksgiving week is super popular for photos because the whole family’s together,” says Ms. Young.
Choose the best time and location for your family
Sometimes the best time of day for a photo shoot is the hour before sunset—known as “golden hour”—but sometimes it’s right after your baby’s fed and rested, too.
“It would be lovely to have every session in golden hour, but families don’t always have that time available—naps, sports, and daily life all dictate the time of the session,” says Ms. Knight.
When it comes to locations, the convenience of home often wins out over the splendor of the outdoors. “Home shoots are an intimate way to show off a small family,” says Ms. Young. “If you have a toddler or a newborn, it can be really special to capture that first home holiday feel in the house.”
Stay in the same color palette
Choosing the perfect Christmas card wardrobe feels daunting—but it’s not as hard as it seems.
“Avoid patterns. You don’t want to clash with each other, especially if there’s a big group” advises Ms. Young.
For the ideal color scheme, Ms. Young recommends neutrals. “I like blues and greens. Everyone feels confident in those colors.”
Come prepared with toys (and treats)
If you know your kids and/or pets have a limited attention span and a small amount of patience for smiling at the camera, have distractions ready—or hire a photographer who specializes in family portraits.
“For pets, I always have a treat in my hand and a camera in the other,” says Ms. Young. “Honestly, sometimes it’s easier to get a dog to look at the camera than a kid!”
Her strategy isn’t much different when it comes to children. “For kids, just waving, saying hi, and using their name usually tends to work,” she says. “I always advise the parents to pack a favorite toy, especially if it makes noise.”
Find ways to keep everyone at the same height
When there’s a big height discrepancy, it can be difficult to get the proportions to look right.
“Using places to sit or having the parents squat down helps manage any significant height differences,” Ms. Knight says. “Depending on the ages of the kids, parents can hold the kids in their arms or on their shoulders.”
Keep it relaxed
Arranging a photo shoot and seeing it through can be stressful, but that doesn’t mean it has to show through in the photos.
“If everyone is comfortable and having fun, they will always look their best,” says Ms. Knight.
Ms. Young agrees that good moods are key. “Having a laid-back vibe helps me capture the true essence of your family, which is the most important thing.”
Select the right photo
There’s no such thing as a perfect photo, but there should be at least one where everyone is happy with the way they look. Skilled photographers won’t send you the proof if someone is mid-blink (hopefully), so the choice is easier when you have professional help.
If you’re taking your own photos, take enough that you have lots to choose from and everyone in the photo is happy with the decision. Take photos in both landscape and portrait orientations so you have more Christmas card templates to choose from. Ultimately, the right Christmas photo captures an authentic moment with your loved ones—and fits your favorite template like a glove (or mitten).
Trust your photographer
In the age of portrait mode, it’s tempting to skip the photographer and take your own photos. But don’t underestimate how much a talented photographer can take the stress out of capturing the perfect shot.
They spot the cutest moments, find the prettiest lighting, and work hard to ensure everyone in your family looks—and feels—as merry as possible. Just trust the process, and you’ll love what they come up with.
See what develops with Paperless Post
From funny to formal to cute or on-trend, our Christmas card photo ideas are guaranteed to take your Christmas card up a festive notch. But now that you’ve done all the hard work to take the pictures, let us do the rest!
Start by choosing a beautiful Christmas card photo template to frame your festive shot. With our cards at your fingertips, you’ll be surprised at how straightforward the process can be. Browse more collections of hand-picked holiday card ideas to find the ideal way to showcase your charming family, whether it’s a candy cane frame or swirling text beneath a snowy sky.
If you’ve already designed your Christmas card, upload it to our custom template and enjoy easy personalization, customizable Blocks, and straightforward sending choices, including the option to schedule your card ahead of time.