Last Minute Tips for Creating a Great Holiday Card

Jessica Wernes of Dewdrop Photography shares some secrets for crafting the perfect card.

If you’re like me, you have a love-hate relationship with the holiday card. I love to receive them, I hate creating them. Well, hate is a strong word. But let’s face it, it can be daunting.

No matter how prepared I try to be, each year it seems somewhere between buttoning everyone's shirt (correctly) and trying to find my camera, one of my children loses a prominent tooth, contracts chickenpox or cuts off most of his hair. (More on this in a bit.)

When I only had one child, I began setting the scene just after Halloween. I embraced the challenge by finding just the right outfit for my toddler, rearranging furniture, and traveling to various nurseries in search of the perfect poinsettias to create the ultimate holiday backdrop.

Sweating like a high school wrestler after an hour of grappling and pleading with my mischievous model to stay put while I captured his sweet, toothless grin, I realized this holiday card business was a lot tougher then I'd originally thought it would be. (I also wondered if photographer Anne Geddes swallows a fistful of horse tranquilizers to get through those baby shoots.)    

Now I have three children and getting them to look at me simultaneously is harder than explaining how Santa fits down our chimney.

This year’s challenge: my six year old, who has claimed for the past two months that he couldn’t find his scissors each time a homework assignment called for them, was somehow able to unearth them and give himself a new 'do, which I affectionately refer to as 'the Herman Munster.'

I decided it was time to ask for the help of a professional. Luckily, Jessica Wernes owner of Elm Street's Dewdrop Photography was kind enough to share some tips for crafting a great card.

What are the three most important things parents should keep in mind when trying to create a fun and memorable holiday card?

1. Make it personal and sincere: If your family loves the beach don't be afraid to use your favorite image from the summer. If your family loves to cook, catch the kids huddled around the kitchen counter decorating cookies or colorful cupcakes. Your friends and family will love seeing you doing what you love. We love getting the card from our friends who hate the winter and always remind us exactly how many days are left until next summer!

2. Have fun with it: Include things in the pictures that tell a story. Have the kids holding their favorite ornaments, or take the pictures while they're snuggled together in cute pajamas with their favorite books.

3. Think about the final card: Here at Dewdrop Photography, all of our cards are custom designed to complement our images, but if you're going to be using a design from one of the popular websites, think about what orientation of picture will work best for that layout, and what color clothing will coordinate best.

How can you convince your little models to stay put shot after shot?

You can't! No really...it's not realistic to expect little ones to sit for any length of time smiling at the camera, but there are lots of tricks you can use to get that perfect moment. One of my favorite things to do is to sit the kids somewhere that they don't usually get to sit. Somewhere such as on a coffee table. Toddlers will always be excited to do something new and especially something that they're not otherwise allowed to do. Explain that you're going to let them "break the rules" just for this one fun moment.

Another great idea is to have a helper entertain them while you take the pictures. Dad can stand over your shoulder showing his belly or singing their favorite song to them. Get them excited and give them the opportunity to be silly. Make taking their pictures a fun time and it will show in the images.

Do you recommend indoor or outdoor settings? Certain colors of clothing or lighting? Is there a better time of day to try to capture a good photo?

A great photograph can be made indoors or outdoors. Do what you can to avoid using the flash that sits on top of your camera. That may mean taking the pictures outdoors, or indoors close to as much light as possible such as by a window. Make sure that your subjects stand out from whatever is in the background and don't put them directly in front of the background.

In other words, if you want to have the kids standing in front of a tree, leave some room between them and the tree. The distance will help create a less distracting background while also giving the image depth.

When shooting outdoors, try to avoid harsh light such as mid-day sun. Find a shady place with pleasing light and your kids won't need to squint either.

For more information about Dewdrop Photography, visit the website or call 908-264-8399.

Shannon Kelly December 09, 2011 at 06:45 PM
What a creative article. I cannot imagine how many families struggle through this same ordeal, yet despite all the holiday content out there I have never seen one survival guide similar to this. I always thought of designing the card as being the hard part, (thanks American greetings for making it easy for me) but getting that perfect pic is half the battle.
Gary McCready December 09, 2011 at 09:13 PM
Yes - sometimes picking the photo(s) to use is the hardest part. Once picked, we've been using amazingmail.com for a while now with their folded postcard product and could not be easier - just upload your addresses in excel format and the photos you want to use, and they will stamp and send them for you. They give you a few cards to try for free. Although their web interface could use some improvements (was designed for commercial mailings) they do have a very responsive help line in case you can't figure something out. And once you've uploaded your addresses for one year, subsequent years are really easy.


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