Holiday Photos: The Top 10 Most-Fun-Ever Ideas

Rounding up your family for holiday-time photos is a feat intended only for the super-human (i.e. Elves at your local mall. They’re little, but mighty).

Obligatory sweaters are the least of it. You’ve been through creepy santas, herds of costumed dogs, and unfortunate awkward poses.

It hasn’t always been pretty, but this year, that’s all going to change!

2010 is THE year for the holiday photo you’ve always dreamed of, whether you’re sending them ‘cross country to friends and family or just want to grab a shot of everyone while they’re all in one spot.

No more awkward blank stares and no more heart-breaking sobbing children. It’s all uphill from here!

Top Ten Holiday Photo Ideas

p.s. We’re putting on a lil’ photo contest with our pals who run that lil’ conference called CES! You’ve got one week to enter!

Holiday Pics That’ll Rock Yer Sox

You’ve been through many a holiday season.

Let’s just say you’re an Eggnog (and/or Soynog) pro, and you’ve got your gingerbread cookie baking/latka-making down to a science.

The holiday photo might be a little played out by now, but it doesn’t have to be! Break out the chalkboard speech bubbles and old family photo albums ’cause this is gonna be a FUN one.

In no particular order, here are our top ten fav holiday photo ideas:

1. Young Me/Now Me Holiday Edition

ingredientsSure, family photos were awkward way back when. Now’s the perfect time to look back, point at yourself, and laugh.

Young Me/Now Me is the often touching yet often hilarious website made by Ze Frank. Folks recreate old childhood photos with one major difference: they’re older now!

The holidays are a perfect time to haul out old photo albums and organize your family into hilariouz photo recreations. Kudos to the dudes to the right. We’d say they got it down to a T.

2. Light Paint with Christmas Lights

templatesOur pals Aiko and Stuart came up with this genius photo project: light painting with Christmas lights!

It seems so obvious, yet we’d never tried it. So how do you do it?

Set your camera to long exposure or night mode (works on both point-and-shoots and DSLRs) and start drawing with your lights. Check out our sparkler tutorial for more light painting tips (sparklers = New Years Eve, too!).

Here, they twirled their string of lights in a circular motion to make a Christmas tree shape. Delightful, magical, and inspiring – pretty much everything the holidays should be.

3. Use a Speech Bubble for Funny Sayings

cut shapesAdd funny to your photos with a speech bubble.

Write a “Wish you were here” message to send to friends. Ate too much at dinner? Add a floating “Blergh” near your tummy.

Maybe you’re not in the mood for a holiday photo, after all. Write out your true feelings for the world to see.

Or draw a Santa hat and have someone strategically prop it above your head.

You get the picture: words/drawings + photos = funny times.

4. Vintage Style

glueIt’s a Wonderful Life gets you in the mood for all things old timey.

Back in Jimmy Stewart’s day, emulsion, grain, and darkrooms were the way to do it. You can still get a vintage film look for your holiday pics, even if your camera of preference is your iPhone. Here are a few ways:

Shoot in black & white or turn your photos monochrome (learn how here).

Use phone apps like Hipstamatic or Instagram; both have a variety of old-school film filters. Hipstamatic recently added a printing feature which would make it easy to print a photo to send out. Sweet.

Shoot with a Polaroid, expired Polaroid films and PX films have that sepia, lo-fi look that so many digital filters try to mimic.

Digital cameras like the Zumi and Pocket Square come with sepia and vintage style filters that make your photos (and vids) look like they were snapped on film.

Find a bunch more vintage tips in our guide to vintage photos.

5. Give a Flipbook

stringAbout the only thing a holiday card can do is prop itself up on a mantlepiece, but we wish they did more. Interactive holiday cards: wouldn’t they be like 50x more fun?

Yeah, they would! Enter: the holiday flipbook. Send your loved ones a simple flipbook of your holiday pictures. They’ll love it forevs, and you’ll be the talk of the town.

Don’t know how to make a flipbook? You’re in luck because we wrote up an entire tutorial that’ll teach you how. Just get those little ones (the kidz) to work, and you’ll have yourself an assembly line in no time.

If you’re not the hands-on crafty type, make an easy slideshow on your computer and have it play in fast-mode for a flipbook effect (more tips at our stop-motion tutorial).

6. Photobooth

hangGuaranteed to be the easiest option is the photobooth! You don’t have to deal with organizing matching sweaters or mess with timers or tripods.

It costs about 3 bux, and all you have to do is smush everyone inside, wait for the flash, and yell cheese “SOYNOG!”

Plus, you get classic photobooth style photos and can make as many as you’d like (as long as you’ve got dollar bills). Find yer local photobooth with this extra handy photobooth locator.

Bonus tip: Pocketbooth is an iPhone app that takes photobooth style photos. And how!

7. Portrait Studio + Ugly Sweaters

hangWe lied about no more ugly sweaters. Trust us, we have good intentions.

Grab your 4 closest buddies and the most horrific holiday sweater you can find and head over to your local portrait studio because:

  • They hands down have the best holiday backgrounds. Choose between a classy snowy forest or a whimsical land of candy canes (We’ll go with both).
  • They’re cheap. 20 wallets for $10? Yes pleez.
  • You get to trade pics with friends. It’s like the ‘ol high school prom pic trade!
  • One day you’ll get to show your kids how awesome you were.

(Thanks, Greg, for sending in your amazing Sears portrait.)

8. Panography

hangCreate a David Hockney-esque masterpiece out of your holiday photos!

Panography is the art of taking many photos of one thing and putting them together to make a collage of that thing. Trust us, it’s incredible (and satisfying!) when you put it all together.

Make your own holiday collage by zooming in your camera to shoot each part of a scene piece by piece. You can arrange your photos together digitally to make a panograph (Check out Mareen’s) or print them all out and arrange them on your kitchen table.

Or even more fun, send a small box of your photos to a friend, and see if they can put it together. It’s a Christmas photo puzzle!

Some great holiday panographic scenes might be your tree + presents on Christmas morning, the dinner table on a big night of feasting, or a massive group photo of your 25 cousins, 10 uncles, 12 aunts, and that one kid you’re not sure how you’re related to.

Ch-ch-check out how to make panographies in our tutorial or get inspired by Jean Rauzier‘s wildly detailed panographies.

9. Turn Your Pix into Polaroid postcards

hangDid you know you can turn any of your holiday pictures into Polaroid postcards?

Maybe you don’t have a Polaroid camera or Polaroid film, but that doesn’t mean you can’t spread the Polaroid love.

These nifty mailable frames come in the shape of Polaroids with windows for your pics (you just cut out your regular photo to fit inside).

(p.s. More mailable frames aquí.)

10. Take someone’s portrait!

hangDecember is a photo marathon unbeknownst to any other month of the year. By the 25th, you’ve lost count of the number of photos you’ve appeared in, and you’re ready to give your eyeballs a permanent break from the flash.

Solution: take someone’s portrait instead! The holidays are all about giving, right? You’ve got picture-taking talents, so why not use them to spread a little holiday photo cheer?

Photograph a friend or a loved one as a gift. Shoot your neighbor’s family photo for free or the senior center’s big holiday bash (omg best party ever).

Groups like Help Portrait encourage photographers to donate portraits to people in need. There’s all sorts you can do as a photographer to do the world some good. We say what better way than using our camera to get in on all the heartwarming n’ good-wishing of the holidays.

Even More Ideas!!


  • It’s all about the jump shot in 2010. Have some fun jumping around ’til you get that one great photo of everyone in mid-air. (You might want to Photoshop grandpa levitating off the ground with that bad hip and all.)
  • Brady Bunch style! Shoot an individual photo of everyone in your fam. Have your photos interact! i.e. Someone looks down, and another looks up.
  • Have a particularly camera-happy family? Take a group portrait with each of you holding your favorite camera up to your face (inspiration from Lomokev’s camera portraits).
  • Whatever you do, just keep your children away from the creepy santas. Please.
  • Finally, we just want to say: AWKWARD FAMILY PHOTOS!

Photo credit: Aiko Harman (light painting tree), Young Me/Now Me, SF GirlbyBay (photobooth), Greg Groggel (sweaters), David Hockney (panography)