Guide to Stress-Free Holiday Cards

Guide to Stress-Free Holiday Cards

Family photo at the beach.

It’s almost time to string up lights, shop for gifts, and plan family gatherings. But first – family holiday cards – a great way to keep in touch with loves ones and share how much your kids have grown over the past year.

The next two months are going to fly by but don’t worry, here are some helpful planning tips and a checklist to keep you on track. You’ve got this! 

Plan Ahead & Start EARLY

Our goal is to avoid date options for taking your family photo to fill up, card deadlines to sneak up on you, holiday stamps to sell out, and mailing your cards out at the same time as everyone else.

Starting in November or even in October is not too early! 

Feel free to use this free checklist I created below:

Checklist for Holiday Cards with Family Photos
As a photographer, I like to get a nice variety of photos…posed and spontaneous, the whole family and just some of the kids. I pick my personal favorite images from the session and offer my clients a few initial card designs to start with. This way usually all moms (and dads) need to do is make a few small adjustments to their favorite card design, add a message and I take care of the printing!


  • Some families just want their kiddos on the cards, which is absolutely fine, but I still encourage the whole family to get photographed. It’s nice to have a keepsake of the whole family together at this particular moment in time, which you can later display at home.
  • If you are planning to photograph your family on your own be sure to test out your camera’s self-timer settings ahead of time and use a tripod if you have one. Or plan to recruit a family member or friend to help out.
  • Start putting your recipient list together and go online or to the post office to grab your holiday postage stamps. Grab these in early November or even October. It’s no fun getting stuck with the generic left over stamps that no one wanted.

What to Wear

Coordinate your family’s outfits together, but keep it simple! Choose a color scheme, like creams and reds OR blues and greys and choose outfits within that color palette. You can have 1 or 2 family members wear a simple pattern (such as a plaid or stripes) to tie your outfits together.  If you hire a professional photographer, double check with them but they should help you plan and provide you with outfit ideas!


  • It’s a great time to treat your family to new outfits, which you can always wear again to upcoming holiday events.
  • Have fun with this…you can even throw in some winter accessories or santa hats in some of the photos.

Lighting & Location

The ages of your kiddos, nap times and family activities may all dictate the date and time that’s possible, but if you are able to, aim for 1 to 1.5 hours before sunset. This is what photographers refer to as the “golden hour” because the lighting at this time of day is so flattering. If you cannot set up your photo during the golden hour then shoot for a cloudy day, or look for shade on a sunny day. The sun is actually NOT your friend. The bright sun makes everyone squint and creates dark shadows under your eyes, among other problems.

Beaches and parks are great for family photos. The less crowded, the better. For a list of my personal favorite spots in Central NJ, click here and scroll down. If you hire a good professional photographer, they should do some or all of this legwork for you and offer suggestions for times and locations.


  • Be sure no events are scheduled at your location on your planned date.
  • Also set a back up date in case of bad weather or rain!

Printing Your Cards

For DIYers, check out Minted or Mpix for beautiful designs. If you are working with a pro, then they should help walk you through this process, offer you card design options, and make creative recommendations.

Here I’ve hand selected my top 5  card designs from Minted and MPix…they are all simple and beautiful:
holiday boughs
elegant foliage
botanical wishes
airy ampersand

For a classy look, my personal favorite combination of cards/envelopes is shimmery PEARL card stock and premium WHITE envelopes with a SILVER lining.

Addressing Your Envelopes

If you dread this process, why not simply set up address labels in Microsoft Word. Name your document so it’s easy to find next year….HOLIDAY ADDRESS LABELS 2018. Then you’ll just have to do this once! Each year you’ll just need to spend a few minutes cleaning up your list and your labels will be ready to go. Standard address labels are usually Avery Labels 5160 or 8160.

If handwriting addresses is something you enjoy, make a morning or night out of it. Perhaps when dad or grandparents have the kids or after their bedtime. Light your favorite scented candle, make a cup of tea or pour a glass of wine, turn on some holiday music and address away! 


  • If you are planning to have white envelopes then white labels will do fine, but if you are doing a colored envelope, get yourself some clear labels.

Putting It All Together

When planning out your card design, address labels,  envelopes, and postage stamps – think about tying the colors together for a cohesive look. I’ve created some examples to inspire you below.

Need help?

I’d be so excited to work with you and help you through this process! Click here for information about Holiday Photo sessions and schedules with me in Central, New Jersey. 


Have a question you’d like answered or a photography topic you’d like to know more about? Send me a message for a chance to have your question featured on my blog. I’d love to hear from you!