15 Ways You’ll Ruin Your Family Holiday Photos This Year

Whether you’re planning for a newborn sleeping on a red velvet tuffet or you’ve got a whole brood that refuses to wear their well-coordinated picture outfits, nailing the family holiday pictures is tough stuff. No matter what stage of the game your family is at, there’s always the potential for a meltdown of some kind. I put myself through it every year…from having a husband that occasionally hasn’t been 100% on board with my adorable ideas (sure honey, wrapping ourselves in 100 feet of Christmas lights is completely safe), to having a newborn last year who was more interested in sleeping than posing for the perfect shot. I wouldn’t put myself through this torture unless it was totally worth it.


First, you need to slap a stamp on it and send hard-copy proof that you have an adorable family to at least fifty friends and relatives. But even more importantly, when the kids have all grown up and moved out, you’ll glance longingly at these yearly snaps and smile. So, let’s make 2015 a good one. At the top of your to-do list should be an extra cup of coffee for the parents the morning of, a tube of perfectly matched under-eye concealer to fake a good night’s sleep, and the obligatory open mind.

But as far as the to-don’ts? Here are fifteen things you can do that will definitely ruin this year’s family holiday photos:

  1. Bribe them with sugar before the session. Rainbow lollipop goo is really cute on a few outtakes, but hyper kids hopped up on sugar look as crazy in photos as they sound in real life.
  2. Pick a fight with your husband about his wardrobe. You want everyone to coordinate, but not at the cost of making the poor guy miserable. If he hates his outfit, he’ll be scowling the whole time. 
  3. Book any time of day other than late afternoon. Miss a morning nap and you’re due for a major tantrum. Plan too close to lunch or dinner and everyone will be (and look) hangry.
  4. Change your hairstyle. If you’ve been dreaming of a bob or a dye job, wait ’til after the shoot. People’s social media comments will bug you, and if you do regret the ‘do later, there’s no Photoshopping in your old hair.
  5. Bring anything less than a massive tote filled with (non-sticky, anti-mess) snacks. Want to keep everyone fueled up and smiling? Feed the beasts! (And yourself, too.)
  6. Wear super-trendy outfits. While harem pants or distressed denim might seem very chic this year, we recommend toning down the of-the-moment finds and focusing on classic silhouettes that won’t be cringe-worthy by this time next year.
  7. Try to recreate something you saw on Pinterest. I know you’re going to anyway, but just know that real-life babies scream when placed in Christmas stockings, and braces-clad tweens will refuse to smile if you ask them to do anything too cute with their little sibs. 
  8. Wear anything too stiff. Constrictive fabrics piss off kids young and old alike—opt for velvet, cashmere, and other soft and lush looks if you want to lean toward a more formal look. 
  9. That said, don’t let them pick their outfits, either. Giving free rein to the kiddos is sure to make for a crazy photo. 
  10. Let your photog go for the worm’s eye view. It packs ten pounds on, no matter how artistic it may be. If you see a crouch coming, stop it before it even starts. 
  11. Shoot everyone sitting on the couch. Speaking of angles, this is another bad one. The kiddos will look great no matter what, but an adult on a couch is rarely a good idea. 
  12. Go out the night before. Eggnog be damned—date nights should be saved for after a successful shoot with the kids. No one has time for a hangover or puffy eyes when there’s a professional photographer around.
  13. Faux snow is a no-go, especially if it’s on a screen in the photog’s studio. Let’s leave the eighties where they belong!
  14. Horizontal stripes. Especially red and green ones. No. Just, no.
  15. Visualize everything a specific way. When it comes to families—especially kids—things will go “wrong.” Keep an open mind, let them have fun, and enjoy the moment.

image: Getty/Jade Brookbank

15 Ways You’ll Ruin Your Family Holiday Photos This Year