Christmas is fast approaching and you’ve forgotten to book your family photo shoot. Or maybe you don’t have several hundred dollars to drop on a family photo shoot. Or…maybe your three-year-old tattooed his face with a black sharpie as you were frantically curling your hair JUST MINUTES BEFORE YOUR FAMILY PHOTO SHOOT. Yup, that’s happened. In any case, do not fear. You don’t need professional photos to create a picture-perfect family Christmas Card. Grab your phone, and let’s get started.

Choose Your Card

Step One: Choose the card you want to send. We know…weird, right? Choosing your card before you take the photos? But we promise, this approach is the right approach. Take a peek through all our lovely Holiday Photo Cards and we guarantee you’re going to fall hard for one or two. Take some time to learn about the options available for the photo layout on your “it” card (we often have many options) and take notes about how many photos you need. We have cards that fit just one photo or as many as 20 plus! Also consider the format – vertical or horizontal, otherwise known as landscape or portrait – that you’ll need to capture for your chosen design.

Visualize Your Vibe

Step Two: Decide what kind of vibe you want your card to have. Are you looking for images that feel more like a photo shoot? Perhaps a nice family photo with everyone smiling (fingers crossed!) and individual shots of each of your beloved family members? Yes, you can do this with a phone! Or maybe you’d rather create a card that feels a little more like real-life. Candid shots of the kids being their crazy-selves and a quick selfie of you and your partner can come together to create a card that feels super genuine.

 Find Your Light

Step Three: Get the light right. This is the most important step in creating a beautiful Christmas card with photos from your smart phone. Find the light, and your photos are going to be gorgeous. Do not – we repeat – do not attempt to take photos in a dimly lit room or outside after dusk. Your photos will print dark and be the furthest thing from merry and bright! If you want to take a photo in your home, take a walk around the house during the morning, daytime and evening. Be on the lookout for soft, filtered light that often shines through windows in the early to mid-morning and late-afternoon to evening. Once you find the light, grab a willing model and take some test shots. You’ll know the light is right if your photo looks, well, like real life! The best way is to compare skin tones in your image to your subject to make sure you’ve nailed it. If you’d rather have photos outside, take these same steps to find the soft light. Early morning or early evening is your best friend and bright, direct sunlight is your worst enemy. Again, drag one of your kiddos outside and take some test shots. Try different angles and locations until your image looks spot-on.

Be Confident

Step Four: Grab your phone, grab your subjects, get into that light and be confident. You’ve got this! If you’re going for that more traditional, posed look, you’re going to want to prop your phone up and set the timer (assuming you want to be in the photo and you, mom, should definitely be in the photo!). All phones are different, but we promise it’ll be easy. If it’s not intuitive, a quick Google search will point you in the right direction. Gather your family to where you want them to pose and then find a place to prop up your phone. There’s really no need for a fancy tripod. Drag a chair over and use books to create the right height. Stuffed animals can also come in handy when trying to angle your phone just right. Set the timer, run to your fam and say “cheese!”. Don’t sweat it if you don’t get the perfect photo, just have fun with it! If the kids are uncooperative, start a tickle fight for a family photo that feels genuine and full of joy. If you want individual photos of your children or pets, pull them each aside into that pretty light. Now, get on their level. Bend your knees so your photo isn’t angled up or down, but pointed straight at that angelic little face. Then snap away. If you want candid shots, forgo the timer. Again, get into the light and then – and this is key – give the kids something to do. If you’re in the kitchen, bake a cake. Yes, it’ll be messy but you’ll love the images! If you’re in a bedroom, give them a stack of books to read. Maybe your best light is on the staircase? Get out the holiday garland and decorate away.

Easy Editing

Step Five: Edit your photos. If you’ve never edited your phone photos before, this can sound scary but don’t worry, there’s an app for that. Our favorite photo editing app is A Color Story. First, take a peek back at the Christmas card design that you chose. Look through your photos and decide which ones you’ll use on your card. Open your editing app and begin by cropping your photo. Next, play around with the Curves, Saturation, Vibrance, Highlights and Shadows until your photo looks just the way you want. If it gets away from you, simply start over! There’s really no “right” way to edit a photo. Just make sure that your photo is bright enough and has enough contrast between the colors so that it’ll print beautifully. You can also get creative with filters and effects such as flare, bokeh and other light elements. If the light in your photos didn’t turn out exactly as you wanted, these can help immensely.

Upload and Create

Step Five: Upload your photo and create your card. It’s that simple. Head over to Pear Tree, then click the “Personalize” button next to the Christmas Card you love to launch our editing tool. Then, click the “add photo” button to add all those gorgeous images. Finish off your card by choosing your colors and updating the text with your personal message.


And that’s it! Trust us you can create a beautiful Christmas Card using phone photos!