Holiday cards are, to some, a very big part of yearly Christmas traditions. And there always seems to be that one card you get that is simply stunning. The family picture is amazing. How did they get all the kids to smile so sweetly? The layout is beautiful. Did they plan the color scheme around the picture on purpose? The feel of the card itself makes you notice it is just a bit “more” than the rest. The process of creating the perfect Christmas card is not as difficult as it might seem, especially if you have a couple local experts guiding you along the way.
Natalie Roberson, a professional photographer in Frisco, says the total “awe” factor of the card comes down to proper planning. “A lot of people come to us with ideas, so we like to talk about those ideas ahead of time. Great ideas are not just thought of on the fly!” A family may have a very specific theme or message they are trying to get across in their card, so Ms. Roberson likes to take details into consideration while planning the photo shoot. It really makes a huge difference for the finished product.
She adds, “Whether they are going to design their own or they are going to design it through us, arriving at the shoot without a plan is not a good idea.” She suggests sending your holiday card photographer ideas from Pinterest, pulling ideas from other pictures and then working together to recreate those ideas as best you can. You can also get guidance from the photographer to help narrow down your final settings. “Unless you are doing a theme, like going to a Christmas tree farm or an elaborate prop in the background, the front of the card needs to be simple, like a family out in an open field or in front of a brick wall or a nice country fence — something where the family is the main focus, so all the busy stuff in the background is not taking precedence,” Ms. Roberson says about choosing a location. Her advice is to keep it simple for the front of the card so the family gets to the be star. She adds, however, that the back can be a collage of pictures to cater to the uniqueness of each family member. Your card may be sent to loved ones you do not get to see often, so let each family member shine in a way that represents their personality!
Another tip is to coordinate outfits … but not in a “cheesy” way! Not everyone has to be in plaid, but they do need to coordinate. If you want to dress it up more, she says to add layers and accessories — jewelry, scarves, jackets and more. “Layering always looks really good when coordinating outfits,” she adds, knowing that sometimes the Texas weather does not make that the most pleasant photography session experience. In reality, it can be difficult to portray the total look of a winter setting when your family is standing in 90 degree weather under layers of fleece clothing, so try to embrace unique areas or nature spaces in Frisco!
Ms. Roberson says her last bit of advice is to hire a true professional. “They are the ones who make sure you get an amazing portrait. They understand posing, they understand lighting, they will use their professional equipment, they will make sure the client looks their best and they recognize that the family portrait is the most important element of the Christmas card.” Sending an annual card is, to many people, a way of documenting family milestones and memories. Having a professional capture special moments helps to make them last a lifetime.
How long might a photo session take? It will depend on the photographer. “We have been doing this for so long that we can have a really great family session in 20 minutes, especially if we have a plan going into the session,” Ms. Roberson says. Even big families with full schedules can find a way to make that time frame work! She adds that, in a studio, you can be limited on the amount of poses you can do versus being outside, and people tend to feel more comfortable outside.
How do you work in this photo session with young children? The best time to take pictures is an hour after sunrise or an hour before sunset. “That is not always conducive to small kids because maybe they have not woken up yet or it is their bed time, but you can still shoot close to those times outside in places that have more shade,” Ms. Roberson says. She suggests bringing snacks or making sure kids have just been fed. Sometimes, it means bringing favorite toys or making silly sounds to get the kids’ attention. Ms. Roberson says, “We have learned tricks to get their attention, otherwise we let them run around because we do not want them to feel so restricted during the session that they do not have fun.”
Once you have the perfect pictures, you will need to design the card. Melissa Wayte, the owner of Paper Affair in Frisco, Plano and Dallas, has great advice on how to take advantage of beautiful pictures to create a show-stopping card.
There are several popular trends already this season. “We are still seeing a huge amount of foil, as has been popular over the last couple years. Another thing is hand-lettering fonts instead of a traditional block or script. Lettering that looks like someone handwrote it, even though it is still printed, is extremely popular. This year is the first time I have seen letter press printing on holiday cards. It has been popular in wedding invitations, but it has moved into the holiday card area. It is a much older style of printing, but very beautiful. They literally press hard into the paper. The next trend is double-thick paper, where they take two sheets of paper and basically glue them together so you have thicker paper to do a letter press. People are bringing in liners for the envelopes, as well,” Ms. Wayte shares.
There has been a trend to go to online ordering and printing for cards. Some may believe it is easier, faster and cheaper, but people are coming back to paper stores because everyone’s cards are starting to look the same. Also, card pricing at Paper Affair is often competitive with online options. Families are looking for a way to create something different from the typical templates online ordering provides. “Some people are asking for return address stickers that match their card. Some of the trendy things are what make your card look a little different,” Ms. Wayte adds.
Ms. Wayte says, “Flat cards are still the way to go. Years ago, it was the folded card with the photo on the front. Two-sided with die cut edges is still the way everyone seems to be going.”
The best way to approach the design is to bring the photo first and plan the design around the photo(s). If you want all the bells and whistles, plan on starting around mid-November because specialty design items can take three to four weeks to get printed. If you want a more standard photo card, those can be completed in about a week. It all depends on the level of uniqueness you are going for.
If you want the perfect card but are too busy to complete the task by Christmas, New Year’s cards are a great alternative to the traditional holiday card. You will not be the first (or last) to go this route.
With some planning, you can have an amazing card you are proud of and excited to send to your loved ones. While our day-to-day lives might be a little hectic or messy, you can put your family’s best foot forward and create beautiful memories for everyone on your Christmas card list to see. Plus, there is just something special about opening your mailbox around this time of year and finding a beautiful card addressed to you!