Making A Great Christmas Card

Christmas is right around the corner, so it’s time to make a great photograph to use on your Christmas card.

It’s both easier (if you prepare ahead of time) and harder (if you don’t) than you think.

So before you pick up your camera, start by roughing out the concept on a piece of paper.  The planning is part of the process…no winging it!

Once you have the idea, if you plan to decorate, set up the location.

Then, before you introduce your pet, take some test shots, view them on your LCD screen and set your exposure.

Now you are ready and Murphy’s law (if something can go wrong, it will) has been considerably reduced.

Next, introduce your subjects to the location and view the scene through your viewfinder. You don’t have to fiddle with your exposure settings because you did your homework ahead of time so you can concentrate on the composition.

Take some horizontal and vertical shots and decide which is best.


Check out the background. In the images above, we realized there was too much light behind the subjects during the day to get that Christmas feel, so we waited until dark to do the final shoot.

Good! Now it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. The twinkling lights really added to the effect.

But it’s still not right yet. The pet must look directly at the camera. Easier said than done! Start by giving your human subjects very specific instructions to keep smiling, looking directly at you, and not worry about what their pet is doing. This is key. The human subjects have to keep their pose no matter what is going on while you concentrate on the pet.

Use props. Pets have very short attention spans, so you need to keep changing props to get the cute expressions you want with the ears up.

Ok. The pet is looking at the camera so we’re almost there. I’ve moved in as close as possible to cut out anything that doesn’t contribute to the final image and to give the viewer a sense of being there. Plus I changed  my vantage point to bring in the tree on the right. Now I’m happy with the balance of the final composition. The subjects on the left are balanced with the tree on the right.

Now the only thing left to do is to adjust the lighting with my software program and use the red eye reduction feature to make the dog’s eyes darker.

Voila! Merry Christmas.

Try the suggestions above to make your own Christmas card. As always, I’m happy to help, so drop me an email if you want more advice.

Happy shooting!

Susan Ley