Make the tradition of sending family Christmas cards “a snap” this year — literally! These simple photo ideas will help you create a custom card with style

If you’re like me and most of the Christmas madness is behind you, you can begin to enjoy one of the fun rituals of the holidays. Finding Christmas cards in your mailbox is always a treat, but they become extra special gifts when there’s a photo that shows a little slice of life from someone you care about.


We took our first family Christmas photo when our daughter Nicki was four months old. From the beginning, we decided this would be an annual tradition, so that when Nicki turns 18, she’ll have a whole timeline of family portraits to look back on. Every year I’ve looked for new and creative ways to show how she’s grown.


I’m not a photographer, but as a designer and stager, I have a few tips that may help you with your next Christmas card. Whether you’re shooting in a studio, at home or on the beach, these tips will help bring your photos alive.

First, add varying height and dimension to your shot. You can do this by bringing pieces of furniture into the scene. The great thing about furniture is it allows people to get on different levels. You can sit or lean on a chair. Someone can stand behind the chair, and someone else can lounge on the floor. Varying people’s heights and distances from the camera makes for a more interesting and dynamic photo.

Photo by David Rezendes

Photo by David Rezendes

The furniture doesn’t have to match. It doesn’t even have to be furniture. It could be a ladder, a swing set, a jungle gym. It could be almost anything that adds to the story in the picture.

There’s nothing wrong with people sitting around a living room. But it could be even more interesting if the “living room” were outdoors. When I was taking photos for an ad for my new store, reStyle Hawaii, I decided to kill two birds with one stone. The minute the reStyle photoshoot was done, in popped my husband and daughter and voila! Here’s this year’s photo of us in our “living room” on the beach.


Second, create action and interaction. Action makes for a more dynamic picture. If you have young children, have them play or interact with each other and put them in the foreground so they become the focus. (Remember, not everyone has to look at the camera.)

In the sunset photo in our new backyard, Nicki is leaping for joy. In the other photo, the falling rose petals create joyful action. It would have been a beautiful picture if the three of us posed with red roses, but it’s the exuberance of Nicki throwing her arms in the air that sends a message of joy.

Finally, why not have two images — one on the front of the card and another inside. If you’re doing something really fun on the outside, try one on the inside that’s more serious or a better close-up of the kids. In this year’s card, Nicki’s face is completely covered by her hair, but inside she is smiling with her new puppy.

Hopefully these tips will inspire your next Christmas photo shoot. You have a whole year to plan your furniture setting and action shots. Meanwhile, happy holidays and enjoy your trips to the mailbox!


Cathy Lee is a home style expert, speaker, president and designer of Cathy Lee Style. Her redesigns of residential and business spaces have been featured in local and national publications and on HGTV. Her new concept furniture and home accents store, reStyle Hawaii, is open daily at 420 Keawe St. in Kakaako. For more info and inspiring photos of design projects, visit