Designing your own holiday cards

2008 holiday card stylist tips and tricks

Choosing your photo:

· What (not) to wear? - Rule of thumb is leave the busy holiday patterns for holiday pajamas. If family members insist on wearing clashing colors, opt for a black and white photo; it's flattering for everyone and pairs well with the largest selection of card designs.

· To pose or not to pose - A posed family portrait is still the most popular choice for holiday card photos. However, candid shots are gaining in popularity as a way to add a light-hearted touch to the season. Have the family try to make a pyramid, bring the dog into the photo, or simply chronicle the spontaneous moments of any given day to capture your family's unscripted moments.

· Where should we take the photo? -If you are choosing an outdoor location, remember to keep the light source behind you and get some of the colors of the outdoors into the shot along with your subjects. If you're shooting indoors, try to forego the flash by flooding the house with natural or artificial light. The tiny flash on a camera can sometimes produce a harsh and cold effect.

· The Art of Looking Sideways - Try taking your photos both horizontally and vertically to avail yourself of the greatest option of corresponding card designs

· Take your photo during the "Golden Hour" - The first hour immediately after sunrise and the hour prior to sunset are commonly known as the "Golden Hour" for photographing landscapes or subjects outdoors. Shooting in the middle of the day, under a blinding sun, tends to wash out the details in a picture.

· Big family? - No problem! Keep everyone close together so there's nothing else in the picture competing for attention. And whether there are two people in the picture or ten, don't worry about placing everyone by order of height-this isn't a class photo.

· Don't you see? It was right here all along - Rather than scheduling a dedicated holiday card photo shoot, most people have wonderful images already in their photo collection. Look through favorite pictures from this year's vacation or other special gatherings and select a photo that truly captures your family's year-round holiday spirit.

Selecting the card that's right for you:

· Don't put the cart (or card) before the horse: When making a holiday photo card, select your photo first and then let that guide your choice of card design

· How can I give make my cards stand out this year? -Select a card design that employs a modern color palette - right now brown, red, light blue and chartreuse accents are very on-trend. Gold accents add a very current "Hollywood luxe" feel. Once again this season, red is the "it" color for cards; fortunately it's a color that flatters all skin tones.

· What do the holidays mean to you? - select imagery that best matches your connection to the holidays - classic stripes, modern circles or fun holiday icons like snowmen or candy canes.

· No kids? No problem! - Showcase your favorite photo of recent travels, your pet, even a picture of your home town. Better yet, share a photo of your favorite holiday dish and include the recipe.

· Humor is on the rise - More and more photographers are opting for humorous cards instead of straight-faced greetings; for example a card with a photo of a new baby crying with the caption: "wishing you a silent night this Christmas."

What to say and how to say it:

· Keep the faith: Rather than choosing sides in the great "Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays" debate, create two versions of the same card - a traditional or religious card and a secular card for family and friends of different faiths.

· Name that card: It's polite to sign your own name to personalize your cards even if it's already pre-printed in the greeting, and sign your last name to those you don't know well.

· It's all in the family: Include your daughter or son's fiancée in your holiday card photo, but wait until things become more "official" to include a boyfriend or girlfriend.

· Keeping up with the Joneses…and Smiths: For families with different last names, address the card to Jennifer Jones and Jeff Smith. If there are kids, Jennifer Jones, Jeff Smith and family.

· It's all a matter of time: Ideally, mail holiday cards the first two weeks of December. You should target Dec 10 as your "mail by" date. According to a spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Service, cards sent by first-class mail on or before Saturday December 20 will be delivered anywhere in the United States no later than December 24.

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