By Morgan White

Could you ever imagine a year without your family’s holiday photo? Nope, me neither! But what happens when your once-family-of-three is now four, or maybe five? That’s a whole crew to keep clean, happy, and photogenic. Well, you could make a detailed plan to make everything go smoothly—but maybe include a backup plan, because guess what? What can go wrong, will go wrong …

If you’ve ever felt the pressure to make the family photo a big production with a pristine location, and a jaw-dropping wardrobe then I have some tips that’ll get you to that seamless, unforgettable holiday photo but without all the stress. These things are supposed to be fun, right?!

The Outfit

Let’s begin with what everyone sees first: the outfit! Each year, I start planning our holiday photo by deciding on a color palette—taking into consideration the skin tones in my family and which hues will compliment everyone the best. In our first holiday family photo, we went with the classic tartan style, which is a popular holiday look for a very good reason. It automatically put our minds into party mode. With endless pattern options available during the months leading up to the season’s biggest holidays, you’re sure to find something for everyone in the family. However, I do warn you to tread lightly. It’s very easy to go overboard on the tartan.

So, instead of dressing everyone head-to-toe in this bold pattern, choose another color to compliment the look. For example, in that particular holiday photo, Dad wore a tartan shirt with a pair of black, wool-blend pants. Baby Grey and I complimented him by wearing cream with a splash of color. This year, our plan is to play around with all neutral tones: shades of browns, creams, and tans, and adding in a bit of texture with our favorite cozy knits. You just can’t lose with a cozy sweater. Plus, after your youngest has rolled around on the ground 100 times, they will still be wrinkle-free! Win, win.

The Setting

Do yourself a favor and make this process as easy as possible. Take photos at home! When your family and friends receive your holiday photos, they’ll want to feel as though they’re right there with you—especially now more than ever. Creating an inviting, yet studio-like space right in the comfort of your home can take little to no time. Your first task is to search your home for a spot that gets optimal light during the day. It may be a bedroom, the living room, or even the kitchen. No matter where it is, you can create a picture-worthy setup using natural light.

Now that you have your location, it’s time to create the scene. Let’s say the best lighting is in your living room. Start with a clean and organized space. You’ll want to limit the number of distractions in your photo because let’s be honest, it’s all about you guys. Remember, this is for a photo, so temporarily move objects out of the frame and replace them with other accents from around your home. That Peace Lily in your bedroom? Bring it out into the living room for a photo op in the background.

For us, we are fortunate to have large windows throughout our home which brings in an abundance of light throughout the day. Yet, because our dining room and master bedroom face east, I know that these are the prime locations between midmorning and early afternoon. Of course, with two small children, it’s not realistic to have a studio-ready vibe all time. My hack for this? A minimalist lifestyle: With less going on, it is more manageable to keep a neat home and keep cleanup less overwhelming.

The Photo

Camera phones are capable of taking an amazing shot, sometimes even better than those taken with a professional camera. Forget about that photographer you thought you should hire—you now have two new best friends: a phone tripod and the self-timer. Remember that natural lighting I mentioned earlier? It will eliminate the need to worry about photo editing tools. Daylight is your secret weapon to mastering an effortless and fresh look for everyone. And if you're anything like me, then you’ll have a hundred photos in your camera roll of what may seem like the same picture. Having your camera on burst mode allows for endless options and takes out the need for a redo—which may make the whole family sigh with relief.

This year, my goal is to capture an organic moment between Grey and Roux. Their bond has been so special to watch, as it’s blossomed over the past few months. With Roux becoming her own little person with a bigger than life personality and Grey falling so gracefully into her role as big sister, I just never know what to expect. With the girls as the focal point of our holiday image, Dad and I will be together in the background.

Most Importantly…

By staying at home, using your phone’s camera, and dressing in feel-good pieces, you’ll have eliminated a lot of the stress that surrounds your family holiday photo. Now it’s time for the most important piece of advice: have fun with it! Capture an authentic, stress-free moment that really shows the personality of your family. Not everyone has to look directly at the camera or plaster on their best smile. Give a tickle, tell a funny joke, or have a dance party.

This year, our holiday photo will capture just that—a pure and innocent moment in time. It will be a reminder to value what’s priceless and continue to appreciate the memories being created. Because one day, right before our eyes, we’ll be sitting around with teenage girls reminiscing over photos from previous years. And hopefully, these same photos will work their magic—bringing the girls back to an unbothered period of their childhood, and just for old times sake, they’ll put on comfy knits to snuggle up with their parents for one more family photo.

Morgan White is the creator behind Expecting Grey. Expecting Grey first began as a platform to document Morgan's journey into motherhood and has developed into a space of sisterhood, modern parenting, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle balance.