Home > photography > 5 Tips for Making Scandalously Good Holiday Cards

5 Tips for Making Scandalously Good Holiday Cards

As the holidays creep ever closer, we thought we’d ask for (and share!) some sage advice from someone who seriously knows beautiful cards, beautiful photos, and how to put them together into beautiful designs. Today, we’re going to share what we learned from Meghan of The Shoppe Designs, who gave us 5 great tips that will help take your holiday cards from “yaaawn” to “YEOWSA!”

In short: Start with a beautiful design, then follow through with smart and effective personal touches so that your holiday greetings become the talk of the town.

1) Match the mood between your photos and the design.

Sure, you can always pick a bunch of your favorite photos from the year and slap them into a card, but your friends and family will really notice when your photos and your card design match in color and style. For example, if you pair a formal portrait with a playful design, the presentation will look way less harmonious than it would when you match the mood and colors. Like music, find the chord that resonates best.

Here are some pairings that work well:

  • If your family session is outdoors and the family is wearing neutral colors, try them against cards with organic and vintage designs.
  • If your session included your family wearing brightly-colored clothes, a more playful and bright design would work well. Or better yet, try a simple, white card with little text so the colors in the photos really pop!
  • If your photo has a lot going on it it (lots of props, colors, several family members, etc) try dropping them into a simple design like a 5×7 folded card with the photo on the front and some simple text inside. Sometimes less is way more.

Thankfully, no matter what you do, the SmugMug card builder lets you preview them together before ordering so you can be sure your design and photo work together well!

2) Use photos from a single photo session.

There’s certainly an art to arranging multiple photos together on a card, but it’s still easy. The hot tip is to use photos from the same session and even the same part of your photo session for continuity’s sake. For instance, if your photographer shot different locations for your family shoot (some in front of the barn, some in the field, etc) try filling the multiple photo layout using various photos from the field. Then spice it up with a photo or two from a different location on the inside or back of the card. This way, your card keeps a unified sense of colors and style and will visually blend together.

Another fun option is to fill in the wells of your card with a photo sequence of different poses. For example, a series of shots at the same focal length of the subject(s) doing different things from the same sitting. It’s a fun, easy way to add a little motion and storytelling to your card. As always, try to pick ones that have colors that work well with your design!

3) Edit your photos.

A well-edited photo can really make the finished card sing, so processing your photos before putting them into your cards is a very important step.

Tip: If you’re using photos from your pro photographer, they’ve most likely already done this step for you. Whew!

You can push and pull the colors to go with your design and make everything even more perfect. The Shoppe Designs offers unique Photoshop Actions that can help you do this very easily. With just a few clicks, you can give your outdoor family shoot a warm, vintage feel and then it will match perfectly with a vintage-style card. On the flip side, you can brighten up the colors of an engagement session shoot even more to make them really pop on a simple white backdrop. And of course there’s the classic black and white option, which lets your images’ emotion speak for itself.

Not all actions work with all photos, but a great action can really bring a great photo to a whole new level!

Did you know? Post-processing is usually best for photos that you haven’t uploaded yet, but you can still polish up your images even if you’ve already added them into your SmugMug account. Try Picmonkey, a great in-browser editing tool built right in to your galleries, where you can fix redeye, exposure, add filters, textures and lots more. Look for it under your gallery’s Tools button > This Photo > Edit with Picmonkey.

4) Find inspiration for your text.

Writing your holiday message can be intimidating, and it’s hard to come up with greetings that aren’t generic or clichéd. It sounds silly, but try thinking about different holiday songs and lyrics to get in the mood and those festive juices flowing! You can take just a part of a song, like “All is calm, all is bright” (from Silent Night) which makes a beautiful and yet unexpected greeting.

What songs or poems tug at your heartstrings for the holidays? Get nostalgic. Get personal.

5) Use Caution With Fonts.

Fonts can be tricky. It’s generally best to keep the default fonts in the card you pick, as many designs are based around the font. But SmugMug does give you the option to change the font on many of the cards, so just be sure to proceed with caution.

Unless you have a lot of experience in design it is generally a good idea to not use too many different fonts together. It takes a fair amount of experience to determine which fonts work together and which… don’t.

Some basic font guidelines to follow:

  • If your photo is more formal or serious, usually a serif font (that’s the one with the little feet) tends to work best.
  • If you’re using fun shots of kids, a handwritten font can really play up the cuteness.
  • If you want a modern look, most of the simple sans-serif (no feet) fonts will complement the style well. For instance, with an engagement session of a young couple in very stylish clothes in the city, try a thin sans serif font in all caps.
  • If you’re using a more formal wedding portrait, a serif font would works best. Remember to keep it simple and think about how it works with the image stye.

We hope these tips get you excited and inspired to start making your cards and filling them with your year’s best memories. More tips and inspiration coming soon!

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