Our Most-Fun-Ever Holiday Photo Ideas 2012!

Last year, we showed you how to one-up those mall elves in the holiday photo game.

This year, we’ll show you how to spin circles around them. Pretty soon those guys are going to be asking *you* for photo tips (and who knows, maybe Santa will hire you as his new photog).

We’re sharing a slew of photo ideas that your family will actually have fun doing! Even the most stoic of teens will crack a smile.

From creative backgrounds to great group photos that take less than 5 minutes to all the holiday lights fun you can imagine, you’re bound to find an idea that’s both creative and a blast.

Those mall elves might have speedy printers, but you have JoJo on your side.

10 Fun & Original Holiday Photo Ideas

p.s. The Super Fantastic Photojojo Lookbook is here. Share with your pals for $5 off any order, TODAY ONLY!

1. Multiple Exposures

ingred-smBecause it’s one of the best ways to wow your friends and family with your photo wizadry!

Seriously, though, maybe it’s the way a repeated image mimics the look of snowfall or the way you feel after you eat 10 frosted snowman cookies, but there’s something beautiful, ethereal even, about a multiple exposure.

Some tips: pick a simple subject, like your shiniest ornament, a hand-picked pine cone, a Holly branch or yourself!

Place your subject against a background that’s free of clutter. Check our ideas for fun holiday backgrounds down at #5 (Tinsel! Wrapping paper! Origami snowflakes!) ’cause those work great, too.

To get the same effect as in this photo by Valerie Chiang, you can nab a toy kaleidoscope and hold it in front of your lens. If you’re shooting with an iPhone, the Holga iPhone Lens has a kaleidoscopic filter that’ll do the job.

You can also shoot a multiple exposure photo by snapping the same subject, but moving your camera so that the subject is in a different part of the frame each time you shoot. You can pick however many times you want them to appear.

Get some tips at our Double Exposure Guide or try the (the TIM Holga, which lets you shoot double exposures.

You can also layer your photos in Photoshop or use an app like ImageBlender!

2. Snow Mid-Air!

Since you prefer your snow on the ground or in a sno-cone as opposed to all over you, we found a just as magical snow alternative: COTTON BALLS.

You can make a whimsical snowfall like so:

  • Plenty of light (flash if necessary).
  • Quick shutter speed. 1/60th is the slowest you should go. You can also use a higher ISO if you don’t have enough light.
  • Have your model or a friend throw the cotton into the air.
  • Snap a bunch of photos in succession, so you catch the cotton snow floating mid-air. Burst-mode is perfect for this!

Confetti or glitter are both another great snow alternative. Here’s a fantab example from Haley Sheffield.

You can even get fancy and turn it into a GIF! Here’s a guide to making a GIF in Photoshop or GIMP. Also, check out our guide to 5 Rad Ways to Play with GIFs.

For phoneographers, try apps like Cinemagram and GIF Shop for iOS or GifBoom for Android.

Pictured: Photojojo Tree Bling!

3. Squish Your Family into an Ornament:

paint-smThe best part about this idea is that it takes less than 5 minutes!

Grab your family, huddle together as tight as you can (AWWW), and shoot your reflection. You might try shooting from an angle to get your camera out of the shot or simply ‘shop it out.

Now, you’re a Christmas-edition of I Dream of Jeannie, and your cuzzos will be totally impressed!

The photo to the right was shot by Jonathan Arnold on film! Canyoubelieveit? The only Photoshopping he ended up doing was removing the camera from the image. Not bad, eh?

4. Swap Heads

paint-smFreak your friends and family out by swapping heads!

They’ll squint until they finally figure out what’s going on. It’s the best!

There are a couple of ways to swap heads. The peeps over at ManBabies specifically swap babies’ heads with dads’ heads. Weird? Yes. LOLMAZING? Yes.

All it takes is a little cut and paste action in Photoshop, GIMP, or any other photo editor. The more precise you are, the more realistic the photo, and the more you’ll trick your friends and family … which is essentially the goal.

You can also simply swap faces, which is what the apps FaceJuggler for iOS and Face Swap for Android do. They detect the faces in a photo, and then switch everyone’s faces onto different bodies.

The result? THIS. Horrifying, hilarious, and endless fun.

5. Get Creative with Backgrounds

paint-smYou’re so resourceful, you could think of a million and one ways to reinterpret household stuff into rad photo backgrounds. Here’s a list to get you started:

  • Chalkboard. Use chalkboard paint like Leslie Kerrigan did to the right!
  • Tinsel. Hang this along a wall for a sparkling background.
  • Sequins. Just as sparkly, but a little more refined.
  • Wrapping paper. SO many patterns to choose from.
  • Paper-craft snowflakes. Make a wall of these!
  • Foil. Crinkle it to give it texture!
  • Tree lights. Hang strings of lights vertically to make a wall!

6. Get Ironic

Poking fun at yourself wins because that’s exactly what your family and friends love to do!

Beth’s faux portrait studio Christmas photos bring that ’70s/’80s vibe in the best way possible.

We asked her for tips on how she put this photo together, and she told us she feathered the edges of the photos in Photoshop and combined the two to make one.

Another fantastic resource for studio portrait inspiration: We Have Lasers!!!!


7. Use What You Got, the Christmas Tree Lot

paint-smThis is a goodie for those of you who don’t have a lot of time to craft a background or pick up extra gear.

Think about using what’s available to you. More likely than not there’s a Christmas tree lot near you with the given that it’s December.

Dress your family up, and wander through the trees for colorful family photos. That’s what Rachel Devine did last year!

Other ideas for locations:

  • Your neighbor’s yard full of light-up holiday figurines (maybe ask first!).
  • Your local skating rink.
  • A snowy grove if you live where it snows.
  • A fancy hotel lobby! These tend to have just as fancy Christmas trees and decor.

8. Okeh Bokeh

paint-smWe’d be fools to not take advantage of all the lights that pop up around the holidays!

A classic way to do so is to play with bokeh. Bokeh’s the blurred background you get when you have a shallow depth of field. This looks especially cool when you have lots of tiny lights in your background!

To get the best bokeh possible, aim for a large aperture (which means a low aperture number, like between f/1.4 and f/5.6). A portrait or telephoto lens works best – anything 50mm and up.


Just have your subject stand close to the lens and far away from the background, and BAM, bokeh will be in full effect.

Even cooler, you can make custom-shaped bokeh filters, like Amanda did above. That means the lights in your background can be different shapes — hearts, stars, words, whatevs! If you’re into that idea, you’ll want to check out our DIY Bokeh Kit.

9. Use Holiday Lights as a Light Source

paint-smHoliday lights instantly change your photos in these two ways:

  • Make your photo feel seasonal.
  • Add a whole new light source, which makes your photo about 10x more interesting.

These two photos (the first by Haley Sheffield) are a couple of ideas for shooting holiday lights both in the daylight and in the dark because, hey, you can do both.


Brad Heaton shot this one inside in a dark room with what looks like some flash on the right to illuminate his subject.

10. Float On

paint-smThings get magical around the holidays. So magical, that a baby floating next to a Christmas tree isn’t so far-fetched.

Paul Wallace caught this photo of his kiddo putting a topper on the tree!

Here’s an excellent guide to levitation photos. It may or may not have something to do with digital editing, which means your baby or other floating person will be safe and sound. (No actual levitation required!)

Break Out the ‘Nog, There’s Even More!

  • When it’s all done and over, chillax with a lens mug full of hot cocoa.
  • If you’re a spontaneous shooter and always find yourself in low-light, try a Pocket Pod. It stabilizes your camera via your own body weight.
  • Check out last year’s guide for a bunch more awesome holiday photo ideas!
  • Stumped on gifts for your fellow photo nerds? Our Lookbook just came out today and it’s FULL of potential photo gifts.
  • Creepy Santa dot com. Never forget.

Photo credits: 1. Valerie Chiang (Tumblr), 3. Jonathan Arnold, 4. James S. on ManBabies, 5. Leslie Kerrigan, 6. Beth on Flickr, 7. Rachel Devine, 8. Kevin & Amanda & Our Nifty Notebook, 9. Haley Sheffield & Brad Heaton, 10. Paul Wallace