The holidays will be here in a flash, so don’t let any time lapse before planning how and where to take your family photos. We’ve polled local photographers for their favorite spots around San Diego to snap family pics and for their top tips to make your DIY family photos shine in this year’s holiday cards and beyond. Read on for the details.

Presidio Park

Make some magic with the Golden Hour. Shoot an hour before sunset to capture the best lighting and scope out the location before your planned photo shoot. Have everyone sit with their backs facing the sun and make sure your camera is set in a small spot of shade to avoid any lens flare from the sun. Don’t forget your furry friends! This might add some chaos to the mix, but you'll be glad you included everyone in the family.

Pro tip: Bring a large blanket to pick up some extra colors or add neutral textures with a chunky knit or a soft flannel. Make sure it’s large enough for the entire family to sit on; if it’s too small it will make you look smaller in the photo.

Presidio Park
2811 Jackson St., San Diego
Online: sandiego.gov

Photographer: Mariela Cohen
Online: marielacohen.com

Your Front Porch

Don’t focus so much on where to take your photos because your front porch is often the perfect place! Aim to photograph the last hour of the day or early morning. If that's not possible, be sure all of you are in a shaded area to avoid funky shadows. Tidy up your setting by sweeping, add some flower pots or a simple door wreath to give some color, but don’t clutter it up or you’ll get lost in it.

Tripod Tip: If you don’t have a tripod, then improvise by grabbing a chair, an overturned bucket and stack books on top until you reach the desired height.

Photographer: Amy Millard
Online: amysuemillard.com

Old Cactus Garden

Put things in perspective and don’t take yourselves too seriously. My tip for families taking holiday photos is to laugh! Laughter produces the most genuine smiles and makes for the best photos. You can either get all dressed up or dressed way down, but either way go all in.

Photo Tip: Tell silly jokes or make funny noises to evoke laughter and smiles.

Old Cactus Garden
2150 Pan American Rd. W., Balboa Park

Photographer: Aubrey Baldwin
Online: @aubrey.baldwin.photography

Old Poway Park

Perk up your pixels with color! Clothing makes the photo. You could have an amazing location but if the clothes don't fit the location, it messes with the photo vibe. Color tones should depend on your background and should be based in greys or browns, but not both. To make it less stressful for mom, who’s usually the organizer, she should plan her outfit first and coordinate other outfits around hers. Think along the lines of complementary colors and not necessarily matching perfectly; and definitely no logos or neons.

Clothing Tip: Drive by or walk around your photo location ahead of time to get a feel for what colors would work well with the surroundings.

Old Poway Park
14134 Midland Rd., Poway
858-668-4576
Online: poway.org

Photographer: Erin Delgado
Online: erinchristinephotography.com

Family Christmas Tree Farm

Get candid! My biggest tip with kids is to engage them in some kind of fun activity instead of trying to pose them. For example, making cookies in the kitchen, jumping on the bed or blowing bubbles by your front door.

Candid Tip: Giving unsuspecting hugs and kisses will always put a smile on someone’s face… and makes for some pretty cute candids.

Family Christmas Tree Farm
300 Pepper Dr., El Cajon
619-448-5331
Online: familychristmastreefarm.com

Photographer: Renata Terra
Online: renataterra-photography.com

Mission San Luis Rey

Portrait perfect! Use your phone’s “portrait mode” to project yourselves while beautifully blurring the background (called Bokeh) and giving your photos more depth. This will dramatically improve your photos and will even rival those of professionals.

Focus Tip: Portrait mode only works if the subjects in the foreground are distanced from the background, so take a few steps forward towards the camera.

Mission San Luis Rey
4050 Mission Ave., Oceanside
760-757-3651
Online: sanluisrey.org

Photographer: Sylvia Trinh
Online: @sylviatrinhphotography

Hosp Grove Park

Exposure game strong. Some people like dark and moody, while others prefer light and bright or even vibrantly saturated. Editing photos is a personal preference and it’s easy to do. Whether using your phone’s editing tools or an app for that, like Lightroom or Snapseed, spend a few minutes playing around with it. Don’t get too carried away or it could distract from the image. Photography is art and there is no right or wrong, just what feels good and tells your own story.

Editing Tips: If you stay with the golden three (brightness, contrast and saturation) and just move them around a few notches, it will make a world of difference.

Hosp Grove Park
Jefferson St. + Marron Rd., Carlsbad
760-696-9696
Online: carlsbadca.gov

Photographer: Casey MacKeen
Online: caseymackeen.com

Imperial Beach

Don’t 'shutter' at the thought of a family photo session. If you keep it fun and relaxed that will reflect a wonderful moment in time. If you are relaxed, your children will be too. Be sure to keep your background simple so it doesn’t compete with your family.

Holiday Card Tip: Leave some open space in your composition so you can add a nice “Warmest Wishes” text overlay when it comes time to print your holiday cards.

Imperial Beach
10 Evergreen Ave., Imperial Beach
619-423-8328
Online: imperialbeachca.gov

Photographer: Kylie Clarke
Online: kylieclarke.com

Spanish Village

Planning ahead will make the most of your time and take the stress out of your photo session. Take an hour to sit down and write the following: choose a fun location that’s not too far away, loosely pick a few wardrobe colors, some poses you like and schedule it for a time when everyone won’t be rushed. Tell everyone it’ll be a 30 minute photo session so they’ll know what to expect. Let them know they can have fun and explore the area afterward so they’ll have something fun to look forward to. Just maybe this will help your family look forward to doing it again next year.

Time Saving Tip: Invest in a wireless remote control camera timer for as little as $14. This will let you keep taking photos without stopping to go check and see if it turned out. The remote is easy to hide in your hand, especially if that arm is hugging your family.

Spanish Village
1770 Village Pl., Balboa Park
619-233-9050
Online: spanishvillageart.com

Photographer: Mariela Cohen
Online: marielacohen.com

Jack's Pond

A fun way to snap pictures of children is to get low with your subject, getting on their level will amplify their presence. Go after the kids have eaten dinner and let them run around, tell them to twirl, skip, blow bubbles, throw flowers up in the air or hug each other. Make sure to get in the photos by using the self-timer. Pose your family first, leaving space for yourself to jump in quickly.

Photo Tip: Keep snapping photos, even if you take 100 you know at least 5 of those will work out.

Jack’s Pond
986 La Moree Rd., San Marcos
760-744-9000
Online: san-marcos.net

Photographer: Kari Niehuus
Online: @karifloresphotography

Coronado Beach

Get a little closer, now don’t be shy. Cozy up close to those you love, this will limit gaps in between people and makes for a better photo. Tell everyone where to stand, where to put their hands and which way to look. Families look more connected and loving if they’re hugging or touching in some way.

Posing Tip: Make sure everyone’s eyes are looking in the same direction or else they’ll all look distracted.

Coronado Beach
100 Ocean Blvd., Coronado
619-522-7342
Online: coronado.ca.us

Photographer: Aubrey Baldwin
Online: @aubrey.baldwin.photography

Ocean Beach Pier

Location, location, location. Decide if you want a gorgeous canyon, something cool and urban or some warm beach vibes. Either way, you'll want to look for open shade to diffuse the sun. For a beach photo, seek out structure such as a pier and notice where the shadows fall. With your back toward the sun, stand at the shadow’s edge closest to where it transitions back to the light.

Lighting Tip: The wet sand is a great reflector so it will bounce light onto your faces.

Ocean Beach Pier
1850 Ocean Front St., Ocean Beach

Photographer: Robin Litrenta
Online: robinlitrentaphotography.com

Little Italy

You can't Photoshop personality. In a fun location like this, add your personal style with a little pop of color. By placing yourselves off-center, you’ll create blank space that will draw the viewer's eye to you, instead of looking at the center. This is called the Rule of Thirds. It’s a basic photographer’s rule to line your frame into thirds, horizontally and vertically.

Framing Tip: If you’re using a cell phone, change your camera setting to “grid” and it will automatically do this for you.

Little Italy
W. Ivy St. + India St., Little Italy

Photographer: Tanya Mercado
Online: tanya-mercado-photography.square

Guajome Regional Park

Make a plan, but don’t force it. When I noticed we weren’t all looking into the camera, we were all genuinely smiling and happy. So this goofy candid moment became our perfect shot. It’s easy to have big expectations, but when you’re not attached to the end result you’ll feel more satisfied capturing memories instead of poses. And you won’t stress everyone out by forcing a certain pose or doing a million retakes. Screenshot 3-5 photo ideas to show your partner, so they can help mobilize the kids and make it happen.

Editing Tip: If you rotate the horizon lines in your photos so it’s level and not crooked, you’ll be amazed how this will elevate your pictures.

Guajome Regional Park
3000 Guajome Lake Rd., Oceanside
760-724-4489
Online: sdparks.org

Photographer: Alexandra Davies
Online: alexdaviesliving.com

 

––Bonnie Taylor

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