How to take the perfect family photo

The holidays are a great time to capture the perfect family photo — the one to send friends in your annual card, save in your scrapbooks and proudly display on the fireplace mantel.

But what makes a family photo 'perfect'? For some, the perfect family photo captures everyone gathered around the dinner table in coordinated outfits. For others, it shows a snapshot into the sometimes messy — and often hilarious — reality of daily family life. The experts at Digital Photography Review, an Amazon subsidiary, have shared 4 ways to make this year's family photo shine.

1. Strike a pose

How would you describe your family in a few words? The answer can help decide the theme and pose that best captures the personality of your family. Don't be afraid to incorporate props. Die-hard sports fans may coordinate with matching jerseys, while the goofy bunch may have everyone make funny faces.

2. Notice your surroundings

A busy background (street signs, leaves, crowds, lots of color, household items) might compete with your family. If you love the busy look but want to better focus on the family, move them so that they are farther away from the background and closer to the camera. Also, watch out for things sticking out of people's heads! Background trees, streetlights, steeples, poles — these can be easy to miss when you are taking the photo. If you plan to use this photo in a card, take both horizontal and vertical versions and leave plenty of space around your family so that you can crop as necessary. This is another time to pay attention to busy backgrounds — if you want to put lettering across your photo, it's easier if the background is simple so that the letters can be read easily.

3. Light them up

Proper lighting helps our eyes focus on the subject. Be sure the light is highlighting each family member rather than the background. If you are using a mobile phone, you can do this by tapping on a subject's face then scrolling up or down to brighten or darken the exposure.

For outdoor photos, position your family so that they face an area that is open to the sky instead of an area that obstructs daylight with trees or buildings. This works best with indirect light — facing directly towards the sunlight may cause your family to squint. For indoor photos, position the family to face a large picture window. You may have to move some furniture around, but the snapshot will be worth it!

4. Share your story

The best part of any family photo is the story behind it. Even if the photo isn't completely in focus, half the kids are making faces or the only family member making eye contact with the lens is the dog, the photo still captures your family's unique, fun and loving personalities. When you look at the photo years from now, you will remember the laughter (or tears), the fun (or chaos) of the five (or 50) minutes it took to get the photo.

If you're looking to send customized holiday cards this year using your favorite photos, Amazon Prints makes it easy. Choose from hundreds of designs, printed on thick cardstock in rich color, or design your own. As always, delivery is free with Prime. Learn more here.