It is officially November which means it is almost Christmas which means it is time to plan your annual Family Portrait! Growing up I remember shopping for a special dress to wear in our family portraits. Back then going to a professional photo studio and ordering large canvas prints was really expensive. It is still pricey to do that but nowadays families have more affordable and creative options. By creative of course, I mean with a vintage twist!
Here are some ideas for creating memorable vintage inspired family portraits:
1. Dress Vintage– The most obvious way to get a vintage looking photo is to wear vintage or vintage inspired clothing. You can go all out genuine vintage or just wear a few coordinating accessories like vintage style hats. Flat caps for the men and boys and felt hats for the ladies and girls can bring just enough of a vintage flair.
Consider picking one decade as your theme. Tie it into something you have done as a family this year will also create a story you can tell in your year-end newsletter (I love to read these.) Did you go to a vintage themed event, go camping, visit Disneyland? Take whatever “modern” event you participated in and find a way to make it vintage with clothing, props, setting, and post-production filters. If you hire a creative photographer they should be able to help plan your shoot.
Potential locations: With an old car, on the porch of an old house, inside by a roaring fireplace, against an old brick wall or barn, in a field or by a lake, river or ocean (nature is timeless.)
Props: Vintage luggage, picture frames, picnic baskets, decorated Christmas trees, old fishing or camping gear, or mismatched chairs.
Clothing: Coordinate with a color such as red or green for the holidays. Vintage style dresses for mom and girls are always popular. For dad consider a button up or pullover knit vest or sweater, bow tie and hat. Boys clothing can match dad too (a little man) or be vintage boys clothing (see here for ideas.)
2. Get cookin’- You don’t need to hire a photographer or arrange a special scene to take a fun family photograph. All you need to do is pile into the kitchen and start making some cookies. Put on matching vintage aprons and have a friend capture the fun on film…er uh.. digital cards. I have seen photos of entire families in aprons, just women, just kids, and my favorite three or four generations of cooks all in matching aprons. If you have a big family gathering over Thanksgiving where everyone is in the kitchen cooking this is the perfect time to capture the memories. I plan to do this with my little family this Christmas- grandma, me and kids all cooking together.
3. Go Old’ Timey- An alternative to hiring your own photographer or taking your own pictures is to go to someone already set up to take vintage pictures. Do you have a tourist area nearby? Most likely there is an Old Time Victorian photographer sandwiched in between all the trinket and candy shops. Wear your own Victorian clothes or get dressed in the costumes they provide. Every family needs at least one of these pictures in their collection! They make great Christmas cards too.
You can also simply use a “vintage” or “retro” filter on your camera phone or software (I use ) and turn any snapshot into a vintage picture.
4. Santa Baby! – Pictures with Santa are not just for kids. A few years ago we asked around for the “best” Santa and found two who were wearing vintage style Santa suits. If I had known my then 10 month old would cry her eyeballs out at the first sight of Santa and that I would end up being in the picture, I would have dressed for it. So the next year we found a photographer who not only hired an authentic looking Santa, she also set up a complete Vintage Christmas display in an old house. Dad and I dressed up too so we were able to get some great pictures of all of us. Baby still cried her little eyeballs out so we only got one shot with Santa. I LOVE how our pictures turned out.
5. A Family of ….Feet – If you are not feeling photogenic or you just want to do something really unique how about just a picture of your feet. Wear vintage shoes if you like or go barefoot. I snapped this quick photo of our family of feet when the little one was only a few months old and it is probably my favorite picture ever! I want to do this shot again will all of us in our vintage shoes.
6. Be Ugly- Here in Reno, Nevada the young hip set frequently have themed bar crawls like the Zombie crawl and in December, The Ugly Sweater crawl. Stealing the theme and having your entire family in ugly sweaters would make for one funny vintage 80’s Christmas Card. Get extra 80’s with leg warmers, peg leg jeans, and a side ponytail too.
We put on Christmas sweaters (some ugly, some just winter-y) for a Christmas card with Sandy-Claws / Jack Skellington
This year the Ugly Sweater crawl is now a Onesis crawl. Yet another great idea for family photos. Matching PJ’s or Onesi footed pajamas brings back memories of many Christmas mornings from my childhood. There are many family pajama sets out now such as these by or You could make this work for any vintage decade by choosing vintage inspired nightgowns and pajamas. White Victorian nightgowns and caps for A Christmas Carol theme. 1940s and 1950s pajamas in red plaid. 1960s and 1970s pajamas in checks or stripes. 1980s in footed pajamas. Ooooh, the possibilities!
7. Use what you have
This past Christmas we added a second little one to our family. He was born December 1st so needless to say we were quite overwhelmed by the holidays. We didn’t have time to arrange a professional family picture or risk exposing my newborn to germs in public places. So instead I used the decorations I had up to take some newborn pictures.
For this set, I used a vintage Christmas tree skirt, a pile of presents, ornaments, and a cute vintage style Santa hat I
For our family photo, we posed next to our (vintage 1920s) outside porch decorations (those were new) . Its not a professional shot my any means (thanks for trying Mom!) but I will always look back at this and remember how exhausted, overwhelmed, and thankful I was to have our expanded family healthy and home for Christmas.
There you have it. Seven fun ways to put a little vintage into your Christmas photos. I hope you try one of these ideas. Tell me some of your best family portraits themes in the comments: