By Houzz

The holidays are upon us, which means in just a few weeks most of us will receive an onslaught of holiday cards from friends and family all over the world. “It’s the one time of the year when you’re deliberately contacting everyone who’s important in your life. You want to make your holiday card special,” says photographer Laura Case. Although she’s a big fan of posed shots in front of the tree or fireplace, Case mixes up her holiday shoots with indoor and outdoor settings. Here are a few ways you can capture memorable moments using your home as the backdrop, for a holiday card that people will remember.

Tiny Prints, original photo on Houzz

1. Shoot on the front steps. The front porch, front steps and entry are favorite shooting spots among photographers and clients alike. “Year after year, families just love shooting on the front steps of their homes,” says Case.

Tip: Cropping is everything when it comes to holiday photos. The strategic cropping and framing in this photo let you zone in and appreciate the subjects’ facial expressions and the texture of the background door and flooring.

Case says most families opt for a front door or entryway backdrop because it’s one of the few spots in the home that’s always camera ready. “We usually dress up our front porch or entry, especially when it’s holiday season. And the front door is where we have design details that we’re more than happy to show off, like a homemade holiday wreath, intricate molding or interesting wood grain in the flooring or door,” says Case.

Minted, original photo on Houzz

2. Highlight furry companions. Not everyone has children or wants to feature kids in their holiday photos — which opens the door for our furry domestic friends. Cats, dogs and and other pets make the cutest holiday cards and have wide appeal. Sling a cat’s paw over the back of your favorite wicker chair or wrap a puppy’s furry face in a wool blanket and shoot away. (Don’t forget to reward your subject with a few treats.)

Related: Get a New Cat Tree for Your Furry Friend to Play Around On

Tip: Case recommends shooting by a window for maximum natural light. “Unless you’re a pro, built-in flash and artificial light are not your friends for interior shoots,” she says, adding that natural light casts a more flattering glow.

Minted, original photo on Houzz

3. Use colorful seating. This preloved mustard-yellow sofa picks up the earthy tones of the grass. Natural light from the magic twilight hour casts a beautiful glow. The subjects’ atypical arrangement on the colorful seat adds a whimsical vibe.

Tip:Rearrange furniture and mix things up. Place outdoor furniture inside and vice versa; think outside the interior box of your house.

Tiny Prints, original photo on Houzz

4. Swing and play. For best results, shoot family photos in natural light. “We’re seeing customers take their holiday photos in their backyards, in front of trees and in the outdoors,” says Ashley La Fountain of Tiny Prints, which offers paper and photo products.

Tip: Shoot subjects doing something that feels natural to them. This holiday card captures a little gal perched on a tire swing doing something that she loves to do every afternoon.

Bed and bedroom shots work best when the photo subjects are wearing a uniform color or when the bed’s style and decorative details are picture ready.

Minted, original photo on Houzz

5. Head to the garage. Photographer Amy Renea loves using garage doors as backdrops for family shoots at any time of the year. Most homes have garage doors. And they’re typically the largest expanse of unbroken color in a home, making them striking backdrops for photos,” she says.

Homeowner Barbara Ramirez always uses her home’s brick exterior for photo backdrops. “It’s beautiful reclaimed brick from an old building in New Orleans. And it’s a great way of seeing how tall my daughter has grown throughout the years,” she says.

Tip: Situate the subject a few feet out from the background and use a lower aperture. “That way the background is blurred and really lets the eye appreciate the sharpness and clarity of the foreground subject,” says Renea.

Original photo on Houzz

6. Let the love show. Photographer Lindsey Freitas thinks that the entire house is perfect for a shoot — as long as the images show how the family lives and loves in the home. “Whether it’s little kids running down hallways, sitting on the stairs while tying shoes or reading books with Mom and Dad, I want my clients to look at the images and really identify with them. It’s the biggest compliment when they tell me that I’ve captured the essence of their family in a single shot and that they’ll remember that moment forever,” says Freitas.

Tip: Don’t expect the kids to cooperate and entertain themselves for hours on end. Have plenty of ammunition ready: Costumes, snacks, books, funny faces and upbeat music go a long way in keeping the mood light and fun.

Renea encourages families to take out the trampoline if there’s one in the house. “Everyone can jump around for a bit and loosen up; you always get the most authentic smiles after,” says Renea.

Freitas gets holiday cards from clients and friends all the over the world. “The ones that stick out are those where I can clearly see the love and hear the laughter,” she says.