Guest Blog: Portrait and Christmas Card Photographer Gilmar Smith

Not Your Average Christmas Card

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! And I am super happy to be back here to tell you all about this year’s Christmas cards.

This year, I started booking Christmas Cards in August! Even with some cancelations due to the pandemic, I created lots of epic Christmas Cards with my clients, and I will show you some of my favorites. 

Of course, all of this started at home. I started making fun pictures Christmas pictures with my kids back in 2016, and it quickly became one of my favorite traditions. In the past years, I posted our pictures on social media and emailed them to our friends and family. This year, I decided to print and send our cards in the mail. It was fantastic receiving messages from our friends and family from all around the world when they received our card. It was so much fun; I am considering making cards and sending them in every holiday!

At the top of this post is the image I created with my kids to use on our Christmas card this year.

The main inspiration for the image was bumper cars. I took the pictures of these cars over a year ago, and I knew eventually I would use them for a composite. The background is a stock image from Adobe Stock, as well as the reindeers. If you look closely in the back, there is a sign that says “Orlando.” I thought that would be a fun touch, especially this year that I decided to mail the cards (we live in Orlando). Those two signs there are props I borrowed from my friends at Spectacular Themes.

After I built the background, it was time to take our pictures. Knowing the angles and perspective of the composite was crucial to understanding how to pose ourselves.

To finish, I added was a little bit of atmosphere and color grading to make the composite more cohesive.

There was another picture on the back of the card, because why would you have one picture when you can have two?!

The process of creating this one was pretty much the same as the previous one. I already had the sleigh picture on my Lightroom Library (I always have my camera with me, and I make sure to take photos of everything to build my own stock). Then I added the water in the background, the presents, and of course, created the story with my kids about us ruining Christmas and trying to save it at the last moment.

My kids are well trained when it comes to pictures. They have been creating with me for many years, but I am sure you are curious about approaching this kind of work with clients. 

So what goes into these sessions? You may ask. I take pride in offering one of a kind Christmas cards designed in collaboration with my clients. Before everybody gets in front of the camera, we have a brainstorming session to decide the theme and everyone’s role in the picture. Then I go on a quest for props if we need them and build a background or a set. 

Exhibit A:

This is Rachel’s family. Rachel is one of my favorite clients. I do her branding photography as well as her family photos. They are a super fun family, and if you read my post last year, you may remember their Christmas picture. It still is one of my favorites ever!

This year, she wanted to incorporate elements that reflect what we have gone through in 2020.

We talked about a sleigh for the kids in our brainstorm session, an avalanche, masks, Lysol, and toilet paper! Yes, in 2019, those things wouldn’t make sense, but sadly in 2020, they do!

So here is what I put together for them!

Exhibit B:

This is another returning client. Last year they approached me with the idea of starting a new tradition. They wanted to turn one of their favorite album covers into their family picture for their Christmas card every year. Last year we did Motley Crue, Girls, Girls, Girls.

This year they picked U2 Joshua Tree.

I love that they show up every year all dressed up and in character. I am sure they take time to practice it all in front of the mirror because they blow me away every year!

Exhibit C:

I welcomed this family as clients this year. They picked a very unusual theme for the Christmas card, a brewery!

So I rushed to find a stock image for the background, and then we created the story from there. To make it more christmassy, I asked the boy to hold a small Christmas tree, and then I added the wreath, the giant Christmas tree, and the beer flood in Photoshop. I also took individual pictures for them to place in the back of the card.

Exhibit D:

Another new family I welcomed as clients this year with an unusual theme for Christmas! After talking for months trying to set up a circus-themed photoshoot, they decided to do it for their Christmas cards. If you know me, you know that circus is one of my favorite themes. Instead of spending time doing everything in Photoshop I spent it searching for props and building this glorious circus set in my garage! I think the theme is totally appropriate for this year because it has been a crazy circus!

It fills my heart with joy creating every single one of these images with my clients and hearing all about their family and friends’ reactions when they received it. Some of them are already planning what to do for next year!

You can see more of Gilmar’s work at, and keep up with her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

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