Holiday photo hacks: How to DIY and get amazing results

By Amy Davis - Reporter/Consumer Expert

HOUSTON - Any day now you will start getting holiday cards in the mail from your friends and family with perfect family photos on the front. Many of them may be professional, but you don't have to spend big bucks to get card-worthy pictures of your family. 

Consumer expert Amy Davis sat down with professional photographer Liz Martin of Liz London Photography for some tips to make your do it yourself photos look like you paid a bundle for them. 

If you've got a smartphone, you've got a camera. Whether you use your phone or a point and shoot camera, there are a few things you can do to take your pictures to the next level. 

"Take as many pictures if you can," Martin said. "If you have the memory card, fill it up." 

It's a numbers game. Martin says she takes between 70 and 100 pictures to get between 10 and 20 keepers. 

You'll increase your chances of getting a good shot if you take pictures outside in the early morning either between 8 and 10. or in the evening between 4 and 5:30. These are times photographers call the golden hour. In the middle of the day, the sun is at its brightest, creating shadows and causing you to squint. 

"It will be very bright outside and then your photos become washed out," Martin said.  

If you're taking photos inside, take them near a window to use that natural light. But the window shouldn't be in the shot.

In group photos, there are easy ways to create intimacy. 

"My biggest thing is hug or hold hands," she said. "If you have a group of people and you see gaps in between, you just gotta squeeze in a little close for that short period of time." 

Pictures don't have to be perfect with free apps like Snapseed.

"The biggest thing that makes people feel like it's a professional photo is that blurred image in the background," said Martin. Snapseed can help you create that look. 

And Martin says where you get your photos developed makes a big difference. She recommends www.mpix.com or Shutterfly, where the printers show a wider range of colors over a drugstore or big box store photo lab. 

"Their printers are set up for fast turn-around," she said about the drugstore photo printers.

For bigger groups, or candid shots you want to be in, you can buy a remote for less than $10 to work with your camera. It's how Martin's husband captured a candid shot of himself and their young son. 

"The camera's on a tripod and he's holding the remote from behind. And he takes it... and literally, it's the best shot," Martin said.  

When you're picking out your family's outfits for your picture, keep it simple. You don't all have to wear the same color. Just coordinate well together and avoid prints and bold patterns. 

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