The holidays can become so overwhelming, no matter how you prepare. The main reason I wanted to do a post about this is because I feel that even though it’s a hectic time of year, it can be the best time to take family photos. These photos also make great gifts for family members. I’m going to give some tips for the perfect holiday photos.
Choose a photographer who’s work you truly love.
These photos are going to be something that you will have for a lifetime, the last thing you want to do is go cheap or hire someone that you’re not completely crazy about, just to save some money. It’s all about priorities. I’m not someone who will buy a name brand purse or a luxury car, but I will pay for gorgeous photographs because they are some of the rare memories that will last lifetimes (generations). If you know that this is something that’s really important to you, put money aside every week or month so that you can hire the photographer you truly connect with.
How far out should you schedule?
Give your photographer plenty of time! For many family photographers, they are also photographing weddings this time of year. We are insanely busy. Not only this, but as someone who photographs using film, it takes a couple of weeks to mail it off and have it developed and scanned. Then, if you end up ordering framed prints, albums, etc. that is going to take a couple of weeks, too. Plan ahead of time and be in contact with your photographer a few months before the holidays, even if it’s just asking when you should do the session. I recommend no later than the first week of November.
How much should you budget?
If you are doing a full session, and not a mini session, you should budget for $1500+. My sessions do not come with digital files, and I do this for many reasons, which you can read more about HERE.
What should we purchase for gifts (for family and friends)?
I love talking with my clients about gift ideas for family members. Let’s go beyond the holiday cards and think about things that grandparents, aunts, and uncles would truly cherish. My mother had been asking for photos of her daughters and granddaughter for years. Finally, a couple of years ago, my sister and I snuck in a session a few months before Christmas. We decided to surprise my mother with a gallery wall for her living room. A few days before Christmas my mother went out to run some errands. We spent time hanging all of the framed prints when she was gone. When she walked in the door she immediately began weeping. She now gets to see her family every time she walks in her door. She said that she’ll just be watching TV on the couch and look over and see her girls and it brings her immense joy. My mom doesn’t have a home computer, so having digital files would do nothing for her. Printing photographs is so important and something we just don’t do these days. That’s why I’m here to help. This is something I’m passionate about and I’m happy to hold my client’s hands through the process. One of my favorite things my families purchase is “parent albums”. This is an exact replica of the gorgeous album that my client’s purchase for themselves, but it’s a little smaller. I can’t think of a more perfect gift for the holidays.
Other gorgeous gifts include gallery walls, individual framed prints, wooden box with small prints, etc.
This lends itself into the next question; should you include extended family in your family session?
This comes down to a few things: will they be in town when you have the session scheduled, do you want this to be a surprise, or do you want them being in the photos to be the gift? To me, if you can include them, do it! It’s so special to have grandparents and other family members involved. I’ve done a few extended family sessions and I make sure to break them up into individual groups, along with getting a full family portrait. The grandparent’s LOVE having photographs with their grand babies, along with their own children.
Where should the session take place?
I did an entire blog post on this, and the same stands true for holiday sessions. You can read more HERE. I do love mixing lifestyle photography with more classic portraits. This one of one of my seasonal regulars is one of my favorites. It was done in their backyard and was quick and simple, as they were short on time.
Should we bring props?
NO! The session should be all about the family interacting. Props can make the photos feel cheesy, too staged, and dated.
What should we wear?
This is a great one and one I get for almost every holiday session. Don’t do themed clothing, meaning no Christmas sweaters or making it about one holiday. You are investing a lot of money into these photos and you want them to be timeless and relevant year round. My advice is to wear clothing that is similar in color or plays off of each other well. I also love mixed patterns and just beautiful fabric. Neutrals are always a good idea, but if your family is all about that color…let’s have fun! Bellow are some examples of families who coordinated without being too matching or stiff.
Also, I have two Pinterest boards dedicated to wardrobe ideas for sessions:
Of course, there are always exceptions to matching and these sweet girls (who I’ve photographed 3 years in a row) are always in matching dresses and it’s about the cutest thing ever.