Tips For a Great Family Holiday Session

Hey, everyone,

So, it’s getting to be fall, and we all know what that means. No, I’m not talking about PSL life or chunky sweaters on a cool, fall day. I’m talking about portrait sessions for those annual holiday cards and letters (and if you haven’t booked yours yet, we would love to be a part of your family’s memories, so give us a shout here). But YIKES! That can be soooo much pressure, so here are some tips I have on making the annual family portrait a bit less stressful.

1.  Hire a Professional

What I love about the time we live in is that people are capturing more and more still images of general life. I know I’m never without my phone and constantly snapping pictures of my day to day life (follow me on Instagram and like us on Facebook to see more of that)! Everyone seems to have a camera. On the other hand, everyone seems to have a camera – which is tempting to take advantage of when it comes time for the annual Christmas portrait session.

But for something as special as your annual family portrait, you really want to hire someone who can wrangle your brood family while still capturing the essence only your family has!

Make it a line item in your family budget so you can book the exact photographer you want. The reason you hire a professional photographer is to capture those little intimate details that make up your family at any given moment in time.  Whether it’s the way siblings relate to each other or the shared intimate moment between a parent and child, you want someone who will be able to accurately capture that for you.

2.  Trust Your Photographer

This one is a big one, since trust usually is a big step. You definitely need to trust that your photographer will see what’s important to you and capture those moments. But how do you know he/she will capture what you want?

I recommend meeting with your photographer ahead of time, so you can go over any expectations or ideas you may have.

Mainly, you want to let your photographer know who you are, what’s important to you in your session.  Lay it all out for them! If you want really specific poses or groups, let your photographer know ahead of time, so they can plan your shoot.

Key information you can tell your photographer (especially with little ones involved) is nap schedules, feeding schedules, etc. If there are somethings your kids are really into at the moment (soccer, the Olympics, ballet), let us know. That way, when your kids are a bit distracted, we know how to regain their focus for that precious second.

The more information we have about you and your family before hand, the better we’ll be able to: (a) get a feel for your family’s personality and style; and, with that information, (b) be able to adjust in the moment on the day of the shoot in ways that doesn’t seem intrusive or awkward.

3.  Let Your Photographer Do the Heavy Lifting

So, you’ve decided to trust your photographer and now it’s time for the actual session. If you’re like every other parent I know, you already have enough stress in your life. It’s my job as the photographer to make sure I get everyone to notice me (excuse me, my inner diva is showing!) to capture that perfect moment. So, let me do the worrying for you about whether little Timmy or Sally is looking where they need to look. Often, I’ll tell the parents and older siblings, “You make sure you keep looking at me and I’ll worry about getting the little one’s attention.”

Parents, this goes double for you! Let me act silly to get everyone’s attention. while you relax into a wonderful, fall – dare I say it – PSL atmosphere!

When you are stressing or worrying about whether or not your child is looking at the camera, guess what? That stress and worry shows up on your face, too!

So, let your photographer do the proverbial heavy lifting to get that perfect shot. All you have to do is sit back, relax, and enjoy the session…and wait for the final product (YAY)!

which leads me to my biggest tip of all…

4.  Let Everyone Be Themselves

As you may have noticed, my mission is to give you an authentic portrait of yourself, so this tip is seems pretty obvious . . . BUT . . . when the pressure of “this is going to be our family portrait for a whole year” starts kicking in, authenticity can fly out the window. It’s understandable: this picture is being sent on cards to family and friends, posted on social media, and hung on your walls.

Your professional photographer understands how important this portrait is to you and how perfect you want it to be. In fact, they’re working so hard to make sure you get that perfect shot. But sometimes, when we strive for a “picture perfect” shot, people (ahem…kids) don’t always cooperate.

Let’s be honest: toddlers are not the most . . . flexible humans in the world.  Sometimes we’re lucky enough to get them to sit still and smile for 15 seconds. I’ve had sessions where the parents are struggling to get their normally perfectly behaved toddler to just sit still and smile, and guess what? The toddler always wins on that one (sorry, parents). The toddler ends up red-faced and screaming, and the parents end up looking defeated… and that’s never a look we want to capture. So, my last tip is simple: just let them be themselves. It will make for a more relaxed environment for everyone involved – which will give you the feel you want for your final images. For example, if you have a portrait session outside and the little ones are distracted by the atmosphere around them, interact with your child instead of trying to force them to focus and say cheese. You will usually end up with a great shot!


So those are my quick tips for getting a great family shot this holiday season. Here’s a session I did last year with a large family in Augusta, Georgia using these tips and tricks. Ready to book yet? Click here for more info!

Hope you enjoy!

-Nicoline