Client Tips

How to Prepare for a Successful Family Holiday Photo Session

December 19, 2018

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A sunny gal from Cali living in the south of France. I adore slow living, magic, and celebrating the simple joys of daily life. I’m a self-proclaimed Disney nerd (as is my husband!), obsessed with cats and cocoa, and you can often find me swimming with the fishies in the salty sea. Come along and enjoy the magic, the simple joys of life with me...



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How to Prepare For Your Annual Holiday Family Photos

After wrapping up the studio’s Fall Christmas Card family sessions here in Strasbourg, I thought I’d put together a short post on my top tips on preparing for your Christmas Card photo session. 75% of my families book a Fall session, mainly due to the beautiful foliage and for their annual family Christmas card. It’s a busy time, so I thought I’d help you prep before the big day! Here are my top tips on preparing for your upcoming holiday portrait session.

Plan Your Outfits Ahead of Time

As you can see from these images of this recent holiday session in Central Park, this family did not match outfits. Instead of matching, you want to pick your outfits similar to this family, you want to coordinate. 

Match < Coordinate

This includes picking the main color, in this example red, and choosing complementary colors that mix well. I have a full blog post on coordinating colors for your photo shoot here

Typically we want to avoid ultra bright, bold colors, but with holiday cards, colors like red, oranges and pine greens work well. Make sure you’ve picked out your wardrobe ahead of time; feel free to shoot my studio an email with pictures, and I’d be happy to share feedback on what would look best from my lens!

Send Back Your Q+A Questionnaire

One of the first things my studio assistant Alex will send out to you upon booking is a custom Q+A questionaire. This helps me get to know you and your family, so I can help make your session as unique to you as possible! Questions like “What types of photos are you envisioning for the session? Just the kids? The whole family inter- acting?” and “Are there any must-have photos?” are important for me to prepare for your session. While I’ve photographed hundreds of families over the three years my studio has been in business, and I have mental list of shots I know mom and dad are usually seeking, it’s always helpful to make sure I know what mom is envisioning.

Family Christmas Photo Session in Central Park: NYC Family Photographer Helena Woods shares her tips for a successful Christmas photo session

Have Some “Special Treat” Offers Up Your Sleeve

If they are old enough to understand you, it’s a good idea to prepare them for what’s to come before the session starts. Explain how much the photos mean to you so they know to be on their best behavior. A lot of families discuss and pick something fun in advance as a treat after the session if they’re good listeners, post-session ice-cream is usually always effective!  It also helps if they’re bellies are full and they’ve has some good rest beforehand.

Once you prepare them physically and mentally, then feel free to give them (and you!) grace! They’re little, and we know that some days don’t always go as planned. We’ve seen it all and will make sure to get you great photos, regardless of their moods. Our goal is to make this as fun and stress-free as it possibly can be for you and your family!

Pack a Bag

Before your session, pack a bag with snacks, water and any small objects (like toys or lollipops) that might help us get their attention when it’s time for your little ones to look at the camera.

Bag Checklist:

– Flats or flip-flops for walking between photo spots

– Second outfit (if you’re doing two)

– Touch-up makeup

– Water bottle (for warmer sessions)

– Coat or cover-up (for colder sessions)

– Snacks for the little ones

– If you have a toddler or younger, small eye-catching toys (or lollipops) to hold their attention

Family Christmas Photo Session in Central Park: NYC Family Photographer Helena Woods shares her tips for a successful Christmas photo session


The most important tip…relax and be your natural self! Often times we’ve had clients beg their children for cooperation which we find generally makes children worse and makes Mom and Dad look stressed in photos.

A relaxed and yet firm attitude with kids (as tough as it can be) and some bribes in your mind, like I wrote about above,  if you need to offer them halfway through the session.

As the photographer, I have a super fun, laid-back and yet direct was of communicating with kids, so generally, our studio’s clients like to let me take over for most of the session. That way you can relax and step in only as needed. You’ll notice that although my photos look very natural and appear unposed, I actually do a lot of gentle posing during my sessions, especially for holiday sessions when my families are looking for that traiditonal shot for Christmas cards.

With my holiday season now closed in 2018, I can’t wait to see you and your family in the new year! Check out my travel schedule to see what part of the world I’ll be in next Fall!

Ready to get on the books for next Fall? Connect with me here!

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I'm Helena, your new kindred spirit.

Sunny free-spirit, writer and creator in love with documenting the simple joys of life. I am passionate about noticing light and truth around me and reflecting it back to others.

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