Now that we've all settled down from Thanksgiving festivities and conquered our bargain shopping, I think it's safe to say we can talk about Christmas/Holiday portraits - even though I know most of you were ready for the upcoming holiday(s) weeks ago.
Christmas portraits are a BIG DEAL so that's why I've come up with a list of tips that could help you and your family get the perfect portraits this holiday season. I've broken down the list of tips into basic key factors you need to consider: who, what, where, when and how much; in order to make the process less hair-pulling kind of stressful.
WHO to hire for your photographer? - As much as I would like to say me, I know that I'm not everyone's cup of tea and my style doesn't appeal to everyone. You definitely want to do your research because the photography industry is over-saturated with photographers, but don't get overwhelmed - I'm here to help you narrow down your options! I can also give you recommendations based on your budget and style preferences.
Ask your friends/family for referrals - nine times out of ten, those who are close to you has worked with or is following a photographer on social media
If you haven't seen the work of referred photographer first hand, please do your own research on them to make sure they offer the product and services you're looking for as well as reputable. The more you research beforehand, the more satisfied you'll be with the overall outcome
Search Google - for photographers in your city/town or the closest larger city your area is associated with (for example: if you live in Miamisburg you would search Miamisburg, Ohio Portrait Photographer or Dayton, Ohio Portrait Photographer)
Think about your Pinterest boards, what style appeals to you the most? - Does your board consists mostly of candid moments? Do you like more of the traditional posed pictures? Are you pinning more light/bright, natural, or darker images? Do you prefer outdoor/unique locations over a studio backdrop?
Each photographer has a unique style, so knowing what style you're attracted to the most will help narrow that long list of photographers down to what suits your tastes; You don't want to hire a traditional studio photographer if you tend to like more natural moments or a photographer who delivers images with darker tones when you prefer lighter images
WHERE should you get them taken? - This relies mostly on your tastes mentioned in the previous key points. If you like more traditional images, check out the portrait studios in your area - if you like unique or outdoor locations, look for a photographer who specializes in on-location sessions. Here’s a couple of my on-location suggestions:
In-Home Session - Nothing screams more you than having your portraits taken in-home; this definitely gives your portraits more of a cozy, personal touch.
Something Old Dayton - If having a stranger taking your portraits in your homes makes you nervous as much as it does me, then this would be a fun alternative for you. Every year the owners style their studio spaces with their rental collection pieces that give their sets an homey kind of cozy; you can find one of their setups that I photographed on this blog
Some photographers who have a studio space will normal style/decorate their studio for the holidays as well or have their own outdoor set-up
Outdoors - If you can bundle up and endure the cold, why not find a location outdoors?
Be mindful that some (Christmas Tree) farms and local MetroParks require a fee or permit to have photographs taken on location
A Place that's Special - Portraits are a reflection of you in most aspects, why not have them taken at a place that's special to you and your family? This could be at a family farm or your favorite vacation spot
Please note that most, if not all, photographers charge a fee when traveling outside of their normal service area; Again be mindful that some locations require fees and/or permits to have photographs taken on location
WHEN should you have your portraits taken? - This really depends on two things really: 1) when your photographer is available and 2) if you want prints and/or Christmas cards
Christmas/Holiday portrait season typically begins the second or third weekend in November and in most cases ends the weekend before or a couple days before Christmas; some photographers and studios may extend this out to the end of the year
If you want prints or cards to send to friends and family BEFORE the holidays - I highly suggest your portraits done as early as possibly and no later than a month before the holidays, here's why:
Most photographers, depending on their seasonal work load, take at least two weeks to edit your images and send them out to you; again this depends on their seasonal workload and their editing process - it may take longer and it may take less time
Due to the higher demand for prints during the season, most places who develop film or process prints, add at least two weeks to their normal process time; again it could be more or could be less - just use these tips as a precautionary rule of thumb
If you're not concerned about sending cards out before the holidays and just want nice pictures to document the current stage in your family's life - then you can schedule your session as late as you want, depending on your photographer's availability
WHAT should we wear? - This is the most commonly asked question I receive for any session I book, period. This depends on quiet a few factors, but in most cases families like to dress up for these portraits.
If you booked a photographer or location that has styled sets, you obviously want to coordinate a little with sets - you don't want to match it completely or you'll blend into the environment around you like a chameleon
Otherwise - you have mostly free reign in this matter. I highly recommend that you at least try to semi-coordinate with your significant other and/or your family or at least don't wear anything that clashes or is off-the-wall wild. If you're still unsure, I have a Pinterest board that will give you a general idea of some outfit choices or you could always ask your photographer what they would recommend
HOW MUCH should I pay for portraits? - Although this is an important part in the decision making process, I always make this last on the priority list. Memories and moments are things that are really important to me, most of my family’s shenanigans were captured on camera then the stories shared later with strong emotions whether being fits of laughter or tears of grief.
My thought process, it's perfectly okay if you don't feel the same, is if I'm hiring someone to capture myself and my family - I want to be able to have this same experience with them. I want images that don't have a unnatural or weird color filters on them, images that will surpass the trends of social media, and I want images that are true to what happened in the moment. If I found a photographer that fit this style, had excellent quality images, and was a bit out of my price range I would do whatever it took to book that photographer. Whether it would be keeping an eye out for giveaways or discount rates, waiting and saving up for the next time, or simply doing everything I could possibly do in order to make sure I could pay that photographer's rate.
Think of it this way, if it was any other item that was offered in a store that you desperately wanted, but you couldn't afford it at the time - you would wait for a sale or save up for it, right? There's nothing different about hiring someone to take your pictures. You're paying for an experience and you're paying for something that isn't really offered in your every day store. You're supporting a small business owner who practically works 24/7 and doesn't pay themselves nearly enough because investing back into their business is more important.
Average hourly cost for a photographer is anywhere from $150 up to $300+ depending on how much experience they have
If these tips helped you in achieving the perfect holiday portraits, leave me a comment - I’d love to hear your story!