A Professional Photographer’s How-To for Holiday Cards

The most magical time of the year will soon be upon us. (As of now, Christmas is only 34 days away.) So have you thought about doing a holiday card with your family? If so, we know that getting the perfect picture is like planning a major event—what will you wear, what will the kids wear, where will you take the pictures, should you have props? It’s a lot. So we asked local photographer Ilona Jade to give us some things to consider before you book your shoot.

Authenticity

“Go with what really shows off your family,” Jade says. “If you’re playful and like to take it easy, book a photographer that can give you action prompts to bring that out in a shoot. If you love things neat and fancy, hire a photographer that can represent you in a more editorial style.” She points out that family photographers specialize in different areas, so it’s important that you like their work for the look that you’re going for. “When inquiring, mention what is important to your family and how you want to be photographed,” she says. “If you stay true to your family and who you are, you will have a line of familiarity in all the portraits you’ll have over the years.” And no matter how much you like that trendy picture on Facebook or Instagram, if it isn’t really you, don’t do it. “If you are simple, stay simple,” Jade says. “If you are extravagant, don’t be afraid to show that off either.” 

History

Consider picking an image that can showcase what you and your family have done throughout the year. Maybe a child started school; maybe you got a new puppy—use your card as a way to memorialize these moments. “One of my favorite Christmas cards that I created for our family was a timeline of the year and big moments in life,” Jade says. “We were able to get several shoots that year and went on a big trip to Europe, so I made a timeline of all the year’s blessings and a photo of each. I still have a card from that year, and I cherish it like an heirloom.”

Plan

“There is nothing that can ruin a good photo like some bad, funky outfits,” Jade says. (Boy, is she right.) “Most family photographers these days will work with an online styling tool or have a styling guide they can send you with tips.” (If you want more tips on planning your family’s outfits, check out our How To: Family Holiday Card Outfits from one of our mommy bloggers.)

Jade also recommends that you book your shoots early and coordinate with a color palette. “The secret tip I give my clients is to create a Pinterest board—where they can encapsulate their family, home and style into one area,” she says. “Pin a photo or two of what your bedrooms and living rooms look like, previous shoots you have framed in your house and pin a few outfits that go with your overall style. Keep the number low so you don’t start getting too many contradictions.”

Location, Location, Location

While Jade says a great photographer can bring out the “awesomeness” in your family in any location, she also stresses that the better your location is, the more it can add to your pictures. “Along with the Pinterest board you make and send your photographer, think about the vibes your family puts out,” she says. “Are you very easy going and free? A field or in-home session would work great for you. Do you like to live large and celebrate all the details? You might want to book a Christmas tree farm or styled Santa session.” Jade says that she does a lot of photo shoots in fields and parks around DFW, but her favorite is in-home sessions. “Imagine looking back at photos on ‘that old couch’ you used to have, or sitting on your staircase, huddled up with your family,” she says. “These things are easily taken for granted, but especially after you move, your kids will start to forget the home they grew up in. These photos can be nostalgic.”  

Invest

Remember: Photography is both an art and a memory. Jade highly recommends that before you reach out to any photographers for booking, think about what you’re willing to invest. “Stay away from terms like, ‘Looking for a photographer that doesn’t charge an arm and a leg,’ or ‘Looking for reasonably priced Christmas photos,’” Jade says. “These statements are too broad and can [annoy] most photographers.” She suggests that if you want to find a photographer who does great work with great service, keep your inquiry respectful. “Photographers who reply to [the above] posts might be people starting out or not sure of their work, and will change their price depending on who’s asking,” Jade says. “There are people that pay between $100 and $10,000 on family photo sessions—there is no ‘golden’ number or price.” You can find a photographer for any budget. “More than likely, if they are out of your budget, they can recommend someone else that does similar work,” she says.

Show Gratitude 

The holiday season is the absolute busiest time for family photographers. “When most people try to wind down for…Thanksgiving and Christmas, family photographers are trying to do their best to take care of your family’s needs,” Jade says. So don’t forget about them! Consider bringing them a coffee or a little “thank you” to show that you’re grateful for the time they’re putting in, or if they’re squeezing you into their packed schedule. “It is full of adventure and excitement, but it can also be so busy that it drains the light out of us,” Jade says. “Something as simple as bringing a coffee…can set [your photographer] at ease, and typically they will work even harder to get you the best photos possible.” Finally, don’t forget to write a review for your photographer. Reviews go a long way and are appreciated more than you realize.

Images courtesy of Ilona Jade Photography.