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Tips For Making Awesome Holiday Photos (And Memories) With Your Family This Season

Moms and Dads, it’s that time of year again: HOLIDAY PHOTOS with your family (cue dramatic music). (Updated, Original Post 10/17/16)

While I love the idea of family photos it’s easy to let the stress of putting everything together get in the way of fun and enjoyment – that holiday feeling! Well, I won’t let the stress of taking bad photos, finding a location, getting everyone together or grumpy kids stop me, and neither should you. Tips from my good friend and family photographer, Nicole Wise will help you set up an easy session with fantastic photos to show for it.

1. This year, we got a late start so we are booking our session in December in hopes of having a new set of family photos for the new year.
2. Don’t let deadlines and due dates stop you from taking family photos. You can take them anytime you feel up to it!

Holiday Photos, Why Take Them?

As I think back to last year when I set up our October photo session, my thoughts were focused on the great year we had as a family – we conquered the year, we overcame problems, we welcomed a new addition to our family, and even celebrated a few milestones. There was no better way to wrap up the year than to permanently capture my family’s memories and milestones into amazing photographs.

Professional photographer, Nicole Wise has given me some golden pieces of wisdom, and I’m happy to share them with you here.

Classic Holiday Photos Backdrop: Nature

Photographer Nicole suggests having your photo shoot outside this year. She is personally drawn to scenic locations with beautiful trees. They provide an interesting background and also great lighting.

“Locations that are filled with greenery and nature give a beautiful sense of adventure. For me, they give the photos a sense of wonder and magic to make your moments a little more special!” – Nicole Wise

Bonus Tip: Bring some props, cozy blankets, and special family items to your session. According to Nicole, “it could add a personal touch and unique feature to your photographs.”

Holiday photo of the Behrens Family set in the woods
Image: Wise by Nicole Photography / Courtesy of the Behrens Family

Classic Holiday Photos Theme: Warm, Cute and Cozy

Holiday photos: Christmas photo of a baby in holiday pajamas playing with Christmas tree lights
Image: Wise by Nicole Photography / Courtesy of Rosalind Prieto

The things that I love most about winter are scarves, coats, blankets and anything else that will keep me comfortable and warm. So I didn’t stray far from my comforts for last year’s holiday photos. My family had our holiday pajamas on and Nicole took pictures of us in our living  room like it was Christmas morning.

“I have been loving the cute and cozy winter shoots! As someone who lives in Southern California and doesn’t quite experience ‘winter’ I love when clients bring their own warmth to our sessions.” – Nicole Wise

For your holiday photos why not try sitting down by the fire in your living room, sip some cocoa, or check on the chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven? Plus, you get to eat the cookies afterwards!

There’s also something about these cute and cozy family settings that naturally bring out our fun and silly sides. From personal experience the sessions could get ridiculously giggly.

“One thing I always tell people during sessions is to enjoy the experience. People often stress too much about photoshoots and the best shots I get are when my clients relax and goof around with their spouse, their kids, their pets.” – Nicole Wise

Bonus Tip: To ensure the best photos, be in the moment. Don’t focus too much on posing and smiling. Engage with your family; tell jokes, play and tease each other. Nicole says that “nothing beats a real laugh in a photo.”

Holiday photos: Little boy dresses as an astronaut for Halloween
Image: Wise by Nicole Photography / Courtesy of Blogger Kristin from Be Mom As F

How to Coordinate Outfits: Don’t Match!

Many of Nicole’s clients want to match outfits in their sessions, but she advises against this.

“Photos often look better when you set a color theme and each person fits the guidelines but doesn’t match completely.” – Nicole Wise

Having just a “pop” of the same color is very pleasing to the eye in photographs, and instead of being identical everyone can show off their personal style. It shows in the photograph when everyone is comfortable and proud of what they’re wearing.

Important Tips for Parents

  1. Make sure to get a good night’s rest and don’t do too much before the shoot!

    Like me you’re probably extremely busy. Most of us have packed schedules filled with errands and commitments such as piano lessons or sports practice. It’s important to try and avoid scheduling something before your session. Nicole warns us, “I have had some grumpy kids in front of my camera and it seems that it usually happens when they have had a full day before the shoot.”

    A suggestion if you can’t keep your schedule light is to set your photo session for first thing in the morning, and it might work better for your little ones!

  2. Let the kids play, run around, goof off, and have fun during your session.

    Don’t worry about kids misbehaving, the regular rules don’t apply in photography. Let them run wild, let them be themselves! Nicole reassures us, “whenever I have shoots with little ones I plan to be running after them taking photos because these candids are the best! Don’t put too much stress on the shoot and let everyone enjoy it!”

  3. Bring bribes, treats, or rewards for the kids just in case.

Holiday photos: Space themed family photo for Halloween
Image: Wise by Nicole Photography / Family: Blogger Kristin from Be Mom As F and her family kill it in this Halloween family photo. They are having fun and coordinating their outfits without wearing the exact same thing. Instagram @Mom_as_f

When To Schedule Your Holiday Photo Session

Okay, so it was my fault this year that I couldn’t find time to set up a session early enough. Next year I’ll be more organized, I promise. Keep in mind that every photographer has a different schedule and different guidelines for scheduling appointments. Nicole’s week by week schedule is unpredictable, sometimes she only needs a couple of days’ notice, and other times she doesn’t have an opening for weeks. To be safe, Nicole recommends that you “always try to plan a few weeks ahead of time or check in with your photographer when you start thinking about scheduling your session.”

Bonus Tip: Keep in mind that your photographer also has to retouch before getting your photos back to you, so allow time for them to work on your images. Don’t try to book too close to any deadlines.

Black and white family photo of three generations of women, including the youngest, a little girl
Image: Wise by Nicole Photography / Courtesy of Blogger Kristin from Be Mom As F

For even more ideas, take a look at Shutterfly’s 100 Festive Christmas Photo Ideas here:

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Hi all! My name is Nicole Wise, I am a photographer located in Ventura (Southern California, near Santa Barbara/Los Angeles). I fell in love with photography at a young age and couldn’t be happier that my passion blossomed into a business. I shoot a lot of different subjects and I LOVE it! Each day is different and with every shoot I learn something new. I am lucky to have a job and business I love! Let me share my knowledge and experience with you; from family moments to photography for your small business, I am here to help. Contact me at or check out my Instagram pages @WisebyNicole and @MomentsByNicole.

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