Holiday Session Family Guide

Thank you for choosing me to be your photographer. I’m super excited for our time together. This is all about your family! I know family photos can sometimes be difficult and I don’t treat your investment of both time and money lightly. My goal is for you to have wonderful images and for your family to say, “that was fun!”

The most successful sessions are those that have been well planned, but that doesn’t mean stressed over. In fact, I’m sending you this holiday session family guide so that you can enjoy a relaxed session.

Our session will last 1 hour. I will not be shooting the entire time; I build in time to get to know your family so I can get especially children at their most natural.


Lifestyle photography aims to capture honest photos of your family at this point in time, including scrapes on knees and missing front teeth. What inspires you? What memories do you want to capture? Traditional posed photos rarely elicit more than a passing glance. A photo that evokes special memories touches the heart. Although I will guide and pose your family, I strive for natural connection and often will not ask you to look at the camera and never ask for “cheese.” However, I will ask you to cuddle and kiss each other!


This is a big concern for many moms, so take time to think about this early.  Are you a jeans and t-shirt family? That works! Do you want to be dressier? Go for it. Your clothing should be comfortable and reflect who you are. If you are a fun family, don’t wear all black but choose colorful clothes. Do avoid all white, neons, and too many different colors and patterns. Solid colored neutrals work best.

Adults usually fare better skipping the shorts and sleeveless tops, and clothes without words or pictures will be more timeless. For young children, you can have a backup outfit in case of spit-up, etc. Check the fit of clothes, especialy for newborns. Parents sometimes dress young children in clothes that are too big for them.

Don’t try to match everything perfectly, but you could  let mom pick her outfit and then coordinate everyone else to her. Arrange all the clothes out to see how you like them. You can feel free to send me a photo if you want input, but I am not too picky about your clothes. If your children are sensitive about clothing, give them a few choices to pick from. Having this set early avoids last minute rummaging through closets.

Also, wear shoes appropriate for walking on grass and gravel (you can change into different shoes for pictures). It will be helpful to bring one supply bag with items like a hairbrush for last minute smoothing or to carry extra shoes.

When you arrive, please let me know you’ve parked and your vehicle type. Please check to make sure no one has hair bands on wrists, phones or keys in pockets, or anything else that would be distracting in photos.

For more outfit inspiration, visit my Pinterest Board using your Pinterest App and this pincode:


Let’s make it a great day for them. Try not to plan any big things for the day except low-key, non-schedule-oriented fun. The photoshoot shouldn’t be a surprise – let them know a friend will be taking photos. Try to make sure they are rested and have full bellies, but don’t stress if you can’t make that happen. I won’t judge your children’s behavior. I have three sweet…angels…of my own. I’ll give your children guidance, but sometimes I’ll just follow their lead. I will respectfully give them a little time to warm up to me. Children seem to do better if I’m not too interested in them at first.

If your child is pensive, I won’t try to make them bubbly. If they’re active, let’s just try to capture that. With older children, let’s tap into their interests.

Getting photos is stressful. Unless you absolutely must correct their behavior, please don’t direct them. It’s hard having too many people telling you what to do. Plus, many great family photographs have been sabotaged by parents talking to their children through gritted teeth. It’s not a good look! This is one time when you want to focus on looking your best and I will wait patiently for your children to follow my instructions. If I say “Sam look here!”, please keep on looking your best and usually, eventually Sam will do what I ask.


Mom, take care of yourself too! Moms often think of themselves last on the day of the photo session. If you want to catch the raw and gritty details of life, that’s great, you’re good to go! But if you know you’ll be disappointed with the images if your hair, nails and clothes aren’t just right, take the time now to plan and make any appointments necessary, or carve out time for your own prep. Your children will focus on the connection but I admit sometimes even when my own family photo is great, I mainly focus on how I look. If you’d like to pamper yourself with a local hair and makeup artist, my go-to is Meredith Ehler. She makes my clients look great and even feel fabulous on the inside.

Dad, remember I won’t ask you to “say cheese”.  You get to be the hero of the day, and I promise it won’t be too painful!

Mom and Dad’s main job is to prep in advance (like reading this guide!) and then enjoy the session. Your peacefulness and calm attitude will make everyone, even babies, “catch” your serenity. On the flip side, lots of anxiety, last minute running around, leaving late and being frustrated at traffic can be contagious too!


I do not reschedule for weather unless it is raining, extremely dark, or dangerous. Cloudy days are OK! However, please note that the number one technical ingredient in photography is light – the quantity, quality, and direction of light. You may have your heart set on golden warm photographs and have specifically scheduled to catch that “golden hour”, but if it’s a cloudy day, it is not possible to create the same effect that a sunny sunset would have made.

Speaking of “golden hour”, it is usually “golden minutes” and it changes every day! I schedule sessions to allow plenty of time to prepare for that optimal time, but many photographs will be taken both before and after those precious minutes. Please know that if you arrive late, have to change, or have any other delays, there is a good chance we will miss that short window.


Almost all my sessions are at Claude Moore Park in Sterling (unless you’ve scheduled an add-on location package). Claude Moore is beautiful in any season, and photography is welcome there. However, it is a public park and I do my utmost to respect the other visitors to the park. I do not ask anyone to move out of our way, but have always been met with graciousness when we do want a location that others are using. To protect both our liberal usage and the wildlife at the park, please do NOT bring prohibited items, such as balloons of any kind, gender reveal devices of any kind, explosives, or confetti. My photography style is very natural and focuses on you and your family, so props like these are discouraged anyway. All pets must be leashed at all times.

Our goal is to capture connection, not perfection. If things don’t go as planned (and with children that’s always a distinct possibility), we’ll go with the flow.

Thank you for reading this holiday session family guide.

Don’t hesitate to email me with any questions I haven’t answered here!

Back to Holiday Portrait Session Information