When should you schedule a holiday photo session?

(Hint: RIGHT. NOW.)

Hi friends. It’s mid October already, and I hate to have to tell you this...

But it’s time to start planning for the holidays. (eek!)

If you’re not an early bird with this kind of thing, I feel you. Planning for the holidays before Halloween has always felt forced to me, too.

Now I’m not saying you have to go finish your shopping and put up your decorations today. Not at all. But you DO need to start planning a few things now so that you can avoid a lot of added stress and the higher costs you would see if you put these things off til November or December. And I don’t want that to happen to you.

The perfect example? There’s a good chance thoughts of a family photo shoot have been swirling around in your mind lately. “I should call our photographer…. I need to get something booked this week.”

Sound familiar? That’s your subconscious reminding you that you’ve been burned in the past when you put this item off for too long.

And I know you have a million things on your plate. School is back in session, fall sports are in the thick of the season, everybody at work seems to be in “get-stuff-done mode” after being a little lax during the summer months - and with all of it combined, the days are already starting to run together in a blur.

But if you want to take professional photos this year for your holiday cards, this is your gentle/not-so-gentle nudge - it is time to send that email and get your session booked now.

Wait too long and you will end up looking through your phone in disbelief as you realize there are zero good photos of your family all together from the past year.

Then comes the stress as you try to take the photo yourself, or the added cost for booking a session late and rushing the process, holding your breath in the hope that you will receive the photos in time to use them.

You are too busy and work too hard all year to go through that added stress, cost, and disappointment. 

Maybe the entire idea of a photoshoot seems stressful. What will you wear? Where will you take the photos? Those questions are all important, and we'll help you learn the answers, but for now you only need to get something on the calendar.

It may seem too far ahead of schedule now, but today is the right time to start planning, because while a mini-session with a local photographer might only take an hour or so, the time til you receive your images afterwards will likely be longer than you expect.

You see, after your session is over, your photographer has to upload the images, comb through them to pick the best ones, edit a handful of them, and then upload them online for you to view. Most likely, they are doing this for a number of other clients, too, and the entire process can take as long as 5 weeks depending on their editing schedule.

Add in more time for you to look through the gallery, download images, get them printed for gifts or put into your holiday card, stamped, mailed… you can see how the days add up.

Pad in some more time for life - the baby gets sick, unexpected travel for work pops up, your 5-year old gives his younger sister a new haircut, etc. You see what I'm saying here?

All you have to do for now is get something booked. That’s it.

If you already have a photographer you like, great! You are way ahead of the game. Take a minute now to send them a quick message asking for info on their fall sessions. (Go ahead. I'll wait.) 

If you don't have a photographer, it’s important to find one that fits your personality and style, as no two are the same. Here are some tips for your search:

How to find a local photographer

  1. Facebook: The most efficient solution might be using Facebook’s recommendation feature to ask your friends and family. Most local family photographers have very active Facebook profiles where you can see examples of their work and message them for information and bookings.

  2. Thumbtack: This site connects you with all kinds of local service providers, including photographers. It’s kind of like Angie’s List, but for more than just contactors. See “the best outdoor family photographers” near you (according to customer reviews) at this link: https://www.thumbtack.com/k/outdoor-family-photographers/near-me/

  3. Instagram: Search for hashtags that begin with your state, town, or region and end with familyphotographer. For example: #txfamilyphotographer #nycfamilyphotographer #laxnewbornphotographer and things like that.

  4. Search on Google for “family photographer”, and include your town or region in the search terms to see who pops up. Ex: “family photographer near me” or “family photographer chicago”. Then check out their websites.

Once you have a few names, scroll through their online portfolio to get a feel for their personality and style. You want to make sure they can produce the end result you are looking for. Then send messages to at least three and ask for information on scheduling a family photo session in the next few weeks.

The photographers should reply with their availability and pricing. The cost of a session is definitely going to be a factor in your decision, but try not to let it be the only one. I’ve learned many times in the past - you get what you pay for.

(Scroll down for a list of other questions to ask your photographer.)

Another helpful hint: Most photographers genuinely appreciate you sharing images you’ve found on Pinterest, etc. that you like or want to try and duplicate, so they have an understanding of your expectations and have time to think about how to accomplish them. So if you have a few minutes, look for some photos you like and send them along.

Remember - don’t wait another few weeks. Year-end is the photography industry’s busiest season, and many photographers will be all booked up for fall by the end of October.

Now go get to it. And after you send your messages, you can treat yourself to a little something fun while you check this item off your to-do list. Win-win.

Something I missed? Ask your questions below in the comments.

And look for more posts soon with tips on what to wear, choosing props, locations, indoor vs. outdoor, and more.

Good luck!

xo, Coralee

Sample Questions to ask the photographer, and other items to consider before booking.

  • Do you like their photo style?

  • Do they have good reviews and recommendations?

  • How responsive are they?

  • Do they have availability that will work with your schedule?

  • How much time is reserved for your family’s session?

  • Do they charge extra if you go over time, or add additional family members?

  • What location(s) will they use for the sessions?

  • Is the cost within your budget?

  • How many images will you receive, and how will they be sent to you?

  • How long will it take for you to receive your images after the session?


Shortcake Albums is a custom photo album design service. Simply connect your digital photos or social media accounts, and our team of professional album designers will do all the work - sorting and organizing all your images and text, selecting the best photos, and laying them out into a custom book of your most special memories and moments.

From premium wedding albums to family yearbooks, baby albums, and more - you can enjoy your family memories again. Order your album at www.shortcakealbums.com.