Holiday Photo Session Idea: Deck the Halls

One extraordinary experience as a child is transforming your home into a holiday kingdom. Magic is peaked in our hearts when we see those twinkling lights for the first time or pull out an old ornament that makes us think, “oh yeah, I remember
this thing!” Many people have decorations that are especially meaningful as they were handmade, a gift from someone special, or a family heirloom piece that has been passed down through the generations.

Decorating your home for a holiday is often done together as a family. The emotion of reveling over all of the excitement the holidays bring beyond decorating is present. Unique, positive feelings for each family member are provoked. Mom and Dad are on a high of love and pride as they see the magic and happiness they’ve brought forth into the world. Children (and even mom and dad) are rejoiced when they sort through decorations and look for a the perfect spot to place the nutcrackers and nativity scene. An undeniable feeling of belief and faith is shared by all.


Deck the Halls – a Holiday Decorating Photo Session

It’s the perfect holiday photo session idea to get away from the average set ups and holiday mini sessions! This will give you documentary-hearted photographers a way to give your clients a fresh perspective on what a documentary session is all about. Put these photos into a story book and the memories will visually live on forever (even long after Great-Grandma’s glass ornament accidentally breaks and becomes a memory). What could be a better gift than cherished memories all printed out and wrapped in a big, red bow?

Every session can be totally different from the next – each family will bring a different dynamic. In this session, we had a family of 4 with one on the way. Their 18 month was in awe of everything, because let’s face it, it was like she was seeing all of the decor for the first time. At nearly 8 years old, big sis knew what it was all about and was eager to help with the lights and dress up the tree.

This type of session isn’t limited to families with children. Imagine documenting newlyweds spending their first Christmas (or holiday they celebrate) together as a married couple? Imagine empty-nesters that are hosting a holiday party for all of their children, grandchildren, and even great-grandbabies. I’d love to have photos of my grandparents and all the work and effort they went into to prep for a big, family meal and holiday magic in their home for us all. Baking, twinkling lights that aureate the home, shopping, wrapping, the things that can stem from holiday decorating are endless.

You can learn more about how to use a documentary style as the foundation of photo session in our ebook Family History Photo Sessions. For now, enjoy these photos from a recent holiday photo session, a few tips, and get inspired!


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Photographer Intervention and Client Reaction

Before you go on photo overload, you have to know how it all went down. Do you see a trend in this session? It’s kind of like you’re there, right? You are following along to a story. As the photographer, I was simply there documenting what was happening – not directing. I did not tell them where to stand, what to do next, pretend how to feel, nothing. The little bit of intervention I had was by flicking off lights here and there or, in one moment, I did ask their older daughter to turn as she was setting up the nativity scene. Her back was to me and blocking my view. Before I even got home from the session, there was this compelling email that landed in my inbox from Meghan (mom):

“Thank you again for coming and photographing our family. It was a totally different experience that we all loved, especially kris and Alexis. They both hate taking posed pictures and getting them to smile and look normal is usually a fight lol. Alexis who usually complains about getting photos taken whispered to me while you were here and said “she’s so nice, can we please have her take all our family photo from now on?!” So you definitely won her over :)”


We paused from decorating the tree to go downstairs for stockings table decorations (they had to find more lights).

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Decorating the Tree and Bokeh Inspiration

Back upstairs, they pulled out candles, nutcrackers, and lots of ornaments. It was important for me to photograph their expressions while decorating as well as plenty of the details (the decor). I want the girls to remember the details throughout the years for no other reason but to bring joy into their hearts when they look at the photos.

The bokeh light photos add some flair and always look pretty in a photo book. The bokeh in these photos below are from standing with the tree lights within inches from my lens in the foreground of the image. The all-over bokeh is from turning my camera to manual focus and turning the lens til I had the amount of blur I desired when photographing the tree.

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Doubling as a Holiday Maternity Photo Session

Meghan has the cutest little bump I’ve ever seen!!! It’s the perfect, round belly. It was important to incorporate her pregnancy into the session, but maintain my documentary style. I didn’t want anything posed or traditional, so I simply photographed her belly while she was busy decorating the tree. With her focus on what she was doing gave me natural maternity photos in her natural stance. So often when people know they are the subject in front of the lens, they start to stand funny or do goofy things with their arms. These photos were taken with stealth 😉

Let’s lift each other up – share you holiday photo session ideas below. Pin your fave photo from this post and let’s start documenting what the season is all about – love & togetherness.

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When you have little ones, sometimes you have to take a snack break. And then back to decorating the mantle, nativity scene, and finishing touches to the tree. As the decorating was nearly complete, the excitement started to wane and there was a feeling of relaxation. Just hanging out had to be documented too.

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Author: MarieMasse
I help client documentary photographers fine-tune their workflow + marketing game, so their work is filled with sessions that represent their voice + client values while earning a living. I shoot undirected, off-beat stories that aren’t preserved often enough (like the story of couples before starting a fam or becoming empty-nesters – a dream project of mine), so my clients’ old box of photos is a meaningful, visual diary of their life + legacy to leave behind.

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