Sharing What happens Behind the Scenes during Holiday sessions

Even by early December, the team at Sara McConnell Photography had already built holiday sets, torn them down, rebuilt new sets, strung lights, sung many cheerful songs to leery babies, taken thousands of photographs, played countless games of peek-a-boo, adjusted many a hair bow, edited thousands of images, and printed many, many holiday cards. Phew! It’s been quite a busy ride but we are so proud of this year’s holiday studio sessions. Sara has gotten a lot of positive feedback about her holiday photographs this year and appreciates every word and ‘like’ they have gotten. Every adorable and beautiful image is a labour of love at Sara McConnell Photography and we thought it would be interesting to share all that goes on behind the scenes for a ten minute holiday session.

Why just 10 minutes? Sara has learned after photographing over 1500 families that the first few minutes of a photoshoot are the most successful in terms of eliciting cooperation from younger clients and capturing authentic smiles from all. A short session also ensures that we are not pushing Sara’s youngest clients beyond their short attention spans and that we take advantage of that initial curious reaction of ‘what’s going on?’ to photograph babies, toddlers, and kids who are on the move.  The challenge with longer sessions is that while one family member may take time to warm up, by the time they are ready for photos, the rest of the family’s smiles have faded and patience is at an all time low.   Ending a session when kids are happy and having fun also means that children are happy to return to the studio for their next session.  Because the majority of our clients have sessions at least twice a year, we have the opportunity to get to know the babies and children which means ten minutes is enough time to capture a beautiful holiday photo before the family can head off and enjoy their day.

Even before the ten minute session has started we have been working for weeks to prepare. Sets have been designed and built; props purchased; client welcome packages have been designed and sent out; client questionnaires have been written, sent out, and the answers gathered;  questions from clients have been answered; we’ve looked at countless photos of wardrobe options and helped families choose the best ‘look’ for their photos; children have been prepared for the shoot by Sara and their parents; and all before Sara has even picked up her camera.

Once it is time to step into the studio, Sara already knows her clients names and ages, the photos they want from their session, and all the details she needs about their personalities, preferences, and concerns parents have.  Sara guides the family into position with the help of an assistant and the shooting begins. Often with the younger clients this ‘guiding into position’ must be done very creatively to elicit any cooperation. Sound effects, silly games, and animal walks are always a possibility. We’ve been known to throw balls, sing ‘Do you want to build snowman’, and wear funny hats.

One of the main goals in most holiday sessions is capturing beautiful, natural smiles. It sounds simple but to do this we often have to work very creatively and persistently. We’re not adverse to using potty jokes, silly songs, toy action shows, or even poking each other with a stick! We will try it all and persevere at all costs to our self-consciousness. Sara always has an incredible read on children and will inevitably find a way to elicit a smile.

Once Sara is happy with the images she’s taken and the session is over the children’s work is complete. This is the point parents always take a deep breath of relief. Phew! All that work and preparation and it’s over in a flash.

Sara’s work has only just begun however. She always posts sneak peeks for families within 24 hours of their session and works hard to prepare client galleries to be sent out only 48 hours after they were in the studio.  Once clients select their images she works her magic, erasing lint, tired eyes, rashes, scratches, and pesky stray hairs.  Then there’s holiday card designing, print ordering, and the next round of editing.  Sara commits herself to a very fast turnaround that gets her client’s finished digital files into their hands within days. What this means is her holiday session clients not only have beautiful holiday cards and photographs but also that they’re ready in plenty of time to be shipped as gifts and cards to loved ones. There is no better gift to give or receive than a beautiful photograph.

ottawa family photographer

Sara McConnell Photography ~ Ottawa Maternity Photographer