December 1, 2016

Karl Ryan

Commercial Photographer's Guide to Holiday Photos

Photo: Marina Scissor

The festive, nostalgic nature of the holidays makes it the perfect time for wedding and portrait photographers to earn business. Pixsy reached out to two expert wedding and portrait photographers to ask for their advice on how to take better holiday photos. Read more to see what they had to share.

Holiday photos-man-smiling

Bryan Caporicci is an award-winning professional photographer who works, namely, with family and wedding photography in the Niagara Valley region. Besides his photography, Bryan also founded a well-lauded knowledge base called Sprouting Photography that educates photographers on the business and marketing aspects of their trade. I spoke with him on how to plan holiday photos, and how to successfully market your services and plan appropriately to reach your clients for the holidays.

Don’t Just Think -- Act

Put together a marketing calendar or plan well in advance. If you start getting reactionary on things, it's already too late -- for example, "Hey, it's the holidays, and it's December 10th, we need to do Christmas stuff". By planning ahead, you won't find yourself rushing. Instead, you'll be making decisions based on sound business principles.The Christmas season is probably one of the most under-marketed space for holiday photos. Our industry has a great opportunity with the season because our product is naturally emotional -- we can easily use that as a great incentive for our clients at Christmastime.


Experiment with your market

You need to figure out what works for you and what works for your marketplace. Things that have worked for Bryan:

  • Reopening online galleries for clients from the previous year, and then offering the clients an incentive to repurchase images at Christmas time.
  • For example: if you order anything larger than a certain size, you get five complimentary 8 x 10s (these work perfectly as a Christmas gift!)
  • Offer seasonal gift certificates: Bryan offers a 50% bonus on every purchase; this way, if the client were to buy a $500 gift certificate, they would get an additional $250 that they could use on prints

Set Expectations

You have to build a sense of urgency for your clients. By setting very specific guidelines, your clients should know everything they need to do to take advantage of the season -- for example, letting them know they must order by a certain date.

Have a Studio? Throw an event

The holiday season is the perfect time to throw a party. Invite your clients, put on some cheery music and partake in the holiday festivities: this is a surefire way to build strong relationships with your clients. Often they will take advantage of seasonal offers at these events.


Add your clients to your Mailing List

Send your clients the holiday cards that you send to friends and family. It is often a breath of fresh air for them to receive communication that doesn't purely focus on marketing or requesting their business.This may not give you a direct return on investment, but it will give you goodwill with your clients.


Chris Jelf is another well-known portrait & wedding photographer with an impressive portfolio and a great Instagram account. He has taken Christmas holiday photos for a long list of clients, including the English Royal Family. Chris offers some useful advice on how to take advantage of the holiday season, from a logistical standpoint.

Take advantage of Seasonal Events

There are a number of events to consider during the holidays, that Chris notes are great opportunities for any commercial photographer:

  • Weddings: it’s a very popular time of year to get married -- December weddings are wonderful, often cosy, festive and atmospheric.
  • Company Holiday Parties: these have made a bit of a comeback since the 2008 crash, and bosses are seeming to splash out again, which includes hiring a photographer...

Oh, the Weather Outside is Frightful

There are a couple of main factors that Chris says photographers need to consider.First off, winter presents a unique challenge to holiday photos with light, or lack thereof. You also need to take into account that it gets dark around 4 PM. If you are shooting weddings, you should request that the party gets there at least three hours before dusk -- it would almost be a crime not to shoot the bride in her gown in natural light.The lack of light can also make it quite overcast during the daytime, meaning everything is gray and ‘flat.' Poor light is an unavoidable part of the season and often results in winter clients getting more B&W's than summer clients.Shooting in snow is the optimal winter condition, acting as a giant reflector that makes people look phenomenal. Saying that, taking a picture of someone in the cold means they're going to look cold; no matter how many times you tell them to imagine they're on a beach in Jamaica.

The Technicalities of Candlelight

Candlelight is gorgeous to the naked eye, but any photographer knows that it really pushes the limits of one's equipment. To properly capture candlelight, Chris says to keep the ISO high and the aperture wide open. He also uses his primo lenses -- 35, 50, and 85mm -- but these should be standard lenses if you are shooting a wedding or party.


These are just a few ideas of what you can do to prepare for the holiday season.To review the key points of what we’ve learned from Chris and Bryan:

  • Act upon a marketing plan ahead of time
  • Set very clear expectations and deadlines for your clients
  • Consider throwing an event at your house and studio and including a special offer to go along with the event
  • Send your clients a holiday card as a sign of goodwill
  • Take advantage of seasonal events, like weddings and company holiday parties
  • Take into careful consideration the cold weather outside, as well as the early darkness

Do you have any special ways you prepare for the holiday season? Share it in the comments and we will update our post with your tips.

Karl Ryan

Start monitoring your images today

Free to sign up

24/7 image monitoring online

Powerful dashboard & tools

Send takedown notices worldwide

Get compensated for stolen images