As photographers, every year we tell ourselves that we are going to enjoy the holidays, but it never goes as planned.

We take on extra projects and other responsibilities take longer than expected. Your friend down the street wants to book a session last minute because she was just so busy and forgot to book something earlier. You just can’t say no.

Let’s discuss four steps that will help you meet those deadlines and enjoy the holidays with your family!

1. Plan ahead.

Sit down and map out your holiday marketing strategies. Having a planner specifically for the holiday season to stay organized will help you manage your time better.

Send out an email to your client database giving them a heads up on your holiday plans, specials, holiday cards, etc. Make an announcement on social media. I create a Pinterest board for every season with inspiration geared towards my target market. This will help get the ball rolling and get people interested.

Give them a time frame for holiday sessions. For example, September 1st – November 30th. This will create a sense of urgency to book early. I will often run a few specials in the summer before the holiday season hits for those who book early. This helps cut down on last minute bookings. Anything booked in my holiday season time frame is regular price.

It’s also good to plan an end-of-year gift for your clients. You can send out thank you notes or holiday cards from your business. This is a great way to thank them for using your services and keep them coming back. You can also add a bonus incentive such as a free print on their next visit or something along those lines.

family making Christmas cookies by Erica Williams

2. Have a cut-off date.

This is probably the most important part of the holiday season. Set a cut-off date and stick with it.

Make sure to announce your cut-off date to your clients and potential clients in advance in order to give them plenty of time to plan their session. Cut-off dates will also allow a smoother process for you at the end of your holiday season when you are trying to wrap things up and send off those final print orders (don’t forget to work in editing time into your time frame!).

I typically stop accepting “holiday” portraits after Black Friday weekend. That gives me two weeks to finish up any editing and print orders as well as get images back to the clients in time to send out Christmas cards. Before setting up your deadline time frame, contact your preferred vendors and check their cut-off dates as well.

family Christmas photo by a fireplace by Erica Williams

3. Practice saying “no.”

Let’s be honest. We think we are superheroes and can take on extra work. If we could book every single client who inquires about a session, we probably would. Truth is, every inquiry is not going to be the right client for you.

I set a maximum number of sessions per week that I can book. For example, I shoot three days a week and edit two days a week. That’s only three sessions per week but I know I can comfortably get those sessions edited and back to the client in a timely manner. This is always important but especially so during the holidays.

Overbooking can lead to bad customer service and give your company a bad reputation. Good customer service is just as important as producing great portraits. If you have met your quota for the week, ask them if another day would work. If you are completely booked, refer them to another local photographer. Don’t take on too much; commit to your business plan!

picture of merry and noel pillows by Erica Williams

4.Work smarter, not harder.

Use your time wisely. Prioritize your tasks and get the ones that are not as much fun done first. Have a good workflow set up to make things run smoothly. Set time aside to answer and send out emails. My favorite time-saver is using Lightroom to edit my photos! Lightroom has cut my editing time in half. I can now get a session culled, edited and uploaded to a gallery within 1-2 days comfortably. Make sure and get all your social media and blog posts scheduled in advance, too. Take time to rest and breathe.

kids having marshmallows and hot chocolate by Erica Williams

Who wants extra stress during the holiday season? I know I don’t!

Business plans can be great when they are planned out, put in place and carried out. There is nothing worse than having to rush through the holidays and deadlines to get that last session out the door. I’ve been there and done that and it doesn’t make you any more money or bring you more success.

Being smart and planning ahead is key. Know your limits and practice saying, “no.” You will thank yourself later. I promise.

As photographers, we tell ourselves that we're going to enjoy the holidays and it never goes as planned. Let's discuss 4 steps that will help you meet your deadlines and enjoy the holidays with your family!


We’ve got more holiday magic right here!

Take a break from editing, Christmas shopping and end-of-year chores for a moment and come find us over on Pinterest. We’re sharing our curated collection of thoughts on “Christmas for photographers.” It’s just for fun, but we’re excited to hear what you think! Let us know what we should add to our list.