If there’s one thing I pour my heart and soul into each year, it’s my Christmas minis. And in this case, specifically my Studio Christmas Minis- From the Beginning. Creating life size sets is my jam. This story begins 13 years ago when my daughter was a baby. I would sew costumes for her to wear for every holiday. I set up backgrounds that I would make by hand and then photograph the scenes with her in them. The sets became more elaborate over time. My niece, nephew, and friends’ babies joined in for some of my photos.
This was long before I ever considered opening my own photography business. I just did it for fun. One of my favorites was a manger scene where “Mary” and “Joseph” were eating peppermint patties. Sometimes that was the only way to get toddlers to cooperate. Ha ha! And did you know that my mom’s tiny 10lb (real) toy poodle named, Alex, made a great reindeer pretending to pull Santa’s sleigh full of baby elves?
Fast forward to 2017, it was getting serious ;). I began to create bigger and more thoughtful sets that would work well for photography. I get so excited by all of the possibilities I can create each year for my clients, that I start the planning phase with sketches a year before building the sets. So while I’m editing photos for Christmas minis one year, I’ve probably already starting illustrating my design for the following year. I have to do it when the muse is upon me, and of course, that is usually amidst the Christmas season. When the ideas start entering my brain, I write them down. Then I will bookmark pages online that sell the items I will need to purchase.
I love receiving Holiday cards from my clients! It brings me joy to create unique scenes that I think look amazing on their cards. 🙂
A quick tip about purchasing items for Christmas: do it right after Christmas. That is another reason why I like to plan my designs a year in advance. I can take advantage of the 70% off sales on the days following Christmas and save quite a bit, which is very helpful when designing sets that can cost $1k+ for the materials, even with the sales.
Another note about the materials; I am always thinking outside the box. Sure, I buy Christmas items for my sets, but many of the objects are not related to Christmas. For example, in 2018 I bought a garden tomato cage to cover with plastered gauze to make a tree. In 2019, I used shiplap wallpaper as part of my wall and then saved it to use again in 2021 as floors in my Christmas fireplace set. In spring of 2022, I knew once giant Easter eggs became available, I would need to buy them so that I’d have them to make custom glittered gumdrops months later. I also used pool noodles and ribbons to make giant candy canes. If I can’t find something in the store, then I make it myself.
I also repurpose things. In 2022, I needed marshmallow seats, so I just didn’t attach the metal legs when I bought them. I wanted to make a cake, so I used a collapsible ottoman sturdy enough to hold 2 adults, and covered it with yarn and fabric “icing”. When I’m done, I can remove those details and either use the ottoman during my regular sessions throughout the year, or easily fold it up out of the way.
I like to be resourceful, so when I purchase something, not only do I look at price, but also whether or not I can reuse the item in my business. It is always nice when items don’t sit on a shelf forever. I definitely like to bring small items back into future sets in a different way. It works quite well.
Let’s take a look at the sets I’ve created for Rebecca Leigh Photography. And then tell me in the comments, which one is your favorite. There are only 5 scenes because I didn’t host studio sessions in 2020. I’ve just finished photographing Christmas minis for 2022 and next Halloween, when you’re busy decorating with ghosts and pumpkins, I’m fully delved into Christmas again. I just skip Halloween every year and go straight to Christmas since I spend so much time on my Christmas sets!
2023 – What will I design next? That’s my secret for now, but join my email list if you want in next year! I love creating beautiful photos for my amazing clients, so that they can send unique Holiday cards to their family and friends each year.
Here are a few more Highlights from each year of Christmas Minis.