Getting the Shot with Simply by Suzy


The most wonderful time of the year often comes with a long to-do list that all needs to be checked off in a timely manner. Shopping for your friends and family, cookie exchanges and of course, taking a photo for your holiday card!


Suzzane Brown of Simply by Suzy is a talented photographer who is an absolute joy to work with. She is energetic, directive and always manages to get amazing photographs despite the chaos a family photoshoot can bring. Suzy shared with me some of her tips and tricks for getting the shot!


How do you prep a new family for a holiday shoot? How do you plan your shoots? 

The most important foundation to preparation for a shoot with me is my client information form, which gives each family I work with space to sit down and really think about what they want to get out of their session and then communicate that with me. Do they have any specific vision? Specific shots they like or want to recreate? If they’re not sure about specifics I’ll have them describe colors or feelings they want to convey in their imagery. I’ll also have them tell me a little bit about their family and the kinds of activities they love to do together and what their children are like. From there we’ll come up with a fully personalized session experience based on their own family’s unique vision and style. This might be a studio shoot decked out in holiday outfits and fake glittery snow, it might be a morning at home making holiday cookies and snuggling by the fire place and jumping in bed, or it might be exploring Chicago in winter time together and going to places like the Lincoln Park Conservatory holiday display or walking down Michigan Ave. The possibilities are endless and that’s what makes each holiday shoot so magical and fun. 

How far in advance should families start thinking about taking holiday photos? 

Ideally a family should have their holiday photoshoot take place some time between September 1 and November 15.  And if you’re not sure about when exactly to book in that time frame, ask yourself whether you want to shoot outside or inside? Do you want to have the bright red and orange fall foliage in the background? Do you want something in a studio setting? September 1-November 15 is considered the peak season for photographers and most get booked up fast, so I recommend having your session booked by August to ensure you get the date you want. 

What would be your top 3 tips for families before coming to the shoot? 

On the day of a family’s shoot, I tell each of my families - 

  1. Have all of your bags/diaper bag packed by the door the night before your shoot, and outfits steamed and ready to go. I know this isn’t always realistic when you have young kids and busy work schedules, but trust me when I say that on the morning of a shoot you want to just wake up and feel as relaxed as possible, not stressed about pulling everything together and possibly running late. 

  2. If you have kids under 5, pack an extra outfit in your diaper bag, along with a cute toy that’s okay to be in pictures if needed, and snacks that don’t stain. 

  3. Go with the flow. The biggest distraction to getting good pictures, especially with kids under 5, is being too fixated on getting the perfect shot and bringing that stressed energy to the shoot. I know, you really really want that picture of everybody smiling at the camera. And I always tell my families that we WILL get that shot. But it most likely will take a lot of silly shots before that of wrangling the kids and chasing after them, or trying to trick them into a beautiful moment. I tell the parents that on shoot day, try not to go into disciplinary mode and just go with the flow and keep a smile on your face. Because even if the kids aren’t listening and trying to run away, or they’re upset and just want a few moments to snuggle with you, I can still make a beautiful image out of that if the parents keep their chill and a smile on their face. 

Which websites would you suggest for making cards and prints? 

For making holiday cards I absolutely love Minted. That’s what company I use for my holiday cards and they really are the best. They have great designs and lots of options for foil letter printing, and I love their upgraded paper stock options. For making prints for gifts, I highly recommend They’re easy to use and the quality is top notch for a publicly available lab. 

How do you get your subjects to relax? 

In the 11 years I’ve been doing this, the most important thing to me is coming to every shoot genuinely open to getting to know the families I work with and a true desire to connect and have fun with them. And I like to think bringing that energy with me puts most people at ease. It’s hard and nerve wracking to have your picture taken, I totally get it! So I give the vulnerability to my subjects that I’d like to get back. 

Who takes your holiday card photo? 

Kristin Sweeting. I am so particular about who I have take my pictures that I actually fly my family down to Nashville to work with her!

Photo by Kristin Sweeting.

Photo by Kristin Sweeting.

Photography by Simply by Suzy

Styling by Kelsey Oenick

Family, KidsAbigail Baum