When “No” is a Good Thing

Every year, every week, and even at every single family photography session, I learn more about photography, business and myself.  This fall has been wonderful and tough at the same time. I have met more families than ever before. I’ve enjoyed getting to meet each one of you and in our short time together boil down the essence of your family–to take the short course in your unique family dynamic and capture that with my camera in a still image. It makes my heart swell just writing that.

But this is the year that I said “no” to my Santa Sessions.  I have LOVED doing Santa Sessions. Santa Emmett is the absolute BEST (he posts his schedule on his website so you can see when he has events with other photographer shoots and even free events like Bass Pro Shops around DFW if you want to go find him).  And all of the precious kiddos that I meet are so much fun to capture as they meet and interact with Santa Claus.

Before I ever started a photography business, I was always struck by how time flew from mid-November through the end of the year.  And now with three children AND a photography business, it flies from mid-September through the end of the year.

So this year, we’ve filled our schedule–and I know the time will still race by–but our greatest priorities are all spelled out.  “Decorate the house” takes a prime spot the weekend after Thanksgiving (this is normally when I would have scheduled Santa)–right after the Christmas parade in our town.  My husband and I actually get to take a little weekend getaway the second week in December, which I would not have been able to even consider in years past while I was buried under a pile of editing.

And saying “no” to Santa Sessions has allowed me to concentrate more fully on the family and newborn parts of my photography business, which have both grown this year.  

I decided at the beginning of this season against doing Santa sessions for all of the reasons above, but I was running this morning and listening to The Happy Hour podcast with Jamie Ivey.  Her guest was Myquillyn Smith (episode #218). The episode was actually about home decorating and cozy minimalism–and I could use more of both–but I was struck by a small part where they discussed how society usually doesn’t hear our “no”.  It only sees our “yes”. You never hear about what events I (or anyone) DID NOT go to. You just see my posts on social media about where I did go. You don’t see the sessions that I turned down this season in my business, just the posts I make about the awesome clients that I did get to see.  

So I wanted to share my “why” for saying “no” to Santa Sessions and “yes” to my family and other parts of my business.


family of 4 fall photography session family photographer at sunset


If you’re looking for more information about contacting Santa Emmett, or finding another Rockwall photographer who is doing Santa mini sessions, reach out on my ‘Contact Me’ page.


If you’re interested in booking a family or newborn session this fall, it’s not too late, but it will be soon!  Contact me now.

family of 5 photography session

The Polar Express Experience | Santa Photography

Have you read the book The Polar Express?  It’s a children’s book that I remember from my own childhood.  The story goes that a little boy has been told by friends that Santa does not exist.  He does not believe them.  On Christmas Eve as he lays in bed he hears a noise.  Outside a train has pulled up and he climbs aboard to go to the North Pole.  He rides the train, meets Santa Claus and is given one silver bell from the reindeer harness.   On the way home he loses the bell.  But on Christmas morning there is a gift for the boy in a small box and it is the silver bell.  He hears the jingle, but his parents think the bell is broken.  He realizes that only those who believe can hear the bell.  This is the short version, but this story really is magical!

Imagine eating dinner with the family and then presenting your children with a special early Christmas gift:  they unwrap new Christmas pajamas and a special book:  The Polar Express.  You sit down to read the story all together.  Then, there is one more surprise:  a special ticket for the Polar Express.  Everyone will hurry to get bundled up and out the door as dad calls out “all aboard for the North Pole.”  You pile into the car for a little adventure and come to the North Pole (or rather a special satellite location of the Pole that is in Rockwall, TX).  Come in and sit down to enjoy hot chocolate and a sweet treat.  Then come in to see Santa Claus himself.  Visit with Santa, enjoy a Christmas cookie, sing Christmas carols and hand over your Christmas list.  At the end of the visit, enjoy a treat bag from Santa. A Joyful Life Photography will document your special time with Santa Claus.

Sound like fun?  You’re in luck!  A Joyful Life Photography and Wonderfully Made Children’s Boutique are teaming up to give away The Polar Express experience (find all the details on facebook).  The winner of the giveaway will get a $25 gift card to Wonderfully Made, a copy of The Polar Express classic children’s book, one train ticket, and a Santa Photography Session on Saturday evening, November 19, 2016 at 8:00 pm.  All Santa Session customers are invited to come a few minutes before their session to enjoy hot chocolate and treats!

Would you like to create your own Polar Express experience?  I’ve included the downloadable print of the ticket.  Simply head to Wonderfully Made for a precious selection of Christmas pajamas, read The Polar Express to your kiddos, print the special ticket and head over to the Santa Sessions!  Don’t forget to reserve your Santa Session in advance.  We can’t wait to see you!

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santa photography

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Simple Sessions | Family Photographer, Rockwall, TX

Why Simple Sessions?

We’ve all been there.  I just hired a family photographer for our vacation on Spring Break this year when we traveled out to Palo Duro Canyon.  It was amazing.  We had a great time and we have all of the beautiful landscape documented along with our precious family.  Thank you Kayla Smith Photography! But now it’s almost time for Christmas cards and I need the latest and greatest picture of my kids to send to all of our friends and relatives (it’s a ‘big list’ Christmas card year…more on that in another post).  In 9 months my three littles have changed a ton and I feel obligated to send the most updated photo so everyone who does not see us everyday knows a little more of what they look like.  So what’s a girl to do?  Well, clearly, for me I just gather my three and head out a park for an update!  But you?  You, my friend, are the reason I created my Simple Sessions.  By request I’ve brought them back for those that don’t want a full custom session but just a quick update for their card or their mantle portrait.

Photo by Kayla Smith in Palo Duro Canyon, March 2016.

How do they work?

Simple Sessions are scheduled in advance and I usually take 2-3 clients at a time.  The locations are listed per date on the webpage right now.  Simply choose your favorite location or the time that works best for you and fill out the form on the site.  I’ll send an invoice for the session fee and once that’s paid you’re all set!  From there I’ll send over my Pinterest boards with outfit ideas, some tips and tricks to make sure your session runs smoothly, and the last minute reminders for your session.

What’s the difference between Simple and regular, full family sessions?

Full family sessions are my favorite!  I love to get to know you through our consultation so that we can plan a great session that is completely customized to your family.  I consult with outfits for your entire family.  During the session I give you a time frame just to help with planning, but there’s really no time limit.  I shoot until I have all that we need to deliver a full gallery and we’ve ‘gotten’ what you wanted in our pre-session planning.  Want to get family shots but also celebrate a little turning one?  We can do that!  Want to do a more traditional sitting but also document your children and how they love your backyard pool?  We can end the session in the water!  Want to venture into Dallas for a rooftop photo shoot?  These are just a few of the options you could plan for your full family session.  After the session, I edit your photos and sit down with you to decide how and what to purchase. And then I deliver your beautiful products straight to your door!  Simple session are equally awesome, just for different reasons.  I plan the sessions in advance and schedule two or three at a time to make it more cost effective for my clients.  In a 30 minute session I have a session flow that I follow in order to give you a variety of images in your gallery.  After the session I upload your images to an online gallery and you choose the 10 images that you love for your pre-purchased set.  If you love all the images there is an option to purchase the additional images.  The images come straight to you in a digital download format.  You may choose to purchase prints through the gallery which puts you in touch with my professional lab (for amazing quality) or order from your own favorite company.  Easy peasy!

Ready to book?  Start here!



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The Santa Sessions Success | Santa Photos, Rockwall, TX

Our first Santa Sessions were a huge success!  We took Santa photos, ate cookies with Santa, sang Christmas carols and had a great time!  So you’re ready for Thanksgiving?  You’ve made plans to get out the tree this weekend and begin decorating.  When will you get to see Santa Claus?

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Next, you’ll trim the tree and put up your Christmas lights.  When will you take your Santa photos?

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Have you decided when you’ll meet Santa Claus?  Did you want to go stand in line at the mall?  Did you think you’d have only a minute to tell him what you’d like this year and how good you’ve been?

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At the Santa Sessions, there is no long drive into the metroplex.  There’s no waiting in long lines all day long.  There are no poorly focused or barely lit photos to document your child’s innocent wonder of the magic of Santa.

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Make your appointment with Santa today.  Arrive at Harry Myers Park 5 minutes prior to your scheduled session.  Have some hot chocolate, listen to Christmas music, sit down, relax.  We’ll let you know when Santa is ready.  You’ll sit with Santa for up to 15 minutes.  Give him your list, tell him about your favorite toy, sing a song, whatever you’d like!  We’ll capture it all in photos.

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Join us November 30 and December 1 for our final Santa Sessions of this season.  And have one more look at our Christmas Magic slideshow–provided for free when you attend your own Santa Session!  Cheers!