Christmas time is my most favorite time of year… not the rampant frenzy of gift buying and cheesy decorations of course, but more for the quieter experiences and traditions we look forward to every year. Yes, even the snow (though I never had any growing up). As many of you know, I’m a transplant here to Pittsburgh from Southern California and although I have lots of extended family here, I miss my family terribly. We do try to get out there once a year, but it isn’t quite the same, not even a little bit.

Christmas also reminds me so much of my grandmother (Bubba) who passed away a few years ago. It was her holiday! She made the BEST apple pie I’ve ever had anywhere, I kid you not. She was the life of the party and everyone loved her, even strangers everywhere she went. And her fudge was famous too – she used to make pounds and pounds of it and send it to all of the cousins. She was one of 11 kids, so there are a LOT of cousins! And she even would sometimes send “naughty” ones that were made in a cake pan shaped like a woman’s torso, with fake holly covering the uh, ahem, ‘parts’. Those were quite the hit when she sent them to the cousins in college!

She really went all out to try to make Christmas a special time for all of us. So although I truly am SO excited about the Christmas storybook event this weekend, it’s bittersweet. I wish she could be here to see this. She would LOVE it. And I’m sure she’d be right there laughing and greeting everyone with all of her Christmas regalia.

One other thing about Bubba. As long as I can remember, she signed most of the gifts she gave us as being from “Santa’s #1 Elf” – and she was!

So when my daughter was about 5 years old and we were discussing how Bubba was Santa’s #1 Elf, she thought about it for a moment, then her face suddenly lit up BIG and she asked me wide eyed, “Does that mean that I’M PART ELF?!” Yes it does, honey! Yes it does.

She’s almost a teenager now but her inner elf is coming out to help out with the event this weekend. We are having a lot of fun getting her ready and she’s very excited.

Here’s the thing though, even though I’m creating this experience for my clients, it’s like I’m getting to do it for myself and my family too. To pass along some of the Christmas Magic that my Bubba gave to me.

Maybe I’m part elf too.

I’m so excited to be offering these again this year! The sessions are designed to be a stand alone experience (see details here), but for those who want something more, there’s this storybook keepsake that features the famous poem “The Night Before Christmas” alongside images documenting the kids’ experience with Santa.

Here are a couple of design pages from the last time we did these… so cute!

If you’d like to grab one of these spots, contact Kirstin to make some magic this year!


  • November 11, 2014 - 12:56 am

    Michelle Fagan - Hi, do you have any Santa openings open still? Thank you!ReplyCancel

    • November 11, 2014 - 1:02 am

      villamont - Hi Michelle,
      Just a couple on Sunday morning! I’ll email you separately to discuss 😉ReplyCancel

If you know my photographic style, you know that I’m all about the relationships, the interaction and the emotion. So for holiday sessions, I always want to offer my clients a special experience, not just a session. Something authentic and magical for the kids, and something they and their parents would treasure forever. I first held this event in 2007 and it really was magical. And we’re doing it again this year!

Santa Portrait Experience SessionI have arranged for the REAL Santa Claus (no fake mall Santa here) to come to Pittsburgh. He has agreed to meet and  do storytime with some lucky little children and I get to document all the wonder and excitement!

And here’s the best part:

I will be offering a gorgeous keepsake… a beautifully designed, hardbound, Magic of Christmas Storybook featuring the famous poem “The Night Before Christmas” and showcasing images from the child’s experience with Santa. At our house, one of our favorite traditions is reading The Night Before Christmas to the kids as they go to sleep on Christmas Eve. It has so much more meaning when the book features images with them and Santa together! (Stay tuned for a preview of what the book design looks like)

These are exclusive sessions with limited availability. Santa only has time this year for 15 sessions, and just about half of them are already booked from the pre-release newsletter that went out to the email list (sign up here to be first to know about future events).

Sessions will take place on Saturday, November 15th and Sunday, November 16th in the white barn at Gilfillan Farm in Upper St. Clair.

The session fee is $225, payable at booking, and includes:
~ a horse drawn sleigh ride to and from the barn from the parking lot
~ a 15-20 minute private audience with Santa Claus where he will read to your child and they can discuss what they’d like for Christmas
~ a handcrafted special gift from Santa that you’ll want to bring out year after year
~ approximately 15 images to choose from, fully retouched
~ (2) 5×7 gift prints of your choice of images

Also available for purchase
~ The 8×8 Magic of Christmas Storybook mentioned above
~ 5×5 keepsake albums with 10 images from the session
~ stylish custom designed holiday cards (press printed with a variety of finishes)
~ professional quality gallery wrapped canvas artwork featuring an exclusive holiday design and an image from your session
~ additional portrait prints
~ digital files

Portrait Collections for this Limited Edition session start at $290. (Ask for a complete price list)

Please contact Kirstin for more information or to book your Magic of Christmas Storybook session.

  • November 5, 2014 - 2:53 pm

    Rachel Kozlowski - I am interested for future dates, please add me to your emailing list. My daughter is still young but I am interested for next coming years
    Thank youReplyCancel

  • November 5, 2014 - 4:03 pm

    villamont - Hi Rachel – will do! Thanks and have a great holiday season 🙂ReplyCancel

  • October 23, 2015 - 4:11 am

    Denise koch - Any opening for Santa photosReplyCancel

    • October 23, 2015 - 4:40 am

      villamont - Hi Denise,
      Yes – we’re booking now! I’ll email you privately.

Ya’ll know what a special place Gilfillan Farm is, not just to me, but to Pittsburgh’s South Hills community. They’ve been doing the Upper St. Clair Community Days, hosting history and preservation events and Tea Times for awhile, but lately they’ve been doing more events like weddings, artist retreats, our annual Daffodil Days portrait events, and our Magic of Christmas Storybook Sessions with Santa (coming up Nov 15-16). Now they’re adding another cool event to the list and it’s happening this weekend!

For almost five years my new friend and Upper St. Clair resident Susan Wagner at Voila Interior Style has been using her designer’s eye to find interesting vintage and new home decor furnishings to help people decorate their homes. She firmly believes that “it doesn’t have to cost a fortune to make your home comfortable and an expression of  you.” Furthermore, she doesn’t believe in following trends, but instead surrounding yourself with things you love and the style will emerge and become an extension of you.

Her Voila Interior Style boutique is currently moving from the cute little building in Peters Township, PA on Rte 19 across from Giant Eagle to her new location on Camp Lane in McMurray, PA by Arlecchinos and The Old Classroom (with a target grand opening date of December 5th).

She holds open house shows a few times per year to showcase all of her unique finds but thought maybe she’d have to hold off on the fall/holiday show this year because of the move. Then on a walk around Gilfillan Farm one day inspiration struck. Why not hold a show at the farm? It was perfect! And so she is. I love serendipity!

THIS Friday – Thursday (November 7-13) she’ll be holding her annual fall/holiday show in the white barn at Gilfillan Farm (see flyer below). I can’t wait to see all of her treasures!

Pittsburgh Fall Family Pictures

One of the things I would miss the most if I ever moved back to California is fall. Everything about it… the colors, the chill in the air, the festivals, pumpkin patches and yummy fall foods like ciders and apple “everything”. It’s also the busiest time of year and always seems to roll right on into the holidays in the blink of an eye. It can be stressful, but we can help!

A family portrait session carves out a little time to snuggle up with your kiddos and capture the love you all have for one another. Plus, many families make a day of it and go out after their session to do something special.

Then let us take care of your holiday cards and special gift items like gift prints and mini albums so you can cross those off your list and enjoy your holiday season.

But there are literally only a couple of weeks left to make it work! Here’s a rundown on the availability we have for the rest of the year.

Fall Family Mini Sessions:
We had our first round of mini sessions last weekend at Gilfillan Farm in Upper St. Clair and the weather was so perfect. (What? You didn’t hear about it? You need to get on the email list! Announcements go to clients first, then all of the lovelies on the email list and then to the public).

So because of this amazing weather, we were able to open up the reserve times we had held back as rain dates. That means that we still have some availability THIS SUNDAY, OCT 26th in the late afternoon, approximately 3-6pm. Mini sessions last 20 minutes, yield 10-12 images and the sitting fee is $75. Prints, digital files, and cards will be available in Collections starting at $290 or a la carte. Contact my lovely assistant Kirstin to book a fall family mini session.

Fall Family Portraits – Signature or Digilite Sessions:
If you are looking for a more customized experience we still have some availability for Signature and Digilite sessions. We have one opening THIS SATURDAY afternoon (the 25th) and a couple of spots left for the weekend of Nov 8th/9th. That is the last weekend available for family portrait sessions this year!

We have our exclusive Santa Storybook Experience sessions coming up on Nov 15th/16th. I am so excited to tell you about it but I think the big guy deserves his own post, don’t you? So I will post about that shortly.

Then the rest of November it’s all about ordering cards and gifts and getting them to clients by early December so we can take the month off to spend with our families (though we always make exceptions for newborn sessions).

There are only 9 weeks left until Christmas, but only 2 weeks left to get fall family portraits for this year. Contact Kirstin today so we can get you on your way to a less stressful holiday season!

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