These Long Island families check vacation photos off their lists early


When Alissa Orlando dressed her family in red-green and white plaid Christmas pajamas on Oct. 8 and posed with them for photos, she completely confused her 5-year-old son. “Why do we take Christmas pictures? It’s not even Halloween yet,” she said, Christopher asked.

“I tried to make a game out of it. “Santa’s reindeer and elves are resting. Santa needs our help to prepare the magic so the reindeer can fly and the elves can start making their toys in their workshop,” she told Christopher He bought it.

In reality, Orlando, a 33-year-old teacher from Nesconset, and her husband, Chris, 37, a police officer, booked the photo shoot in October for entirely different reasons.

Caroline Golio, from Wantagh, schedules her family vacation photos for October each year; she has already completed filming this year, which took place outdoors with a holiday bedtime scene.
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First, their kids wouldn’t smile or cooperate outside in their pajamas if they were freezing – they also have a 3-year-old named Alexander. And second, Orlando wanted proof in time to order and ship his 60 greeting cards by December 1.

For Long Island families who plan their vacation photo scenes year after year, mid-October through mid-November is the season, especially because so many of the photos are staged at the exterior with elaborate backdrops — vintage cars, pine curbs, Hanukkah donut shops, and at least one Long Island photographer offering vacation portraits taken with a horse.


Photographers call these “mini-sessions” and charge families between $150 and $300 for a 15-20 minute session, which will include a number of poses and sometimes even an outfit change, according to local professional photographers. The photographers line up the sessions back to back.

Sometimes the shoots are done at local parks or Christmas tree farms in the East End. And some companies offer families the option of taking photos with their own cameras. Ali Kusinitz of Sign Gals of Long Island, for example, offers a Christmas backdrop and a Hanukkah backdrop in his Plainview garden, and people pay $25 per person and $5 for each additional person to spend 10 minutes to take their own photos.

Professional photographers have fun when shooting, says Rosangela Roque-Ortiz of RoMaRo Photography in St. James. “A lot of families come back to me every year, so I see the kids growing up.”

This is the case of Mikaela Marrero, 4 years old, from Deer Park. “She took my daughter’s first Christmas pictures,” Mikaela’s mother, Martha, 46, who works for Estée Lauder, said of Roque-Ortiz. She came back three years ago. Last year, Marrero chose to have the photos taken on the day of each season that Roque-Ortiz hires a Santa Claus to add to the charm of the photographs. “He was such a fun guy. The props were gorgeous, the backdrop was absolutely stunning. My daughter loved it,” she says.


Orlando had his 2022 photos taken by Amityville photographer Siobhan Becker of Photos by Siobhan, who rented a bed and mantlepiece and staged his mother’s garden. Becker says photographers like to offer holiday shoots in October and November because they need longer light days to get multiple appointments on weekend days when families have time, and they have need opportunities for backup rain dates if a weekend brings stormy weather. Also, as Orlando mentioned, the cold. Runny red noses, tears streaming down faces and puffy winter coats don’t make for pretty pictures, she says.

Last year, Katie Rodgers of Selden had her daughters' vacation...

Last year, Katie Rodgers of Selden had holiday photos taken of her daughters in October. Pictured are Harper (left) and Charlotte.
Credit: Charity Vaz Photography

Because Long Island is, well, an island, some families even have their picture taken as early as summer on Long Island beaches. “I did my photos in July this year,” says Kaitlin Rodgers, 27, from Selden, a travel agency who has three daughters aged 4, 2 and 8 months. She and her husband, Kevin, 28, who works for the Long Island Rail Road, dressed the family in denim and white and had the photos taken in front of the Fire Island lighthouse by bohemian photographer Michael Cassara. She says her gifts to family members are always photos of her children, and taking photos early gives her time to receive her photographer-edited photos, choose the images she likes best, and then order gifts. on websites such as Shutterfly or Easy Canvas Prints.

Last year, Rodgers had photos taken of her two eldest daughters in an indoor vacation baking scene courtesy of Bellport-based photographer Charity Vaz. One of Rodgers’ daughters has autism, and Rodgers says Vaz “has worked really well with my daughter. She has the patience for it. Vaz also has an autistic child and specializes in photographing children with disabilities. “I start taking Christmas photos the first weekend in October,” says Vaz. It will make 15 to 30 families in one weekend.


Katie Rodgers had her family vacation photos taken at a...

Katie Rodgers had her family vacation photos taken during a “mini session” at the Fire Island Lighthouse in July.

Short shoots work well, parents and photographers say. “It doesn’t look like it’s very long, but kids, they can’t really last longer than that,” Orlando says.

Photographer Cassara adds: “There are a lot of bribes in photo shoots. This usually amounts to bribing them with candy.

Caroline Golio, a teacher from Wantagh, says she doesn’t need such extra incentive to get her photos done at the start of the festive season. “It just alleviates the stress,” says Golio, 32. “We all pack in the car, including the dog.” She and her husband, Robert, 35, VP of Small Business, have a son, Robbie, 2, and a golden retriever named Moose.

Robbie is more relaxed when the family dedicates a day to the photo shoot with no other obligations, which results in better photos, she says. Golio’s favorite photo this year is his son jumping on a holiday-themed bed. “Looks like it should be in a holiday magazine, it felt so natural,” she says. She also likes to use a “blooper” shoot on the back of her holiday cards, kissing the holds.

Organizing the photos early means that when the peak of the holiday season hustle and bustle hits around Thanksgiving, Golio has already checked off one thing on his seasonal to-do list. And it’s a holiday gift for herself.


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