A Whimsical Storybook For Your Child, About Your Child, Made from Images of Your Child


Our Storybook Magic is now a tradition for many of our holiday clients. It is only available from Studio James Photography in Calgary because we write the magical stories ourselves. Every year we write a different story because we want your collection of books to be unique and fun to read!

Quickly, what is the Storybook Magic?

Our Storybook Magic is a 10’x10” hardcover book made from images selected from your Christmas Magic holiday photo session. The story is personalized and uses your child’s name through the book. We take them on an adventure in their holiday session and those Christmas photos are used, along with our text, to tell the story.

Christmas Magic Storybooks by Studio James Photography in Calgary

(Image is of our 2019, 2020 and 2021 Storybooks)

The Storybook sounds cool – tell me about the price tag

If you own one of our Storybooks, the price tag makes sense. If you don’t, you might have questions. I wanted to share what we do EVERY YEAR to make the storybook happen. Also note that the lab we use for these stunning books is in the United States and we are subject to the currency exchange rate, taxes, as well as holiday season shipping surcharges.

When does Christmas planning begin?

We start planning Christmas in September or October THE YEAR BEFORE (so basically 14 months before) the holiday photo sessions that you see. It’s almost impossible to shop for the season if you’re not in the season so we have to be ready since a lot of our storybook work in done July-September.

What are the first steps?

  1. Research hundreds of backdrops. I choose the one that inspires me the most. I can’t describe exactly why I choose the one I do. It’s a feeling…. A magical feeling. So I fall in love with a backdrop that inspires a story in me and it all starts from there.
  2. Brainstorm and build a long list of possible scenes. What images would I like to photograph against this backdrop? 
  3. Narrow down the scenes to 15 – this is tough because I have to discard a lot of fun ideas. We will ultimately choose 10. 
  4. Start story planning and development. What will the main theme be? What is the adventure? What will the kids do? What is the goal? What have they done in previous years (so this can be different for clients)?
Jaime's notes on the first draft of the storybook

My notes on the first draft of our 2022 Storybook

Next – Enter my Husband, Everyone Say “Hi!” To Philip

5. Discussion meeting of steps 2-4. Laying out a step by step of the scenes in an order. Walking through the story idea and narrowing down the images from 15 to 10 with what ultimately works best for this story.

6. My husband writes the first draft of the story. Note: if you haven’t read one of our stories, my husband has THE BEST brain for writing magical text for children’s books.

7. I read the draft, make notes, jot down ideas and possible adjustments.

8. We have a story meeting to discuss the notes

9. My husband writes the second draft of the story.

10. I read it with him around and we discuss any tweaks that should be made. Together we finalize the story.

Now Onto the Set Development and Prop Design – Everyone Say “Bye Philip!”

11. The 10 images from the Storybook have to be both functional in the story as well as stand-alone images. My clients who choose the storybook might also choose to purchase wall art pieces of specific scenes to hang on their walls. I also have clients who only choose wall art pieces, not the storybook. These have to make sense as individual pieces.

To tell the story, each scene will require different props. Each scene has to be storyboarded (sketched out) so that all the props needed can be built, organized, created or bought.

The Models Try Out the Scene

12. Time to start photographing the scenes. My kids (who work for gummy candies) test out the shot order I’ve designed to make sure that it flows well (easy scene changes), the props work how they’re supposed to work, and, most importantly, the experience is fun for them!

Now for Photoshop Magic

13. Once I have those test images on my camera, the real magic begins. My holiday sessions are called Christmas Magic not only because they are a magical experience but because the editing on my images is extremely magical. 

It will likely take me a few hours to edit the first image of the season to make it look the magical way I saw it in my head when I first chose the backdrop. Each edit after that will vary in time but many will take me an hour, especially if there are additional magical elements that do not occur in the original photo from my camera.

Remember, this is still the sample book, not the storybook for clients. We’re getting to that later.

christmas magic image before editing
Christmas photo picture with magical flour elements in photoshop

Images are the BEFORE and AFTER of a Christmas Magic image from our 2021 sessions

The Actual Book

14. I lay out the finished story into the files I’ve created for the book.

15. Then, I design the cover of the album. The cover tends to stay similar year after year so that the set is cohesive but it does need its own unique touches.

16. Format all of the edited images into the book. Triple check that the right image is on the right page.

17. Tweak the story for the particular family. The story needs to be tweaked for every single family that purchases the storybook. Things that are specific to that family: family name, kids’ names, genders and gender combos, number of kids, and some story elements have to be adjusted.

18. Send the book to copy editor #1

19. Because I like to be safe rather than sorry, I send the book to a second copy editor (#2) after the first has returned it.

20. Then, even though I make each book myself, I do a final review as, ultimately, it’s on me if there is an issue with the printed book. I need it to be perfect.

21. Send the book to the lab for printing.

22. Review the book and cross my fingers that it is perfection.

23. Package the book up so that opening it is like opening a Christmas present.

page from our 2020 christmas storybook - original text by Studio James Photography

Inside our 2020 Storybook Magic

But After the First Book Is Done, You Just Drag and Drop, Right? NOPE

After we photograph a client’s session, they choose what they’d like to order. If they decide on the storybook, Jaime goes through steps 12-23 FOR EVERY SINGLE CLIENT.

So many things can go wrong with these books. Obviously, we could spell a name incorrectly but the most common things to be careful to adjust are verbs (for single vs multiple kids), genders, plurals, etc.

We have to pay for the cost of the book once (and we buy from quality labs), we don’t want to have to do it again because we’ve made an error. That’s just a waste – and very very annoying.

Thanks for Sharing – Aren’t You Worried People Will Steal Your Process?

I say, let them try! Our process is pretty much common sense but our secret ingredient is the creative team of my art and my husband’s words – it’s a magical combo that is unbeatable.

Last Words

To conclude, the storybook is a whole lot of work, but, for us, it’s a labour of love. I put the endless hours into it every year because my boys and my clients’ kids deserve as much Christmas magic and memories as I can give them. My boys adore their collection and look forward to snuggling up and reading the books with me every December and I want my clients to be able to have them to build wonderful Christmas traditions with their kids as well.

jaime sword calgary newborn photographer