Forget lining up in a shopping centre for your annual Santa photo, many families are embracing a more Australian approach to the traditional portrait with Saint Nick.
Seven years ago in the seaside town of Port Macquarie, on the New South Wales mid north coast, a local photographer started offering ‘Santa on the Beach’ photo sessions, which are now booked out months in advance.
There’s even a ‘pooch session’ on a dog-friendly beach, ensuring furry family members do not miss out.
The photographer, Meredith Bauer, said she wanted to offer something uniquely Australian.
“It’s so much more casual than your traditional Santa photos, the children can really relax and interact,” she said.
“We just thought it was a good opportunity to showcase our beautiful area and show off Christmas in our backyard.
There’s no lining up in shopping centres for these Port Macquarie photos. (Supplied: Meredith Bauer)
“Santa on the Beach works really well in the sense there’s no lining up in shopping centres for photos, basically it’s a lot easier for people booking in a time.”
Ms Bauer offers Santa on the Beach photo sessions on certain weekends and they sell out fast, especially the dog-friendly session.
“When we went on sale this year we sold out in 24 hours and that’s about 400 photos we do during the month of November,” she said.
Local resident Michelle Boskovski said she loved being able to share a piece of her hometown in her yearly family Santa photo.
“It’s original, and every year it’s always very creative, so it’s nice to have something on the coast, and it’s beautiful here,” she said.
Working with kids and animals has its challenges
Photographer Meredith Bauer works hard to capture great images on the beach, and her annual ‘pooch session’ is booked out very quickly. (ABC News: Emma Siossian)
Ms Bauer has a warm and engaging manner which is an essential part of an unpredictable job that involves working with both kids, and animals.
“It’s crazy, that’s one way to describe it, and chaotic, but lot of fun, I mean these pooches are everyone’s best friend and it’s just so beautiful they can be part of the family Christmas photo,” she said.
“Trying to get dogs to look and children to look at the same time can be quite the challenge, but to be totally honest a lot of the dogs are naturals.
“It’s also beautiful seeing children come back year after year.
“Sometimes they start out petrified of Santa in their first year, and it’s great watch them grow each year and get to that point where they just adore Santa and can really enjoy the moment.”
Santa enjoys his visits Down Under
It turns out Santa is also quite fond of his visits, enjoying the warm Port Macquarie climate and some time by the sea, plus cuddles with some of the region’s youngest residents.
“It’s much warmer than the North Pole and I do enjoy it down here because we get a nice breeze with the beautiful Pacific ocean in our background,” Santa said.
“It’s lovely and the kids are lovely too.
“There’s a few on the naughty list, but not too many and they still have time to improve and look after their mum before Christmas comes.
Meredith Bauer enjoys taking Santa photos on the beach and capturing uniquely Australian images. (ABC News: Emma Siossian)
“Most of them are pretty good and to see them come again and again and watch them grow, it’s really fantastic, to have them laugh, it’s really heartening.
“And the dogs all have their own personality.”
Soon it will be time for Santa to make his way back north, but only after bringing smiles to many Australian kids at the beach.
“I have to get back up to the North Pole, we have a lot of toys to make, the elves are working overtime at the moment,” he said.
“So I’ll shoot back up very soon and get everything ready for the 25th.”