How to Prepare For Your Family Photo Session Part 1
Usually, it’s a mix of frustration and embarrassment. You have a lot invested in this experience. You carefully planned your family’s outfits ,convinced your camera-shy spouse to take part, researched location options, and you might have bribed your kids. Consequently, when they start acting up – you might be the one ready to cry! It doesn’t have to be this way. I’m here to make your experience enjoyable from start to finish. Here are six pointers to keep in mind as you prepare for family photos.
1. Kids Will Be Kids –Let Them!
Trust me when I tell you, I have seen it all—shy kids, wild kids, hyperactive kids, kids who literally run from the camera. Guess what? They could rub mud all over their face and we will still get an image you adore. There is nothing your child can do that will surprise me. Nor should their antics embarrass you. I’m a family photographer! This is what I signed up for… and I have plenty of tricks in my arsenal.
As you prepare for family photos, remember your littles have minds of their own. We might try something for a bit and discover it’s not working. That’s okay and that is where you come in. Be flexible; allow us to move on to something else. Goofy or shy behavior is age-appropriate, not misbehavior.
2. Keep It Light
Kids feed off your mood, so you want to keep the session as low stress as possible. Do your best to make it a fun experience. Stick to positive reinforcement. Harsh words or threats of discipline can send a session spiraling. Your child’s behavior might be frustrating, but this is one time you need to ignore it.
Set yourself up for success by framing the session in a lighthearted manner. Say something like, “We’re going to the park with Dixie today. She loves to play games and make animal noises. She’ll be taking our picture and it will be such fun!” On the flip side, comments that amp up the pressure (e.g. “This is a really important day for our family; mommy needs you to cooperate.”) are detrimental. Let go of that stress and tension. Once a session begins, the best thing you can do to ensure success is to have fun and cozy up with your kids.
3. Just Say NO To Delayed Bribes
Remember, children under the age of five do not understand delayed gratification. Promises of a “future” reward don’t resonate. However, they are plenty capable of getting on board with family photos sans reward. After all, the session is “playtime” – Who needs a reward for having a blast?
Sometimes a little motivation AT the session can help though… so bring a bag of fruit snacks or their favorite candy for instant reward and gratification. Suckers, chocolate and really messy treats are best left at home so as not to spoil the outfits and fun.
Now, do hear me out, you can still go out for ice-cream afterwards as a fun treat to cap off the family session, but keep it at that… a fun treat to end a good evening!
4.Let Your Photographer Take The Lead
I get it… You know your child better than anyone else. You know what makes them tick, what draws a giggle, or shakes them out of a mood. However, this is one occasion where you need to let the professional take the lead. It might be tempting to stand behind me and tell your kids to “smile” or “look at the camera”. After all, when you’re taking photos at home, those prompts can be helpful… even necessary. This is not the case when you’re working with a family photographer.
My job is to elicit genuine emotion and real smiles. I don’t want to make your children smile—I want to make it impossible for them not to grin. If you get the urge to start coaxing, take a breath, step back, and savor the moment. Parents rarely have the opportunity to simply relax and gaze at their incredible little people. This is that moment. Enjoy it!
Sometimes it’s helpful to show them a picture of me in advance when talking about the upcoming session. Head to my “About” page, so I’m not a strange face or show my Instagram feed to them. This will help them see I’m a friend.
5. Don’t Let Yourself Feel Rushed
By far, the easiest way to prepare for family photos is to give yourself plenty of time to get ready. You want to eat before your session and have a snack/treat/water for your kids on location. Additionally, make sure your children are well rested and pack everything you need hours in advance. Give your outfits a test run in the days leading up to your session. If something feels uncomfortable, choose an alternative. Stress increases when you feel rushed. So give yourself extra time to get dressed, load the car, and drive to the session. The goal is to minimize any frantic, frazzled feelings.
6. Get Dad On Board
Remember what we said earlier about how your mood sets the tone for the entire session? Kids will notice if Dad isn’t excited about the session. I know most men don’t exactly jump for joy at the prospect of having their photo taken. So, talk with your spouse and ask them to put their game face on. Ask him to pretend he loves the camera. The first few minutes might feel stiff and awkward, but I promise you will quickly find yourself having fun and settling into the moment. Lifestyle photography—and my work in particular—is all about capturing genuine emotion and authentic connection. The best photos are candid. My job is to capture the real you. So… get ready to play, laugh, relax… and simply be yourself!
How to Prepare Your Kids for a Family Photo Session Part 2
Imagine this… The outfits are ready; the bag is packed. You are determined to get that wall-worthy family photo. You booked your session months in advance and couldn’t be more excited. Then, the alarm bells begin to go off… Will my children behave? What if they won’t smile? How do I handle a full-blown meltdown? What should I tell them before the session? It’s easier to prepare kids for family photos than you think. You just need a bit of pro advice… and some straight talk. That’s where I come in!
As a family photographer, I welcome childish antics. We want their personalities to come through loud and clear. They may be shy. They may want to ham it up. Either way, that’s okay…. We will get a photo you love. In fact, we will make you love the process! Family photos are supposed to be fun. So let’s dial down that pressure. Here are five (EASY) ways to get your children in a positive, happy mindset.
1. Keep “Hangry” At Bay
Fill those little bellies! One of the easiest ways to prepare kids for family photos is to ensure they begin the session with a full stomach. Offer a meal or snack before you hop in the car and bring a snack/water for a mid-session break too.
Pro tip: Choose “clean” snacks, like fruit snacks. You don’t want your kiddos’ mouths, hands, or outfits stained. These should be small, treats they can eat quickly.
2. Talk About The Session
Introduce the idea of the photo session to your child well in advance. Like us, children feel more comfortable when they know what to expect. Additionally, they feed off your energy (more on that in this post). If you feel jazzed about our session, they will too! When you explain what will happen try to introduce me as a friend, someone familiar. It’s helpful if they have a name (i.e. Kelly rather than “that photographer lady”).
For younger children, you can set the stage for session success by “playing” photographer at home the week of your shoot. This is a great way to prepare kids for family photos because it helps them equate photography with playtime and fun. It becomes a game, not a stressful scenario.
3. Dress Them In Something Comfortable
I know it is tempting to force them into that “oh-so darling” outfit. However, opting for an outfit your kiddos don’t feel comfortable in could grind your session to halt. It’s just not worth it. Scratchy fabrics or stiff clothing—no matter how trendy or cute—will leave kids fussy, tugging at their outfit, or… taking it off all together (believe me… it happens). Instead, dress them in what they love. Can you plan outfits around that garment you know they adore wearing? They’ll be happier and you will get images that are more representative of “real” family life.
Whatever you pick out for them, please do a test run well in advance. Check the fit. Do a “sit test” and ensure everything moves properly. There’s nothing worse than trying to fix wardrobe malfunctions while your toddler has a meltdown! Need more family photo outfit tips? Check out my summer and fall family outfit guides.
4. Bring A Comfort Item
It’s always a good idea to have a familiar toy or comfort blanket on hand. Hopefully, we won’t need it. However, when considering how to prepare kids for family photos — this can be golden. Secretly stow it in the car and keep in as your “back up system.” Sometimes this simple comfort (e.g. blanket or stuffed animal) is all a child needs to “warm up” to having their picture taken. Ideally, this item will make a brief appearance – then retire to its resting place.
5. Make Sure They’re Well-Rested
(But Please Don’t Let Them Nap in the Car)
Photo day is not the day to skip the nap. So please, please adjust your schedule accordingly. Most outdoor fall sessions occur later in the evening to coincide with that gorgeous “golden hour” glow (e.g. the hour before sunset). That means you little people might be up a bit later than normal. A bit of nap shifting can make things easier on everyone!
If you have never done family photos before, prepare yourself. Things can get rather chaotic as you prep outfits for a session, load the car, rush through dinner, and attempt to get everyone in the right mindset. Do your best to maintain your usual schedule. A huge part of preparing kids for family photos is keeping things as normative as possible! During the day of a session, it’s a good idea to try to stay home as much as possible. This allows for proper rest. Furthermore, do not let your little one sleep in the car. Babies can wake up quickly and be “smiley”, but toddlers need time to adjust to their surroundings after a sudden wake-up.
6. Bring An Activity You Love To Do Together
What sparks joy in your kiddo? Do they love reading with you, throwing a football, or playing with bubbles? These are all great activities to incorporate into a family photos session (if planned ahead of time). In fact, they can be instrumental in stopping a meltdown! Pull out a favorite activity when your child is starting to fade, and they will quickly be ready to participate once again. I love this because it brings out the real smiles and authentic moments that make your family