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 and newborn 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 unique.
These images may not be the one you intend to hang over the fireplace, but you might end up favoring them anyway! They are often the best representation of you and what bonds you as a family.
Did you miss Part 1 of this series? We’re focusing on YOU parents!
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