Even I get nervous when it’s my family’s turn in front of the camera. And my kids are older now so I don’t have to worry about dressing them myself, dealing with a fussy baby, planning for a snack break, or my kids having stranger anxiety! Without a doubt it’s easy to get overwhelmed on the day of a session if you have all of that to worry about.
I thought it might be helpful to give some tips for how to have a relaxed (and fun!) session if you have little ones, because, with a little planning, and the right attitude, I promise things will go smoothly. The session below is a great one for this post, because this family was so easy going, and mom and dad were totally willing to go with the flow. I’ll tell you a little more about the session, and what worked well, throughout this post.
1. Plan ahead, and plan to arrive early, or, better yet — do the session at home.
There is nothing worse than feeling rushed, frazzled and stressed out when you arrive for your family session. I’ve had some families where mom and dad are already at the end of their rope when they arrive. We’ve all had those days, and sometimes there is nothing you can do. However, you CAN stack the decks in your favor:
- Lay out everyone’s clothes the day before, just in case you need to swap or iron any items. Also, (and this is a whole
separate blog post) don’t overthink your wardrobe!
- Leave yourself extra time to get ready (especially mom, since you want to make sure you feel your best, and you’ll probably be helping everyone else!)
- Plan to arrive 15 minutes early, even though you don’t REALLY need to arrive 15 minutes early. If you are like my family, if you plan to be there early, then you’ll be ON TIME! Getting there on time, or a few minutes ahead of schedule also gives us a little time to get to know each other before we start shooting, and hopefully we’ll be fast friends and you’ll be put at ease pretty quickly.
- Bring snacks and water for the kids (nothing colored, chocolatey, or messy, please — goldfish crackers are always great) in case someone needs a break.
Better yet, consider doing your session at home, like we did here. No one has to scramble to the location, everyone is more relaxed at home, and everything you need is right there!
2. Keep it real and go with the flow:
It’s OK if the baby cries. Or a kid doesn’t want to stand where I ask him to stand. Or there are more clouds than you hoped. Or your kids really need a break. That is LIFE. Sometimes the baby crying, as in this session, gives big sister or brother the chance to show off how good they are in that role. And guess what — babies don’t usually cry the ENTIRE time.
As for kids not cooperating as perfectly as you’d like. Well, it really is OK. I know it frustrates you as a parent. I know you want your child to behave for another adult, especially. But I’m not judging you or your kids (you think my kids never misbehaved!? HA! That’s funny.). So before you intervene and get upset at them, let me try taking the child aside and give them some extra attention or let them push some buttons on my camera. Very often they’ll come around. (By the way – this tip is also in my family session guide and I always remind clients that BOTH parents should read it!)
Oh look, he’s ok now!
3. Let kids be kids.
Yes, we will get the essential, looking-at-the-camera portraits, but I love following the kids’ lead sometimes just to see where it goes. They get comfortable and the pressure is off of them a little bit so we always get some fun, natural shots that really let their personality shine.
4. Let each kid have their time in the “Spotlight”
Often a mom will tell me that her kids are “shy” or don’t like to have their pictures taken (this mom did!), but once they realize that they get to be the star for a little bit, they often have a great time with it! No shyness here!
Sometimes they just want to have fun in from of the camera, and others, they want to show me something they love — like the basketball hoop in their room.
Or how they make lemonade for the family. :)
Or just be cute : )
5. Remember why you are doing this.
I know you want a great Christmas card photo — not a problem — but the reason most clients want to do a family photo session is so that they have images of them with the people they love.. So take a deep breath, have fun, and love each other.
Cristen Farrell is a Boston and Andover area family photographer. She specializes in natural light photography and travels all around the Boston area for newborn, family, and childrens photography. Please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or the contact button above for more information.