5 Tips for a Great Family Photo Session with Kids

March 11th, 2024

Planning for a family session can feel overwhelming for parents and caregivers. While sessions with me are meant to be fun-filled and child-led, I understand that the thought of getting everyone clean, clothed, and happy can be daunting. As a parent myself, I know there's a strong desire for your kids to "behave" and for things to go smoothly. It's normal to feel that way!
I've been photographing families for almost 13 years now and while my style has shifted pretty dramatically from more posed shots to free-flowing, play-fueled sessions, I've learned some pretty great tips that I'm going to pass on to you dear reader! Let's get into it.

Tip #1
Prepare Everyone

Set the tone early and prepare your family for an adventure! If you frame your session as a boring time that they'll need to sit and fake smile through it's guaranteed to be a flop. Instead, start talking to kids early on in your planning process about all the fun we'll have on our photo adventure. Young children love to be in on the excitement so chat with them and involve them in the decision making. You can tell them all about your photographer and the cool place we're going to explore. Explain to them about how their photos might one day end up on the walls of your home and talk to them about why you feel it's special to spend this type of time together.


Tip #2

I understand that this can feel high-stakes, photos are a significant investment and you want to be sure you'll receive good photos. Here's the thing though, stress is contagious and little humans especially have their radars tuned in to how you're feeling. I encourage you to approach your session as an opportunity to play, hug, and laugh with the people you love the most in the world. Rather than an hour that you HAVE to get posed and perfectly smiling shots, instead look at it as an hour to capture what makes you special as a family. Who are your children really? Are they perfectly coiffed and dressed, always perfectly behaved? Or do they suck their thumbs and stop to pick up cool rocks? Do they sometimes hide behind you when they meet a stranger or splash in a puddle in brand new shoes? Do they have a favourite stuffie that they're determined to include in the session?
RELAX - your kids aren't stock image models, they're real tiny people with big ideas & big feelings. Let it be and the photos will feel more special that way, I promise.


Tip #3

Keep your cool.

I know this sounds like the same thing as "RELAX", but actually I mean something different with this tip. When those little turkeys start acting up during your shoot... keep your cool. I guarantee you that I've seen more chaotic families than yours and as your photographer, I'm fine. Instead of getting stern and disciplining in the moment, keep calm and divert. Get them focused on something new and cool - if they've done something really rascally, save the discipline for later if necessary.


Tip #4
Get Off Your Phones

This sounds like it should go without saying, but phones are a connection killer. I've seen folks hop on their devices mid-session and it's like an invisible wall pops up that separates them from the group. My sessions last about an hour and I don't feel it's unreasonable for my clients to tuck their phones away and spend 60 minutes of quality time with their partner and kids. I don't mind if you snap a quick behind-the-scenes shot and then tuck your phone in your bag, but leave the business calls, texts, emails, etc for another time. You've paid your photographer for their time, sure, but you've also paid them to capture a moment in your family's history. Help them out by being present for that.


Tip #5
Have FUN


Sounds obvious right? Just have fun, it'll be fine... sounds too easy. But seriously, this is an opportunity to document your family the way you truly are at this moment in time. When you think of what you'd like to remember 10, 20, or 30 years down the road, what do you think of? I'm not suggesting we don't take a single posed photo, we can certainly capture some of those, but I do believe that real-life interactions are art. When we let down our guards and shed some of the expectations for flawless images, I believe that's when the best photos are made. I want to see the way you chase your toddler down the beach and scoop them up while they wiggle and laugh. I want to see how you tenderly brush the hair out of your 'tween's eyes as they pretend to be annoyed. I want to capture how you glance at your partner while they watch your kids spin in circles till they fall down. Have fun, play, be there.. and the photos will be perfectly you!

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