Here are some tried and true ways to bring out the best in your kids so you end up with amazing family photos!
To the best of your ability, make sure your kids are rested and fed before your session. Use the restroom before you leave. Make sure your kids' faces are clean and wiped when you arrive on location. And leave early so that you’re not rushing to your session. I often have sessions booked back-to-back, so if you’re late, it will cut into your time.
Lower your expectations. Then lower them some more.
This is not meant to be discouraging in any way, but kids are unpredictable. If you have your hopes up too high, and your kids aren’t cooperating, you set yourself up to be disappointed instead of enjoying your time together as a family. Some parents get bothered when their kids aren’t smiling just right, or if they’re being a little goofy instead of following my every direction. As a parent, I understand that frustration, trust me. But as your photographer, I see it as an opportunity to capture your children in an authentic way. If we focus on having fun over perfection, you’re guaranteed to walk away with images you love.
I want your photos to reflect your unique personal style. However, I will say, neon colors never photograph well so please avoid them if possible. You may also want to avoid fabrics that easily wrinkle. Neutral colors are my favorites along with earth tones. Also, shirts that are "heathered" in color or have a little bit of texture are easier to photoshop if something spills or gets dirty. You can go dressy or casual, that’s totally up to you, but if you go casual, I would at least wear nice shoes (i.e. no dingy sneakers). If you’re having a hard time deciding what to wear, feel free to send me pictures. I’m happy to provide input and help you choose an outfit! Pinterest is also a great place to go for wardrobe inspiration.
For Girls: If you put your child in a dress, please cover her underwear or diaper with bloomers, biker shorts, leggings, or tights. Little kids move around a lot, and you don't want to ruin a good take just because your little one accidentally opened her legs exposing her underwear.
For Babies: Keep your baby in a bib until right before we start shooting to avoid drool stains. Drool stains can be extremely hard to fix in Photoshop depending on the outfit, so I can’t promise I can remove them during editing. I would even suggest dressing him/her when you arrive at the location to avoid blowout-in-the-car fiascos.
Cold Weather: Dress kids in warm layers. Even older kids have a hard time cooperating if they’re cold. You can accessorize with cute scarves, mittens, and hats.
Tree Farm Minis: Go casual here. Jeans, sweaters, flannels, and boots work best in this environment. Stick to seasonal colors here too. You can accessorize with hats, scarves, and gloves. We want the focus to be on having fun, and it’s hard to do that if we’re worried about getting dirty.
Lastly, make sure your kids' limbs (if exposed) are clear of brightly colored bandaids and/or temporary tattoos. I do edit every photo to remove or diminish temporary blemishes like bruises, zits, or small scratches, but I cannot guarantee I will be able to remove bandaids and lingering tattoos. So it's best to remove them before your session if you don't want to see them in your photos. Nail polish remover works great to rub off temporary tattoos.
Oh man, do I love toddlers! They keep me on my toes, literally! If you have a walking child between 1 and 3 years old, it’s very likely he or she is going to bust out of your arms at some point and run away. That’s okay! But to make the most of your time with me, please be prepared to bring them back quickly. Throughout your session, I will coach you through some ways to engage your child and get him or her to smile and play with you while I’m sneaking pictures. Playing peek-a-boo, singing a favorite song, swinging in your hands, and tickling are some of my favorite ways to wrangle a toddler! Also, sometimes little kids can get overwhelmed by too much direction and will start acting out. If this happens, let me try to work with them one-on-one. Kids will often cooperate for me because I’m new and giving them special attention.
I know not everyone approves of incentivizing good behavior, but in this case, it can help, but only as a last resort. Generally speaking, kids under 3 do better with immediate rewards. In other words, they don't always understand that they have to cooperate for a long period of time before they get a treat, and they get frustrated. If we've already tried several things to no avail, it might be good to offer a small snack in between takes as a reward. If you smile, you’ll get ____. If you sit here, I’ll give you another ____. You get the idea. Smarties, cheerios, goldfish, raisins, and marshmallows are my go to snack bribes. Avoid snacks that may cause your kids to drool like fruit snacks or that may make a mess like m&m’s. Rewards like going to dinner after the session, getting ice cream, or playing at the playground tend to work best with older kids. Bottom line: Be armed with incentives but wait to offer them until absolutely necessary.
Posed vs. Candid Pictures: How to get the best of both!
I like to take a variety of pictures during your session. Some will be directed and posed but others will be more spontaneous and candid. When we’re attempting a posed portrait, don’t look around at what’s going on behind me or look to see what your kids are doing, and try not to mimic my silly faces. I will be doing all sorts of things to get your kids to smile (I’m basically a circus performer behind the camera), and it helps if you just keep smiling and looking at the camera. I’ll be giving you real time feedback so you’ll know how it’s going.
Now, not everyone is comfortable getting their picture taken, I get it. It can be awkward, and it’s easy to mentally check out. But it’s really important to stay engaged, even when you’re not in front of the camera. Disconnect from your phone and enjoy the quality time with your family. On the flip side, some people get extremely nervous in front of the camera. If I can put you at ease, there is no need to worry about how to pose. I don’t want you to be tense or stiff or worried about how you look. I will give you direction as needed, but try to just be yourself and relax. Don't overthink it.
As we move in between posed sets, I like to capture the unique ways you interact as a family. Maybe you like to toss your 6 month old into the air. Maybe your 2 year old loves to twirl around your finger. Maybe you frequently hold your daughter in your lap and whisper something in her ear. Whatever it is you do to love on your kids when you’re hanging out at home, do it during our session. If your child is being shy or suddenly gets upset, cuddle with them for a few minutes. I don’t want you to feel like you have to be perfectly staged for every photo. I look for those tender moments, and sometimes they end up being my favorite photos because they are so genuine, spontaneous, and special!
Parents: Don’t forget to be affectionate with each other too! Put your arms around each other, hold hands, and dare I say, make eye contact once in a while.
One last piece of advice:
Remember when we talked about setting expectations? If you have a certain set of photos you absolutely want to have, let me know ahead of time so I can make sure we’ve allotted enough time for your session. Mini sessions are my most popular and most offered bookings, but they are short at only 20 minutes. There’s not a lot of time to incorporate pets, wardrobe changes, or extended family and still get a variety of photos. Let’s make sure we’re on the same page before the day of your session if you’ve got specifics in mind!
Thank you so much for booking a session with me. I hope this has been helpful. I absolutely love what I do, and I want you to have the most fun during our time together! If you have any questions at all, don’t hesitate to reach out.