You've got the outfits ready and the bag is packed. You are determined to get that wall-worthy family photo. You booked your family photo session months ago. You are very excited. Then, you start to worry. Will my children behave? What if they won’t smile? How do I handle a full-blown meltdown? Well, it's easier than you think to prepare kids for family photos. Read on for some great advice!
As family and child photographers, we 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 ways to get your children in a positive, happy mindset.
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.
Talk About the Photo Session Beforehand
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. If you feel jazzed about our session, they will too! When you explain what will happen introduce us as friends. It’s helpful if they have a name (i.e. Cathy and Jenn, rather than “the photographers”).
For younger children, you can set the stage for a successful session 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.
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!
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.
Make Sure They Are 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. 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 a meal, 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.
Cathy & Jenn of CatsMac Photography, Cobourg, Ontario.