A Mom’s Guide to a Tear-Free Photo Shoot

As a photographer and a mom, I’ve learned a few tricks to make a straight-faced kiddo crack a smile or grab the attention of a busy-body toddler.  But sometimes the tricks just aren’t enough.  No matter how many animal noises or funny faces I make, I can’t magically turn a child into a cooperative superstar model.  Some days kids just don’t want to take pictures….  which would be fine if you hadn’t just paid that session fee for a professional photographer to document the occasion.  Here are some tips to prevent picture day meltdowns and make the photo shoot a success.

Choose your session date, time, and location carefully.
Pick a day when there isn’t much going on.  Kiddo is going to be tuckered out after a birthday party or soccer practice.   You are going to be rushed and stressed if you have somewhere to be directly after the session.  Keep the day low key and let the photo session be the main event for the day.
Know your child’s energy schedule.  I only offer early morning and late afternoon sessions for optimal lighting.  If your child is more energetic in the mornings, book a morning session.  If your child isn’t a morning person, book an evening session.
Don’t choose a location near a playground unless you want to hear “Can I go play now?” about two dozen times. Also keep in mind that a new place might be too distracting for a young toddler and they may need a safer place to explore.

Eat and nap before the session.
We all know overtired+hungry=cranky baby.  If your child naps, be sure they get their nap in before the session.  Have the children eat while still in their every day clothes to prevent getting their portrait clothing dirty.  Also make sure they are cleaned up before arriving at the session location to prevent mini tantrums and red faces.

Make sure they like their clothes.
Itchy sweaters and tight shoes are enough to make me crabby.  Comfortable kids are happy kids.

Even if you aren’t going to be in the pictures, wear portrait clothing.
For the stranger anxiety stage, sometimes the best way to put a child at ease is by having Mommy or Daddy hold their hand.  Be prepared to step in front of the camera.

Bring water, a clean snack, and baby wipes.
No one wants to be hungry or thirsty so a light, mess-free snack and water is good to have on hand, especially for the little ones.  I usually carry baby wipes on me just in case someone gets dirty or needs a nose wiped.

Just smile!
If you start to think things aren’t going as hoped, relax and smile.  I’m sure I’ll have plenty of beautiful shots by the end of the session.  Don’t stress because your children will become stressed.  Whatever you do, don’t tell your children to smile or say cheese.  Think about it.  Would you be able to smile naturally if your mom was fussing at you to smile?  Feel free to walk away and let me connect with your child.  Developing the photographer/subject relationship is an important process in creating beautiful portraits.  By standing five feet to my left and saying “Smile,” you essentially break the bond and I get lots of images of your child staring off to the side.  If you can’t stop yourself from coaxing, please get as close to me as possible.  Bunny ears and playing peek-a-boo from behind me usually helps get a few naturally smiles and giggles.

 Don’t bring people or toys you don’t want in the shot.
While you might think it’s a good idea to bring an attention grabber or a kid wrangler,  it usually hinders the photographer/subject relationship.  Extra people and objects will distract your child.  The key to beautiful portraits is connection, whether it’s with the camera or another person/object in the shot.  When the child is focused on someone or something out of the shot, you lose that connection and end up wondering “what is she looking at?”  Toys that make noises will inevitably end up in the shot; make sure you are okay with that before you bring it.

It’s not a bribe.  It’s just paying for cooperation in the currency of candy or stickers.
Oh, and don’t pay with lollipops until the very end of the session because drama will ensue if you ask a toddler to give you the lollipop for “just one picture.”  Yeah….. learned the one that hard way.  🙂

The most important thing is to not forget that you hired a professional photographer that takes lots of pictures during your session.  Pictures of smiles that were so fleeting you don’t even remember them happening.  Just relax, smile, and let the photographer work their magic and I’m sure you’ll be happy with the results. 

If you have your own tips, please leave them in the comments!  I’d love to read them!  And other photographer’s feel free to share this with your clients just please link it back to me.

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