Tips for a stress-free photo session
Having an official family portrait created is an exciting milestone for any family. We dream of this beautiful portrait of smiling faces that we’ll proudly display to our friends and family. Deep down though, there is a worry that the kids might have an off day. While everyone else says ‘cheese’, the toddler will scream ‘no!’ and while the rest smile, the preteen will roll their eyes. We want the kids to express themselves and be authentic but we want them to have fun and express joy and love. This blog post is going to give you some tips on how to have the best session ever.
SELECTING APPROPRIATE TIMES AND LOCATION
Your child’s natural rhythm needs to the taken in consideration. Most sessions are booked for early morning or late evening for best lighting. If your child is an early bird, morning sessions work great and free up the rest of the day. If your family isn’t the “rise & shine” type, evening sessions are a great way to end a fun day.
The location of your session can change how your photos look and feel. Downtown session give a fun modern vibe but dangerous for toddlers that like to dart away from parents. Children with allergies will be miserable to stand in grassy fields that makes them itch and sneeze. Parks are a favorite place to photograph but if a playground is in sight, children will be anxious to get the session over so they can go play.
COMFORT IS KEY
Most photo session meltdowns can be prevented by three simple things: sleep, food, and comfortable clothes. If your child stills naps, make sure they get a nap that day. Have the whole family eat just before changing into portrait clothes and bring a clean snack (no Cheetos and Kool Aid, please!). I once had a family plan a nice dinner after their session and within 30 minutes, the “how much longer? I’m STARVING!!!” began. Session are plenty long for snack breaks for babies that are still breast or bottle feeding.
For spring and fall sessions, it’s a good idea to have two outfits prepared. One for warm weather and one for cool weather. Texture is great for photos but avoid itchy sweaters.
PARENTS, BE PHOTO READY EVEN IF YOU DON’T INTEND TO BE PHOTOGRAPHED.
Have you ever seen the old fashion portrait where the mother was draped in a sheet and the baby sat on her lap? Google it if you haven’t seen it. It’s a little creepy but it was the best way to console a little one and keep them still for a portrait.
These days you don’t have to hide under a blanket. You can be in the picture without being the focus of the picture such as a close up of your hand holding your child’s or your baby peeking over your shoulder.
I love classic toys in photos. A wooden car or small teddy bear looks adorable in a little one’s hand. Most modern toys are bright multicolored monstrosities with flashing lights. Your child will not connect with the camera when focused intently on their toy and even if she does look up, the toy will be a distraction in the portrait. If we need a prop, I always suggest bringing a favorite toy that you don’t mind being in your photograph and making sure it doesn’t clash with the outfit.
Sometimes parents decide to bring a kid wrangler. A well-intentioned grandparent or babysitter that knows how to make the children laugh. The connection is beautiful and best captured in front of the camera. If the kid wrangler stands six feet to the right of the camera, all the photos will be of the side of the child’s face and lack connection. If you must coax the children to laugh, stand behind the photographer and make funny faces or bunny ears.
BLENDED FAMILIES & GRANDPARENTS
There is nothing more awkward than saying “Can you give Dad a hug?” and getting “He’s not my dad. He’s my STEPdad” in return. It’s very important to inform your photographer of the relationships within your family. If your children are not on hugging terms with their stepparents, you’ll be posed to respect that.
Children are much more receptive when the photographer calls family members by the same terms of endearment. “Can Grandma hold you” may get a blank stare but “Can Nana hold you” can make a toddler jump into Nana’s arms.
RELAX AND SMILE
Sometimes during a session, it may feel like it’s not going as planned. The baby fell asleep on the car ride and is not thrilled about being woken up. The toddler is being a typical toddler and the teenager is being a typical teenager. These are the moments when you need to relax and smile. Trust your photographer to direct the session. Don’t be afraid to step away and let the photographer connect with your child one-on-one. Trust that the camera will capture fleeting smiles that you won’t even remember. Children will feel your stress so take a deep breath, tell your kids how much you love them, and smile for the camera.