Is it possible to have happy chill kids at my photo session? Yep. 100% yes! But - there are tricks to the trade and a few tactics that you need to use.
Coming from this mom of three boys (yes, my house is wild) who has been through some nightmare photo sessions herself, I know the fear of “will my kids be terroristic monsters at our photoshoot?” I vividly remember a photoshoot that I dreamt up and planned out so perfectly. I spent so much money on hiring a photographer and choosing the best outfits so we would look like a magazine article. Only to arrive at our session and have children who were miserable and unruly. At one memorable session of my own: one kid cried, one looked like he hated his life, and the other just begged to go the bathroom the entire time. Kids are tough, but it was not their fault. I needed the guidance I am about to drop for you!
Moments of never wanting to take another family photo for the rest of my life happened to me twice before I became a photographer. Now that I am on the other side of the lens, I have made it my mission to make sure no other mom feels the level of frustration I did at those shoots. You can have a photo shoot with kids who are authentically happy, well behaved, and who leave saying “we had so much fun.” Those wins come with some planning though.
Before you stop here because you are looking at your kids skeptically and sending me your skeptical looks, this is not a 100% fool proof guarantee, but it has a pretty high success rate. Just hear me out! I have managed a few circuses!
Here are my tips to avoid wanting to swap your kids for nicer ones for your photoshoot:
1. Book the right photographer.
Yes, making sure you love the work the photographer puts out is so important, but having a connection with your photographer is VITAL. I cannot stress this enough. Before I ever take on a new client, we meet for coffee or over the phone. I want to know what their vision is for their session, but I also ask questions like:
“How can I serve you best?”
“How can I best prepare your family for your session?”
“What are your concerns so we can troubleshoot them now?”
I want to know who they are as a family, but I also want them to feel safe with me. You need to know your photographer and trust them with your family. You need to know that your photographer hears your mom concerns and that they are there to help make your kids feels comfortable and happy.
2. Plan ahead.
There is nothing worse than buying an outfit for your kid and putting it on the day of only to hear “NO, this is too itchy!” Now what? You don’t have a plan B and Itchy Isaac rolls into your session mad from the start. Try on everyone in the family’s clothes before your session. Hype up your kids so they feel like they look like a million bucks. Then they walk into the session feeling confident in what they are wearing.
Planning your session time around nap times for those littles who need their mid day snooze is important too. It is best not to plan a session right after your little wakes up from a nap when they will be groggy. But - do not skip a nap and end up with a tired babe who is ready for nothing but a blankie and some shut eye.
Strategic planning with your photographer is key.
3. Keep your session day chill and low-key. Make sure everyone is fed, rested, and happy.
Do not rush everyone and yell “IF YOU MESS UP YOUR HAIR ONE MORE TIME…” Mom, you have to take a chill pill. Your babies (and likely your partner who already does not want to take photos) will feed off your vibe. Keep it calm!
4. Encourage and reward. Do not bribe!
Please do not bribe…I am begging you not to bribe. Bribery during a session makes a photographer's job really tough. If you bring candy to your session, your kids focus on one quick smile so they can get the candy you are dangling in front of them.
Bribery makes it almost impossible to get any genuine emotions because they are just saying “cheese” for candy. It also means that meltdowns are inevitable. If they feel like they smiled well enough and you do not immediately reward them, it goes south really fast. Lighting speed fast! Encourage them and reward them after the session, not during.
Bribes during sessions can also get really messy. Hello, chocolate in the summer heat!
5. And last, but definitely not least, let your photographer handle correcting your children.
For a couple of reasons:
No one wants to hug and smile the person who just said “if you don’t look at the camera, I am going to ground you for your life.”
If you are correcting your children and focusing on them, your photographer may get a great shot of their smile, but in that shot you are not paying any attention to anything but correcting them. Let your photographer, the professional you trust, gently handle that part.
It is my job as a photographer to give kids direction and prompts to keep them on the goal, but also to be gently firm with them about what I need from them. If they get out of hand, rest assured, you can you step in.
With the help of a great photographer and with these 5 tips, you are on your way to having a cheerful successful tearless photo session that results in the images you dreamt of. And if all else fails...candid unplanned images with authentic emotions are almost always moms favorites.
I am ready to tame your monsters!