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14 Tips for Your Family Photo Session

If you have a family photo session planned soon, the following tips will keep your session fun and light-hearted. Take it from me, a seasoned family photographer–these tips come from experience. My advice is especially valuable for families with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. You will love your session so much more if you follow the 14 tips below–enjoy!

1. Parents, stay calm and let your kids be kids. Nothing can ruin a session faster than stressed-out parents with unrealistic expectations. If your kids are under the age of five, you probably won’t get that perfect smiling photo. Embrace the chaos and allow the photographer to capture your family as a real family. If you are stressed and frustrated, your kids will sense it and just get worse and worse. If parents stay calm and have fun, then everyone will follow.

2. Tune in to your kids’ behavior and move on from a pose when it’s not working. Not every photographer will be aware of a kid on the verge of a meltdown. Some will just be too concerned with the pose or the background or whatever. Good photographers (like me!) will know when to move, but sometimes you’ll have to take the lead. If your kids are getting squirmy or seem disinterested, just move on for a few minutes. Giving your kids five minutes to just wiggle or explore can save a session.

3. Pick a location that’s new and exciting, but not too exciting. If you are helping to choose the location, pick somewhere that’s a novelty for your kids. Give them a place that’s exciting to explore. You’ll give them an opportunity to really have fun with you. Be careful that the place isn’t too amazing–some parks have elements that are just too irresistible, and you’ll lose your kids’ attention for good. Balance novelty with sanity!

family photo session4. Or pick a place that’s comfortable and familiar. Maybe a session at home or in your neighborhood will prevent a meltdown. Some kids just don’t like too many new things at once–a park, a photographer, new clothes, you name it, and it can be stressful. Consider your kids’ personalities and pick a location that will make them comfortable.

5. Bring snacks and drinks. Every session with young kids will need a break or two for snacks. Snacks and drinks are the best way to get rid of stress during a session. Just be careful of snacks that will change the color of tongues or lips or get stuck in teeth or on cheeks. And make sure the snack won’t stain their fingers–you wouldn’t want them to smear crumbs on their outfits! Oreos are the absolute worst. Fruit snacks, Goldfish, Cheerios, slices of apple, vegetables, and bottles of water are good choices. Pick clean, bite-sized foods, and your snack break will be a success.

6. Bring wipes, even for kids who are out of diapers. You never know what mess your kids might make at a session. Dirt, leaves, crumbs, snot, boogers, drool, who-knows-what. Having a set of wipes on hand will keep faces and hands clean.

7. Don’t have kids wear new shoes. Breaking in new shoes is the worst. Breaking in new shoes at a photo session where you have to look amazing? Even worse than the worst. If you want your kids to have nice, new shoes, break them out a week or two ahead of time so that your kids are used to them.

8. Bring a plain, dark blanket with no tags or patterns. Early morning sessions might have wet grass, so a blanket can help you use dew-soaked locations. Be careful of blankets with patterns, even if only on one side. Even if you put the pattern side down, the blanket will shift, and you’ll undoubtedly see a distracting splotch of plaid or stripes. Just bring a plain, dark blanket. A light blanket, while perhaps a good reflector of light, may take attention away from your beautiful faces. Also, if there are white tags, cut them off. The darker, simpler, and more neutral, the better!

9. We all like to accommodate naps and bedtimes, but the best light is really early or late. Within an hour of sunrise or sunset will give you that golden, Pinterest-worthy light. If you want that light, then schedule an early or late session. Your photographer simply can’t give you golden hour light unless you schedule a golden hour session.

10. Keep smiling. Don’t look at your kids or point to the camera. Just keep smiling if you’re doing the smile photo. I’ve had too many photos ruined by parents trying to get their kids to look at the camera. The kids come to the camera on their own terms–and they will give an eventual smile. A good photographer will capture that smile, but that capture won’t mean a thing if the parents aren’t smiling, too. If you’re doing the look-and-smile photo, just keep smiling!

11. Hug, snuggle, tickle, sing. Be playful and enjoy yourself as a family. Don’t do a look-and-smile photo for every pose at every location. Your photographer will love you if you have unprompted fun. My favorite sessions (and photos) are of families who had fun without being told to have fun. Enjoy the time with your kids. You’ll end up with great, natural photos of candid laughter and joy.

family photo session12. Dress similarly but not identically. Consider choosing a color to keep outfits related, but give each a person a unique style. Maybe some polo shirts, some dress shirts, some pants, some skirts. Add subtle variety to a unified color-scheme. Don’t wear bright, saturated tops. Bright reds, pinks, oranges, purples, and anything extra-saturated will reflect up to your jaw and chin. Nothing can ruin skin tones faster than a reflected color from a shirt. Keep things neutral and desaturated.

13. Dads, stay off of your phones and enjoy being with your family. While the kids might be frustrating, a dad on a phone doesn’t help. You know who gets mad first when Dad is on the phone? Mom, that’s who. Keep your phones in the car. For one, you won’t have an odd cell phone bulge in the photos. More importantly, you won’t be tempted to work or check scores or do whatever you’re trying to do to avoid the photo session. I keep saying this, but enjoy having fun with your kids! Stay off of your phone.

14. Remember, it’s going better than you think it is in the moment. If your photographer is good, they’re snapping photos even when you don’t think they are. Some of my best photos are taken when my clients least expected it. Often a client will say, “I didn’t even know you were taking pictures at that moment. That’s a great photo!” Your session will be better than you think it is. And if your photographer is good, you’ll get great photos despite any perceived stress or disaster.

I have so much more on my website. Check out my writing section here. I have more about successful family sessions here and here. Do you ever feel a little awkward posing at photo sessions? Here are some easy-to-follow posing tips. Finally, you can book your fall family photo session with me today! Click here to find about family sessions and here to find out more about an exclusive mini session special with another Columbus entrepreneur.

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