We try to have professional family photos taken at least once a year. But as Fall rolled around, I realized it had been well a over a year since our last photo session. So with some trepidation, I scheduled a photo session.
The sessions have always been stressful – planning outfits, the location, any props or poses. When you spend so much money on photos and do them so infrequently you want them to be perfect. Well, if I’ve learned anything as a parent, it’s that nothing goes as planned with toddlers. You can make plans but you might as well make plans for the plans that didn’t go as planned.
I’ve talked to several other moms that tell me they end up in tears during photo session with their babies. For me, if it’s not tears then it’s a fight with husband who keeps telling me to relax or worse “chill out”. After five years of this family ritual, I have learned a few basic tips to help manage toddlers during family photos. These have really helped make it a more pleasant experience for us all.
Tips to Help Moms Survive Family Photo Sessions
1. For starters, We never use the word “smile” because that seems to triggers this idea with the kids that they can control the situation with a smile. In other words, they show us how unhappy they are about what we are making them do by doing the opposite. Instead we have them “say cheese” or “stinky feet” or anything that makes the “EEEE” sound.
I can almost hear Townes shouting “CHEESE” in a few of these photos. While he over did it, it’s a fond memory I’ll have looking back and remembering his enthusiasm and energy.
2. Take a toy or favorite object. It helps ease the child into the setting. No, I didn’t love having Townes’ favorite blanket or his toy car in a photo but it gave him comfort to be away from me for a few minutes. In addition, I can remember what he loved or played with at the age.
You can see Townes has a car in his hand and that he is still a little skeptical about what is happening (this was one of our first photos). Below Lily was cold so she used my scarf to stay warm and we incorporated it into the photos because she wasn’t giving it up.
3. For candid photos, plan an activity or game to help them feel comfortable but also help capture candid moments, expressions and smiles.
To help ease the kids into the family photos, Walt threw Townes up in the air, we swung Lily, we let them climb trees, have piggyback rides and make silly faces. Townes was more fascinated with throwing the leaves over the bridge than posing for the family photo, instead of getting frustrated (which was tempting) we had him throw leaves in the air. Sure, they aren’t always looking at the camera but it captured pure joy, laughter and happiness and you can’t beat that!
4. For family photos, bring a family friend or give the photography a stuff animal to strap on the camera lens. Telling them to look at the camera doesn’t always make sense to them so having an aunt act silly in the background or a sitting a monkey on top of the lens works wonders!
5. Reward and recognize them. Whether you let them play a game on your phone, eat a snack or even take a walk if you have a aunt, uncle or friend, that will buy you a few minutes for photos with the significant other. It took only 3-4 minutes to snap these few shots of the us once we wrapped up with the kids.
6. This should probably have been #1 – BE FLEXIBLE - You have to be flexible and play it by ear. I’d planned on an outfit change and a second location but I knew almost immediately it wasn’t going to work out. Given how cold it was and that the children’s interest was dwindling quickly, I let it go. Of course, I was disappointed (I totted the change of clothes with me until the very end hoping it could still work out) but I knew I’d be pushing my luck if I kept going. An hour was their limit and since they didn’t start cooperating until 20-30 minutes into the session there was no way.
One day it will be easy and everything will go as planned but I don’t want to wait for that day to come to capture these sweet little ones so time to start clicking away.
What tips or tricks do you have for photo sessions with little ones?