For my strong & beautiful mommas, I am speaking to YOU today. I’m speaking to that little voice in your head that’s doubting “What if my kids don’t cooperate for my family session?” “Will I even be able to get any good family pictures with so many little ones?” “What if we had a bad night and one of my boys just won’t listen?” I get it. & I’m here to just tell you that you’re not the only mom or family that has these same worries. We’re going to chat about all the things as to how to make your family session with kiddos smooth and simple. Because let’s be real… it’s hard sometimes! My goal is to ease some of these anxieties by giving you some tips and tricks that I’ve found work to allow your family session to be easy-breezy.
#1: Accept the Imperfect
As a photographer, I’ve seen tons of families with all different numbers of kids, genders, sizes, etc. & ALL of them are unique. I don’t ever expect you as a family to show up looking perfect with all of your ducks in a row and all the kids with smiles on their faces. Because, well… that’s not quite what life is actually like and I’m more about embracing the flaws than faking your way through it.
So, first things first: accept the imperfect. God made each family tightly knit in its’ own beautiful way. & my focus is to be your visual storyteller. To be able to deliver images to you and your family that show that raw low, joy, and sometimes frustration throughout all stages of life. However, if you are so concentrated on getting the “perfect” images with each kid properly posed and smiling big, your story won’t shine through your final pictures. Allow yourself to adjust your mindset to be more positive, even when your kid’s behavior isn’t. Your child wants to run around and play with leaves? Alright, let’s give them that creative freedom for a few minutes. Crying toddler? Take a breather, soothe them and remind yourself that every momma goes through this at times.
Odds are your family session will not be exactly how you imagined it would be. Because kids are kids, and you know what? That’s O.K.A.Y! Embrace the challenges, and the less than perfect aspects of your family. Your pictures will become a beautiful display of who you are as a family and the love that is present within you.
#2: Plan Ahead for More Time
As I mentioned, there will be times when family members are frustrated, tired, or upset during your session. It’s life! However, to counteract this, ALWAYS plan ahead for more time in your family session. I don’t just say this to be that photographer that is always sales-pitching to you to purchase the highest package. I say this because time is of the essence in family sessions.
There is nothing worse than being rushed in your family session, ending up with less pictures than you wanted, kids not smiling in your pictures, and pictures that just look tense. I’m a firm believer that natural-feeling images AT your session will produce beautiful, authentic looking images AFTER your session. In other words, if you are having fun with your family at your session and cracking jokes, I can almost confidently say that you WILL receive pictures that look exactly like that. Pictures that so boldly convey your raw emotions.
You don’t want to start off your family session by setting unrealistic goals. For example, if you are a family of 5 with children all under the age of 6, then maybe don’t start off with a mindset that it can be done in 20 minutes. While this may be able to be done, it’s not going to set you up for success. Instead, try to budget in more time for your family session. Not only will this give you a wider variety of images with more to choose from, but it’ll present a feeling of relaxation and authentic emotion within your family.
Make an evening of your family pictures. I recommend your family session to be around 40-45 minutes. This will give you some extra wiggle room just in case your kiddos are wanting to be silly ;) In the same way, it will allow you to fully relax and be present in the moment to enjoy these pictures.
#3: Talk with your Kids about the Session Beforehand
Hype. The. Family. Session. Up!!! Working with kiddos as my part-time job, I KNOW that they can feel when you are excited. & when you’re excited, they’re incredibly excited. One thing that really helps your session run smoothly is to have a small conversation beforehand about what’s going to happen and how AWESOME it’s going to be!
Some things that I tell parents to include in these conversations are:
- It will be a new, fun place to explore and walk around
- They will get to be silly for some pictures and will be serious for other ones
- I will give them fun activities & prompts to do during the pictures (like little challenges!)
- They get to tell me allllll the things that they love
- & they will maybe even get some fun treats afterwards from their new photographer friend ;)
While these topics can be different for each kiddo and their personality, make sure to incorporate items that will excite them and motivate them to be at the session. From a kid’s perspective, hearing “you need to smile and sit nicely in family pictures tonight” sounds like no fun. In actuality, it will even turn them away from pictures and they are more apt to misbehave or not enjoy the session. So, put a fun twist on it and chat about things that they might enjoy about the session! Happy kids=happy pictures, right? ;)
#4: Choose your Session Time Purposefully
Most times, I like to take family session pictures right before sunset for that beautiful, golden hour glow. But, with kids, it can sometimes be hard to get pictures done so late (depending on the season). Because of this, I’ve become super accommodating to session times.
When planning your session start time, I would ask yourself a few questions:
- Will my children be well-fed at this time?
- Is it too close to their bedtime?
- Are there any other schedule conflicts that are around this time?
It’s extremely important to make sure that your kiddos (& you!) have full stomachs and aren’t too tired. No one likes being hangry… especially your photographer ;) If you are planning to go out to eat as a family after your session, that’s fine! I actually encourage it too :) However, if you are doing this, make sure to feed your kiddos a nice, big snack beforehand so that they don’t get an empty stomach and agitated. You also want to make sure that your session doesn’t cut into your child’s normal bedtime. On the other hand, you want them to be well-rested and motivated to take pictures. I recommend scheduling right after a long nap time or in the evening an hour or so before when they usually go down for bed. This will allow your session to run quite smoothly.
#5: Pick Clothing Wisely
Another important aspect of family pictures are the clothes that you choose to wear at your session. For all families who book a session with me, I actually have a wonderful guide that I send to you to help prepare and prep your outfits. While color, theme, and style are important, comfort is KEY in all kinds of pictures you get done.
Many of the local parks around Indy are used for getting pictures done. While they are beautiful, they often times take some walking around to get different scenery in your pictures. This is reason #1 why you should value comfort in your session clothing! It’s much better to go for the comfy sandals than the chunky heels that hurt your ankles. I also often times incorporate movement and motion into my sessions because it is a pivotal tool for capturing authentic emotion. Make sure that whatever clothing you wear is breathable, comfortable, and easy to move around in.
This goes for ALL members of your family- not just you who is reading this! Your kids aren’t going to want to walk back and forth for a fun prompt if they are wearing a brand-new shirt that’s too small for them. So, make sure that you make clothing a priority for your family pictures, checking with each person in your family to maximize comfort over style.
#6: Soak up the Fun + Brainstorm Motivation
While I have a ton of prompts and poses that are my go-to during family sessions, you are the one who ultimately knows your children and family best. Try and think of some motivating phrases, activities, or incentives that work at home to bring to the family session. I’m all about incorporating fun into sessions, so I am 100% up for whatever you have in store. If you aren’t quite sure what works best for your kiddo, then just try to have a variety of things and ideas in mind. In the past, one thing that worked for one family with a small toddler was bringing along a small bag of gummy bears and allowing them to be a reward after a few pictures. Whatever it is, it helps if it is personalized to your child and leaves them feeling motivated to take more pictures.
Finally, your family session is here so enjoy the moment! Kids grow up faster than you think, childhood memories fade, and families grow old. This session is NOW. Soak it up- the love, the joy, the full energy. Allow yourself to let loose, relax, take a breather, and truly take in everything that encompasses this session and your family. Trust that as your photographer, I can guide you through relaxing family pictures that are also fun and beautiful. Family sessions can be such an exciting night surrounded by those you love, so take in every moment of it! I promise, I’ve got you covered :)
Indy-based wedding photographer for the joyful, classic-living couple