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4 Pro-Tips for a great family session with toddlers and little ones.

We've all been there - you're really excited by the thought of getting some decent photos done before another year goes by. You're almost ready to pull the trigger and book that family photo shoot...but then doubt creeps in, and you think "What if my kids don't behave?"

Or, "Am I crazy?! We're going to get five minutes into the shoot, my baby or toddler will have an epic meltdown, and I'll leave wondering why in the world I invested all of that time, money, and energy on photos of my kids with tears streaming down their faces!"

I hear you. That's why I wanted to offer some helpful tips I've learned over the years to make sure your session goes smoothly, and to ensure you come away with photos that you'll not only treasure for years to come, but that you'll want to hang all over your walls, and share with everyone you know!

1 - Prepare the kids ahead of time and be arrive prepared on the day of the session

Start prepping your kids on the days leading up to the session for what is about to happen.

That might look like telling them that one of your friends (that's me!) is going to come and hang out with us and take some pictures while we enjoy some time family together! You know what it is your kids need to hear to make them more comfortable.

I'm sure this isn't totally new information to you, but it goes for photo sessions as well as any other special event or activity. You'll want to start prepping your kiddos days in advance for what's coming by telling them about it and getting them excited for it. You might even consider doing a quick "practice" round in your backyard if you have a DSLR or an old point and shoot hanging around the house so they can get used to that big black piece of equipment being around.

The other obvious part of this pro-tip is making sure your kiddos have had their naps that day, and a good night of sleep the evening before. Also a good idea to give them a hearty early dinner beforehand (since most of my sessions take place during golden hour or right before sunset.

Above, we ended up getting a lot of great shots by letting this little one explore the pine cones that were scattered along this park path. I get it - two it a tricky age, but trust me, we will get the shot!

In the photo below, we asked this little one to show us how many flowers she could count on this bush in the garden.... Precious!

2 - Bring an activity they love, and let them play

This is probably my #1 Pro-tip. Whether it's practicing their silly faces, baking banana bread at your kitchen counter, practicing cartwheels, or having dad swing the kiddos above his head, it's always a good idea to have a tool kit of things the kids love to keep them engaged and occupied during the session.

Yes, we can be sure to get that shot of everyone looking at the camera for grandma, but the majority of time during my sessions is spent capturing authentic connection and real moments. I'll do some coaching and instructing to help you feel more comfortable and less stiff. It's also my job to make sure things are ideal in terms of framing and lighting. I'm a master at pairing a beautiful portrait with the beautiful elements of the environment in the background.

More "game" ideas:

- a ball or favorite toy

- a bubble wand (if you want to add a bit of fun)

- a blanket (having the kids run under it like a bridge is fun)

- holding hands and skipping in a circle

- peek-a-boo gets some awesome photo results as well

This little man was all about his cars and trucks. Above, we took a few minutes to ask him to share about some of the mechanics of his ladder truck with his dad. It never ceases to amaze me how much kids know about what they are into at that age!


3 - Be affectionate!

This one is HUGE! Kids LOVE the hugs, kisses, cuddles, tickling toes, bunny sniffs (you have your family quirks and things, I know you do - and this is the time to use them!) Some of the best images (Even technically) are when I ask you all to huddle in close. It may feel awkward, but it looks SO good when everyone is connected.

4 - Find an experienced photographer you can trust

As a former Disney princess (I mean (*cough cough*) friends with Rapunzel, Belle, and Cinderella), I can honestly say with full confidence that I am naturally very gifted with kids. Not only that, but I have years of experience from nannying through my twenties, and now, being the mother of my own child, you can trust me to know how to handle all sorts of situations.

If we truly have a meltdown that leaves me unable to capture images I know you'll love, then we can talk about a reschedule time, and set a date. That's also why I separate the session fee from the collections. I would hate for you to invest all this money up front, without knowing how the session itself will go.

While generally speaking behavior isn't an issue with my clients, I will say that in the few instances where there has been a meltdown, those clients have remarked on how impressed they have been with what I was able to capture with my lens, even in a short period of time and even when for half of the time the child ran in the opposite direction (this is why games and play work better than "come stand here now and look this way and say cheese.")

I want your kids to be themselves - yes even if they get a little wild and crazy. The more you can release needing to control things and the more you can let them get that energy out, the less likely they will be to have a meltdown. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but I've mastered my craft to be able to capture the in-between moments (like after they smile or grin because they are so pleased with themselves and the super ugly monster stinky butt face they just made). This isn't the time for perfect behavior - it's the time for letting them explore, and presenting new fun ideas to keep them engaged. I know it can feel like extra effort, but I promise, it will be worth it!

Ready to Book your Family Session this season?

Click here to schedule a 15 minute call and we'll get your date on the calendar!

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