HOW TO GET CHILDREN TO COOPERATE FOR PICTURES
As a family photographer and a mom myself, I can only think of one thing more stressful than planning what to wear for our family session. And that is figuring out how to get my children to cooperate for our family pictures with a photographer.
Can you relate? If you thought it was any different for a professional photographer, I hope it makes you feel better to know it isn’t.
Can I tell you how many photo sessions I have meticulously planned out for my girls? I get so excited about capturing a stunning image of the two of them. And, I have big plans to print it huge and hang it on my wall so I can enjoy it every single day.
And then, my three year old decides she doesn’t want to take pictures and runs off thinking us chasing her is a fun game. My one year old realizes that she has a bow in her hair and pulls it out. Then, notices she has a pony tail there too! And out that goes leaving her hair standing straight up like a mad scientist. My husband carries my oldest back for pictures, but she is screaming and crying and even if we get them sitting together, I know there won’t be any smiles or pictures worthy of hanging on my wall.
Does this sound familiar? You may have arrived at your photo session and when your children get out, they are on the verge of a melt down. You can just sense it. Or they refuse to smile or even look at the camera. Don’t worry. It’s more common than you think. Common enough that I thought it may be helpful to share my favorite tips for how to get kids to cooperate for family pictures.
1.START WITH FULLY BELLIES AND WELL RESTED
There are few things that will send a happy kiddo into a melt down faster than being over tired or hungry. And even worse is hungry AND tired at the same time!
It always amazes me just how much my little ones are capable of eating. And just how cranky they become when their bellies are empty. I would suggest feeding your children a snack before the session to start them off with a full belly as well as bringing along a snack and water for a mid-session break if needed.
Remember to pack ‘clean’ snacks so that clothes, hands and mouths aren’t stained.
Keep in mind that being up late or not getting sleep can often affect children a few days later. In the days leading up to your session, be mindful of making sure they get to bed on time or taking good naps if they are still in the napping stage.
2. PUT THEIR MINDS AT EASE
It’s something we may not think of, but to children this is a new situation. I am a new person. And that can be stressful or even scary to them. One thing I learned as an elementary teacher is that children do best when they know what to expect and what is expected of them. So, taking a little time to talk with them before the session will go a long way in easing their minds.
Talk about me as a friend
This is one of my favorite tips for how to get children to cooperate for family pictures! Take some time in the weeks leading up to our session together to talk about me as a friend and not just a photographer to your children. Tell them how excited you are for them to meet me. This helps them get excited about meeting mommy and daddy’s friend and helps start the session off on a positive note. It also helps children feel more comfortable interacting with me on our session day because they see me as a friend and not a stranger.
Let them know what to expect during our session. Young children often think that after one picture they are done. And it makes sense. At home if they are all dressed up, you may snap one quick picture on your cell phone and that is all you need. They don’t know that this is going to be a little different. Let them know things like:
- there will be pictures taken in a few places at the park
- or that they will take pictures as a family but also just with mommy and just with daddy.
- if you planned an outfit change, that they will change clothes half way through pictures
I also find that if you let them know what you expect of them during our time together, they will usually rise to meet it.
Plan a reward or something to look forward to after
A lot of families discuss and pick something fun in advance to be a treat after the session if they’re good listeners. I know ice cream is always a family favorite!
3.BRING A COMFORT ITEM
Bring a familiar or favorite toy. We may not need it (and I recommend secretly bringing it and leaving it in the car until needed so it isn’t in every picture). But sometimes that is just the comfort a child needs to warm up to having their picture taken. And, if is very special to them, it can be nice to have a few pictures of them holding that special toy. Years from now, when you look back at that picture, seeing that toy will bring back so many memories.
4.LET THEM KNOW THIS IS IMPORTANT TO YOU
It may not always seem like it as they are arguing over a toy. But children really do want to make you happy. I have found one of the biggest things I can do when preparing my girls for a photo session is to tell them how important it is to me.
It hit me after a particularly bad fail at taking my daughters’ pictures. I had taken a lot of time to plan out outfits and a beautiful set. Only to have my oldest absolutely refused to have anything to do with pictures that day. As we were getting ready for bed and talking about our day, I told her that it made me sad that I only got pictures of her little sister.
The next day she asked if we could do pictures again because she wanted to make mommy happy. And wanted mommy to have pictures of her too. And, you know what? We did pictures again and she was completely on board!
THAT’S WHEN IT HIT ME!
Before any session, I need to tell her how important these pictures are to me. It is my favorite tip for ‘how to get children to cooperate for family pictures’ tip.
I tell her how much I love having pictures of her to look at.
Or how I plan to have them printed really big and put them on the wall. Then we can look at them every day. (She loves seeing her pictures hanging up and talking about them).
I tell her that we can send a copy for grandma and grandpa to hang on their refrigerator so they can see her smiling face everyday and look at it when they miss her.
I tell her how much fun it will be to look at them later and see how much she has grown.
Do you have any tips or suggestions for how you get your children to cooperate for family pictures? I’d love to hear them! Just drop me a line in the comment section.