PREPARING CHILDREN FOR A PHOTO SESSION
Summer is just around the corner! It’s vacation time. Pool time! It’s also the time that many families plan a family photo session. As a mom of myself, I know just how stressful that can be. From choosing the perfect location, coordinating your family’s outfits and to finally hoping that your little ones will cooperate come photo time, it’s a lot! I get it! That’s why I love taking the time to work closely with my families and helping to guide them each step of the way. I want to make sure planning a family photo session becomes an enjoyable experience.
Over the years, I have found that most moms are a little worried about how their children will ‘behave’ at the photo session. First, let me put your mind at ease! As a family photographer, we are used to working with children and all the different ways they may react to being photographed. From the ones that want to ham it up, to those who are terribly shy. These are things that make your child who he or she is!
But, mom, I know you want to do everything you can to make sure your child is happy and ready come picture time. Over the years of working with families, I have found that there are a few things that are very helpful when preparing children for a photo session.
FULL BELLY=HAPPY CHILD
It always amazes me just how much children are capable of eating. And just how cranky they become when their bellies are empty. I’ve found the most helpful thing to do when preparing your children for a photo session is making sure they start with a full belly. I would suggest feeding your children a meal or snack before the session as well as bringing along a snack and water for a mid-session break if needed.
Helpful Tip: When packing snacks, choose ‘clean’ snacks so that clothes, hands and mouths aren’t stained.
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 as a bonus, years from now you will love seeing your child with that special item as you look back at your pictures.
TALK TO YOUR CHILD ABOUT THE SESSION
Talk about me as a friend and not just a photographer to your children. This helps children feel more comfortable interacting with me on our session day. Just like us, children feel more comfortable when they know what to expect out of a new situation. Please take a little time to talk with your children about the upcoming session. Let them know how excited you are about it! And how special and important it is to you. Also, let them know what you expect of them during our time together. A lot of families discuss and pick something fun in advance as a treat after the session if they’re good listeners, like ice cream.
TELL YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER ALL ABOUT YOUR CHILD
The more I know about your child and his or her favorite things, the easier it is for me to make them feel comfortable, get them to laugh and capture that glowing natural smile.
Does your child have a favorite song? I may just sing it in a silly voice or with mixed up lyrics to get a smile. Are they currently obsessed with a certain cartoon character? I’m sure they would love to tell me all about it! Genuine smiles always come out when a child is talking about something they love.
KEEP THEM AWAKE ON THE RIDE
I haven’t met too many children who aren’t lulled to sleep by a little car ride. And most parents love it! But on picture day, it is best to try to keep your little ones away. Over the year of photographing families with young children, I noticed that if a child fell asleep on the ride over they usually needed some time to wake up and adjust to their new surrounding. That combined with the fact that they often wanted to sleep a little longer often made for a very unhappy child.
DON’T ASK THEM TO SMILE
Let’s face it. Most children don’t really know how to smile on command. When asked to smile or say cheese, children will usually give a force, stiff and unnatural toothy grin. My goal is to capture your child’s authentic smile. You know, the one where you can see it in their eyes. So, I won’t usually ask everyone to smile or say cheese.
PLAN A REWARD
Many families love to plan a little reward to look forward to after the session. There was a period of time where my daughter absolutely refused to have anything to do with taking pictures. As a photographer, you can imagine my horror! That’s when we started offering her a chocolate covered pretzel if she took pictures. It worked like a charm! My mom calls it bribing my daughter. I preferred to look at it as providing an incentive for following instructions and participating. (Yes, I’m giggling as I write that!). But no matter how you look at it, I know that enticement of a chocolate covered pretzel has gotten my daughter to happily participate in many photo sessions that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. And now that she is three, there are no bribes needed. She can seem to get enough of having her picture taken! Happy photographer momma here!
BRING AN ACTIVITY YOU LOVE TO DO TOGETHER
Do you love reading together as a family? Or playing with bubbles? Does your toddler love riding his tricycle? Or drawing with side walk chalk? These are all great activities to incorporate into your family photo session.
I love asking families to bring along a favorite activity for many reasons.
- If children are starting to fade this can be a life saver. Once you pull out the activity, they are ready to jump in and participate again.
- It brings out natural smiles, genuine reactions and pure joy.
- These pictures may not be the ones hanging over a fireplace. But they are often some of the most precious because they are not only of the entire family, but they are of something that the family loves doing together. These images will often bring more memories flooding back than a traditional family portrait because you will remember all the times you played that game together.
- It’s a great way to take a ‘break’ in the photo session if the kids need one while still providing a great photo opportunity.
I’d love to hear if you’ve used any of these tips or have any that we should add to the list! Just let me know in the comments below! And if you’d like more information about a session with Kristen Fotta Photography, I’d love to chat with you!