It's time for those gorgeous family photos, but along with that, comes a lot of stress! What to wear, losing that 10 extra pounds that you swore you would lose last year before next year's pictures (we've all been there!), and constantly thinking "what if the kids don't behave?" Well, no need to fret! I have some tips to help ease the stress when it actually comes time for your family pictures!
If you need help with wardrobe, I encourage you to check out my last blog post, on What to Wear for Family Photos. You can access it here.
As a photographer, I have seen it all when it comes to children's behavior during family shoots. Some, let's face it, are terrible (and that's ok!), some do a fantastic job, and most do a fine job...maybe a few tantrums, but mostly smiles.
Over the last few years, here is what I have gathered to be helpful for parents in preparation for your photos. Please know that I am not a child expert, I don't know the sciences behind behavior, this is solely based on my own experience with taking photos of children :)
1. IT'S OK FOR THEM TO NOT BE PERFECT.
As parents, we want our photos to be perfect. As a photographer, I want your photos to be perfect (leave that up to me!) But, it's unrealistic to expect your child to be perfect. Instead of going into the photoshoot with unrealistic expectations, prepare yourself and your spouse that it probably won't be perfect. That doesn't mean that your photos won't be perfect. I have had some of the worst behavior out of children, and you would NEVER know it looking at their photos. You're spending a lot of money on your photos, and that's for a reason. Your photographer will know how to work with the imperfections, and get the shots!
2. TALK WITH YOUR CHILDREN PRIOR TO THE SESSION.
I always suggest talking with your children a few days leading up to the photo session. Let them know what is going to be happening, and what the expectations are. Explain to them who the photographer is, what she will be doing, and where you will be going. Giving children a heads up on anything helps them expect how to behave, what to do, and gives them a warning about what is going to happen.
Smaller children are often afraid of the big camera. They are used to small cell phones in their face, not a big camera. Prepare them for that. It helps to show them a picture of a camera, and a photographer holding a camera, so they know what to expect when they see your family photographer.
Here is a dialogue you can use if you'd like. I will use Josie as a name, just because it's the first name that came to my head:
"Guess what, Josie? We are getting our family pictures taken in a few days with a photographer! Do you know what a photographer does? He/she holds a big camera like this (show a photo), and takes your beautiful picture! We are going to go to an open field with lots of colors on the leaves. Do you want to take some leaves home with you? The photographer is going to take pictures like mommy does with her phone, but with a bigger camera. I bet he/she will let you see some of the pictures if you ask! Just remember to smile like you always do, because we all want to see that pretty smile of yours!"
You get the idea. Talk with your children about what to expect, and I promise, it'll help! Most parent's throw a bribery in there...ice cream, target, etc. :)
3. LET THE PHOTOGRAPHER DO THE WORK.
So many times, as parents, we feel it's our job to get our kids to smile. Relax. It's MY job as a photographer to get your child to smile. I often see a parent looking at a child, telling them to look at the camera and smile, and the child does, but the parent isn't looking at me and smiling. This really applies to younger toddlers. I will be calling their name, playing peak a boo, tickling them, whatever it takes to make them smile...you just smile, too :)
4. TOYS & SNACKS.
If you saw my Instagram stories the other day, you probably heard me talk about how snacks are not necessarily the best idea to bring with. Let me explain what I meant. Snacks are OK to bring . They are OK to bribe with as well, but if we can avoid giving them the snacks until the end of the session (as a reward), that's great! I see a lot of snacks brought out at the first cry, and then the child doesn't ever want to let go of the snacks. Or, I have 30 photos of your child chewing on a fruit snack. We usually only have a short amount of time to get all of the photos, we don't want most of that time to be snack time for your child.
I always suggest to bring a toy or blanket from home. Some sort of comfort for the child. And, it's OK if the toy or blanket is in the photos. When my daughter was 2, she would not let go of her Minnie Mouse. So, we let her have it in our family photo that is on a large canvas...and we always talk about that day she wouldn't let Minnie go. It's an adorable photo, and a memory. I can also use the toy as a prop to get the child to smile. So, toys are ok!
5. FULL BELLY & RESTED EYES.
This might be a no brainer, but make sure your schedule your session around feedings and naps! This will, without a doubt, help the child during pictures. Again, we have a short amount of time, and don't want them eating during the session because they're so hungry, or better yet, falling asleep because they're so tired!
6. HAVE FUN!
These are your family photos ... have fun! If you're stressed out, the kids will sense it and become stressed out, too. Relax, be the good parents you are, and just have FUN with it! The more fun and relaxed you are, the better your photos will be!
Again, these are just my tips from my experience! I hope you find them helpful! Please let me know if you have any questions!