Before having kids, photo shoots were so easy! Pick a date, find a location, wear a cute outfit, smile, pose, and done! In a few weeks you'll have some great photos to add to your gallery wall or send to family and friends. Photo shoots with kids is a different ballgame.
After my husband and I had kids we started doing family photo shoots together to mark certain milestones or around holidays. I soon learmed how stressful photo shoots with kids can be. Nothing stresses me out more than family photo shoot day, (not even weddings)! No matter how far ahead I plan or how prepared I am, the day of the photo shoot always creates a lot of anxiety and stress.
Why? Well, for one, kids are ticking time bombs. They are unpredictable, they don't have the best understanding of time, they get bored, cranky, hungry, tired, and can really test your patience. Second, there is just so much that needs to get done that day! It's a lot of work just getting everyone ready and out the door on time on a normal day, let alone photo shoot day.
Of course, not all family photo shoots are stressful and hectic, it depends on the ages of the kids. For the purpose of this post, I am mostly referring to toddlers and babies, 5 years and under.
Despite how difficult photo shoots can be with young kids, I do love them simply because kids grow so fast! It's amazing to have photos to look back on and to see how your family changes over time and to create those memories together. I really enjoy having new photos to frame for my home and to send to family and friends too.
I like to schedule photo shoots once or twice a year and have been doing them regularly since my son was born in 2016. Since then I have learned a few things. Here are a few tips for creating a stress-free family photo shoot.
1. Hire a Professional Photographer Who Works with Kids
This is so important! Not every photographer knows how to work with kids and how to make them feel comfortable. There are some photographers who just understand how to relate to kids, how to talk to them, how to make them laugh and smile on cue, and make the photo shoot fun. This is a special talent! They know kids don't always cooperate, have moments where they act out, cry and don't want listen, but they know how to work through those difficult moments and still make the most of it. They know how to work fast and take lots of pictures before the kids get super tired and cranky. Kids have short attention spans and photographers know that, which leads me to tip number 2!
2. Keep it Short and Sweet
A lot of family photographers offer mini sessions now which is amazing! They do this for a reason. They know that kids can't last more than 30 minutes so to optimize your session and get the most out of it they offer quick "mini" sessions for parents with young children. The session usually involves shooting at one location for 20-30 minutes and moving quickly before the kids (and parents) start to lose it. This is the reason mini sessions are the way to go! You can get a lot great shots in a shorter amount of time. Some photographers offer discounts during certain times of the year, usually in the fall or around the holidays which is the perfect time to get some family photos taken that can be used for your holiday cards or gifts!
3. Plan Your Session Months in Advance
Photographers are busy so I always make sure to book our session a few months in advance to ensure they have a date available that works for me and my family. I like to take advantage of that time to get things organized such as coordinating our outfits, scheduling hair cuts for the boys, and beauty appointments for myself. During this time I also look for outfit ideas and inspiration, consider the weather and where the photo shoot is taking place to make sure our look fits in with the setting and time of year. This leads me to my next tip, tip number 3!
4. Do Coordinate Your Style (But Don't Match Exactly)
I like to coordinate a look that is (1) appropriate for the time of year and (2) looks polished and put together. I am not a fan of matching outfits where everyone dresses in the same colors. For example, white tees and blue jeans, or any monochromatic look. I enjoy seeing photos where each family member wears a different color that compliments the other colors in the group. This makes the photos look fresh, modern and shows your personality and unique style. Don't worry if you aren't sure what colors work well together, there are many online tools to help, such as this interactive color wheel from Canva.
5. Plan Around the Naptime
With little ones it is so important to work around naptimes for most of life's events but especially when it comes to photo shoots. Well rested kids will last longer, follow directions better, have more fun and cause you a lot less stress. Happy and rested kids make for much better photos! Plan your session early in the morning hours before peak sun or later in the afternoon/evening depending on your dinner and bedtime routine. Find a time of day when the kids have the most energy such as after a nap but not too close to bedtime as the later it gets, the more likely they are to feel tired as the sun starts to go down.
6. Snacks, Snacks, Snacks. Need I Say More??
Seriously though, snacks are key. Make sure your kids are well fed before the photo shoot and have lots of snacks and water readily available should a hangry meltdown arise. You'll want to keep snacking to a minimum so choose foods that can be eaten quickly and are also not going to ruin any outfits (no chocolate or cheetos). For example, things like string cheese, grapes, baby carrots, maybe a handful of pretzels, dried fruit and nuts are good options, depending on your dietary restrictions and ages of the children. Bonus tip, if you are concerned about clothes getting messy, bring extra clothes to keep in the car as backup!
7. Embrace the Chaos
Being in the event industry, I've learned that things don't always go according to plan. Photo shoots are no different. No matter how much you prepare some things may not go the way you expect. It's best to let go of your expectations and try and enjoy yourself during your photo shoot session. You only have a certain amount of time with your photographer so make the most of it and get as many shots as you can. Poses are great but not realistic for the duration of the shoot. Kids are silly, they get distracted easy, and move constantly! It's so hard to keep them still and looking in the right direction. It's ok! Some of the best photos we have are the ones where we aren't looking at the camera. I love the candid moments that show our fun, silly and sometimes messy side. That's real life with kids. So embrace it all while you still can.
Photos by @beth_armsheimer_photo
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Brenda Cali is a professionally trained Wedding Consultant and plans a variety of social and corporate events.