Do you love the outcome of your family photos but despise the process of getting the look? Grumpy husband, cranky kids, sweat rolling down your back while you try to smile and keep your cool amidst the chaos? You are NOT ALONE! Here are some of my BEST tips on how to prep your little ones!
1. Plan Ahead
The best thing you can do to set yourself up for photo day success is PLAN AHEAD. One of my favorite sayings ever is “A failure to plan is a plan to fail.” Harsh! But it's so so true! We know kids are unpredictable, be sure you map out your timeline & allow for lots of wiggle room in your schedule for the unexpected things that are going to come up. If you think it will take 20 minutes to drive to your shooting location? Plan for double. If you think it will take 90 minutes for hair and makeup? Plan for two hours. Pack a bag of goodies the night before. Pack water and EXTRA water for everyone, healthy mess free snacks for the kids (pretzels & goldfish are great), and little treats for bribery, it works! Fruit snacks are great because they’re small and don’t melt in your hands or pockets, puffs are also great for toddlers. Whatever you do, NO M&M’s–at least until the session is over 😉 If your kids are napping age, plan your day around naps so you don’t have to wake your little one up right before you have to leave the house. That’s almost a guarantee that you’ll end up with a cranky kiddo during our photo session. You may have to move the nap earlier in the day, which means your kids may need to wake up earlier that day, which means they may need to get to bed earlier the night before…you get the idea.
2. Have a Hearty Snack
Small and/or unhealthy snacks will leave your kids still feeling hungry or could even lead to a sugar crash at your session. A healthy, and filling snack will give them the energy they need so “hangry” doesn’t happen. Whole wheat toast with peanut butter and apples, a banana with almond butter, string cheese and grapes…BUT make sure they eat before they get dressed 😉
3. No Screen Time
It’s widely known that screens affect kids’ moods and temperament, so make sure your kids avoid all screen time (phones, tablets, TV, etc.) for the entire day or, at the very least, 4-5 hours leading up to your session.
4. Talk to your kiddos!
Kids just want to make their grown-ups happy. If you’re clear about your expectations with your kids, then the entire experience will run smoother and be more enjoyable for everyone. Use phrases like, “We’re getting ready to meet with Ms. Janelle to take pictures of our family. We will be there for _______ minutes and I want you to be a great listener, have a good attitude, and follow directions. If you do these things then it will be a fun and easy time! If you’re having a hard time, just let me know and I can take a break to snuggle with you. These pictures mean a lot to Mommy and Daddy because, before we know it, you’ll be all grown up!”
5. Give Necessary Information to Your Photographer
If you have a child with special needs, a sensory processing disorder, developmental or cognitive delays, please let your photographer know several days before your session. Be specific to help your photographer feel prepared to meet your child. For example, if your child gets easily overwhelmed around people with high energy, it would be best for your photographer to be as calm and gentle as possible vs bubbly and playful. Another thing that may be helpful for your photographer to know is if you are a blended family. If little Joey’s dad is married to Sarah, and Joey calls her by her name and not “Mom,” then this is helpful for the photographer to know when giving direction to the family. We want to try our best to avoid uncomfortable situations for everyone.
6. Plan a Special Treat or Event
Maybe everyone goes out to dinner or dessert after your session, or you organize a fun outing like bowling, miniature golf, or a trampoline park the next day. Make sure your kiddo/s know about this plan so they have someting to work towardsThink of it as a reward for a job well done!
7. Have Realistic Expectations
Know that it won’t go perfectly! Give your family & yourself grace! Meet your kids where they are that day. You’re not in a great mood every single day and neither are they. Love your kids for who they are in that moment. Even if they don’t want to smile or be held. Put yourself in their shoes...Everyone is getting dressed up, which may not be the norm, rushing around the house, hurrying to get in the car, there’s tension during the drive because Mom and Dad are stressed, now they’re rushing to get you out of the car because they’re running late, you’re at a place you’ve never been before and someone you’ve never seen before is trying to make you smile and laugh while holding a big black camera in front of his/her face, it’s hot/cold/windy/sunny… This can feel so overwhelming to a little one! You see where planning ahead and trying to stay calm will really help, right? Kids feed off their parents’ energy. If you’re stressed and anxious, your kids will be too. Do your best to relax and enjoy the moment. The whole point of getting photos taken is to cherish these memories.