One of the first concerns that parents have when they book a family portrait session with me is how their children are going to behave during a photo shoot. Moms are stressed that their little ones are not going to cooperate, stay still or smile, but I want to let you know that, it’s ok! Firstly as a family photographer and an early childhood educator I have seen it all before. Small children aren’t designed to put on special outfits and keep them clean or stand still for any length of time. Not to mention the fact that most of my outdoor sessions take place during golden hour. Golden hour is a time when most young children are melting down on the kitchen floor because they are tired and you cut their cucumber the wrong way 😉
What I want to let you know is, that whatever comes up with your children during our session together, I will be there to support you and your family every step of the way. I’ll help create room for your kids to express emotion, take a break, and give them choices which can make them feel empowered. Giving kids choices is one of the most effective ways to get them to cooperate. For example, If your three year old is holding firm on not coming out from behind a tree, giving that child the choice of being on Dad’s shoulders, or holding Moms hand, or getting to hold a feather or leaf that they just found, can make them feel like they have some control and say in the shared experience.
With all that being said there are some ways you can prepare your kiddos for the session to help it run smoother.
1. Let them decide on the outfit.
I’m not saying let your six year old run to her closet and pull out the most raggedy “My Little Pony” sweater that she rarely ever takes off. Instead a day or two before the session, pick a few outfits that are coordinated with the colors and style of the rest of the family and have your child pick her preferred choice.
2. Take it easy.
On the day of your session, keep activities to a minimum and make lots of time to be present with your kiddos. This will fill up your childs cup with restorative energy and lots of love, because with children, creating moments of connection is one of the most effective ways to promote cooperation at a time when you need it.
3. Food, food and more food!
I’m not running a health blog here, but as a mom of two young children, and preschool teacher I have seen the effects of what too much sugar and empty calories can have on the behavior of children. Make sure on the day of your session to eat as healthy as possible and to avoid sugar altogether, or at least until after the session (we’ll get to that in a bit). Make sure to bring some snacks and water, but keep in mind not to bring snacks that are too messy!
4. Comfy Outfits
I know we already spoke about letting your kiddos choose their outfits, but make sure the outfits choices you give them are comfortable and are appropriate for the weather. in Ojai, where I have several locations I shoot at it is often warm to hot many months of the year. However if I’m shooting in Ventura, Santa Barbara or down in Los Angeles it can often be ten, twenty or thirty degrees cooler! So always make sure to check your weather app and dress accordingly.
5. Tell them about me.
Meeting a stranger can cause some anxious feelings in children. What I recommend is a couple of days before the session, talk to your kids about what you will be doing. Let them know that you are going to meet a friend who will be taking some pictures of your family, and that we are going to have fun and play games. This will help the children feel excited and give them a sense of ownership of the experience.
6. Give an Incentive.
Also known as bribery. Make a plan with your children before hand to go and do something special after the family portrait session. Most of the families that I work with go and have ice cream afterwards, and this reminder can help kids get back on track if cooperation starts to slip a little.
Finally I want to add, that the style of images that I create rarely asks for families to look and smile at the camera. I will be capturing; you whispering silly words into your three year olds ear while he giggles uncontrollably, when your kiddos are playing “ring around the roses” or the tender moment when you are comforting your daughter because she is feeling sad.
With these pointers, I’m sure we are going to have a great time together. I can’t wait to meet you and your sweet children!