This post comes about because I have recently had a few experiences where my family was on the other side of the lens. As you can imagine, it’s no small task getting 3 small boys ready for a photo shoot. The logistics of what time of day is optimal for happy kids, when they should nap, what they should wear and how to convince them to wear it all weighs heavily on [most of the time] mom. I showed up to our first family shoot in a frazzled state with multiple outfit changes in the car and exclaimed, “It is so much easier being the photographer than the client!” With a little preparation, you can go in ready and then allow yourself to have fun so you get the photos that will bring you joy.
Here are a few tips to help the process feel a little less daunting and to have a smooth, successful photo shoot.
1. COORDINATE OUTFITS, BUT DON’T STRESS
The most commonly asked question regarding a family session is what to wear. I leave this rather open by saying, in short, to dress in your own personality, don’t all match identically but coordinate, and have fun with it. It is quite important to all look cohesive in your photos, but don’t get too hung up on the perfect color scheme. When in doubt, stick to neutrals and small/no patterns. And check out my What to Wear pinterest board for inspiration!
2. BRIBERY WORKS WONDERS
Children can easily be influenced with the promise of a special treat to behave well. This doesn’t have to mean a bunch of candy or heaps of ice cream, but that’s ok if it is. It just has to be clear that it is AFTER the shoot is over. Many a kid is equally motivated by a special movie or a trip to the store to pick out a new toy. Maybe a little extra video game time is all it will take. But know this: if there’s ever a good time to bribe your kids, a photo shoot is that time! Don’t feel guilty and just go with it. The experience will be remembered positively, and it’s likely they’ll even look forward to the next picture day! It’s important to mention; however, that bribery really only works on children 3 and over once they understand delayed gratification. For those younger, my silly sounds and other embarrassing means will have to suffice.
3. NO RULES ALLOWED
I showed up for a shoot at a little girl’s house where they had just welcomed a new baby sister. Before I arrived, she said to her mom, “Do I get to jump on the bed again like last time?” She had so much fun breaking the rules and getting to do fun things normally not allowed. Don’t be too concerned with “good behavior” and sticking to the rules. Step out of being in “Parent mode” and get on your kid’s level. I’ve even told parents that it’s ok if the kids are a little rough with me or even a bit disrespectful. I have 3 boys and wrestling and potty talk don’t bother me and are all fair game.
4. LET THE PHOTOGRAPHER BE IN CHARGE
This seems a little obvious, but a lot of parents get caught up in correcting their children and getting frustrated if they aren’t well-behaved. Trust me, perfect children are the exception. You don’t become a family photographer if you scare easily. I’ve had A LOT of experience with kids and negotiations and have figured out a trick or two to get them to do what I want. It’s not easy when mom and dad keep interrupting…even though I know it comes from a place of kindness towards me. It’s important for your children to connect with me so the images are authentic. Not only does fun go away when mom and dad are ordering & directing things, but we might get kids finally looking great and mom and dad are looking stressed. This leads me to the last tip.
5. CONNECTION NOT PERFECTION
Go into your shoot with some ideas and reasonable expectations, not rigid must-have shots. If all you want is all 4 kids smiling perfectly at the camera amidst you and your spouse looking insanely in love with perfect hair and no wrinkles, you might find yourself a little disappointed. Let fun happen and relax and know that some of the best photos are those where no one is actually looking, but everyone is having fun and being themselves. Feel connected to these most important people in your life and you will love the results.