We all have those cringey memories of putting on matching sweatshirts and jeans with our family and trekking off to the big box store photo studio and the ever increasing warnings from mom to “be good, for the love of god just behave and be good”. No? Just me… oof, okay. But regardless, we all have had our experienced with family photo sessions and some of those experiences may not have been as good as others. Family photography has evolved over the years and many people specialize in relaxed, emotion driven lifestyle photography and sessions are easier than ever before! With that being said, though, we still do have 6 tips for family photo session for you and your family!
Tips for Family Photo Sessions: General
I want to start off by saying that these tips are general but I recognize that each and every family is unique and not all of these may be work for you. Tips are just that – tips! They’re things to consider that, from our experience, we believe help clients have the most amazing sessions. If you have any particular concerns about your upcoming session, scheduling a call to go over details is always the best option.
#1 – Get excited + share the excitement
Kids of all age will feed off the excitement of their parents so get excited about your session and share that excitement with the family! If the kids think something “fun” is going to happen, they’re already going to end up in the right mindset for the session. If, on the other hand, if you or your partner are verbalizing your stresses about the session (whether it’s timing, schedule, wardrobe, expectations, etc.) kids can pick up on that too.
#2 – Good vibes only
Both before the session and during the session, keep it to good vibes only. This means no lectures about “please behave” or “please, for the love of God, just listen to the photographer”. We don’t want the little ones to come into the sessions thinking that a certain kind of behaviour is mandatory. Our goal is to get everyone relaxed, chill and soaking into the emotion and memories that we’ll be creating during the session. We’ll provide you with prompts and play games with you and the family to evoke emotion and we want everyone we’re photographing – adults and children – to have carte blanche to react however they want to.
Truthfully, if you feel like you have to warn your kids to “behave” before a session, lifestyle photography will not get you the images you want. We want the sporadic, random emotions, reactions and amazement from the little ones and if you’re telling them that’s not okay then what will we be photographing?
For those looking for more practical tips for family photo sessions, try switching up your verbiage around the kids! Instead of “make sure you listen to the photographer”, try “I wonder what kind of games the photographer is going to play with us!” it’s a great way to promote good vibes and get the littles excited about ‘play time’ instead of ‘photo time’.
#3 – Understand limitations and keep reasonable expectations
I’m a mama to a 5 year old, so I can say with the utmost confidence that depending on how old your child is and where they are within their own development (regardless of age), expectations around behaviours need to be adjusted to what is reasonable for them. From my experience, children younger than school age are simply unpredictable but these are some of the most beautiful years of their lives. Sometimes they’re shy, sometimes they’re outgoing, sometimes they’re chill and sometimes they’re balls of energy. What they do have in common, though, is that they don’t particularly take direction well so expecting certain poses can be challenging. Maybe that beautiful braid you put in your kids hair will start coming out as they run around and show me their cool dance moves and you know what? That’s totally okay!
For the really young ones, under 2, if they’re in a particular clingy stage then we need to work with that. If they’re going to have a complete breakdown if anyone other than dad holds them, then dad can hold them and we’ll work with that. Little people have big feelings and you’ll love your photos so much more if we work with those big feelings rather than against them.
#4 – Be in the moment – play!
Of all the tips for family photo sessions, this one of the most important in regards to lifestyle photography… It’s 100% okay to not be looking at the camera at all times, in fact, it’s encouraged! We’ll be giving you prompts to help evoke emotion and we want your natural playfulness, curiosity and joy for life to take over. Let yourself be immersed in the session and play with your family. Explore, dance, hug, spin – this is your time to truly be present with each other. The more playful you are, the more genuine and authentic your images will be.
#5 – Avoid over stimulation and distraction triggers
You know your kid best, so I’ll keep this vague (every kiddo is different) but try to avoid over stimulation before or during a session as well as distraction triggers. When it comes to tips for family photo sessions, we always want to stack the deck in our favour and minimize anything that can cause the kiddos to want to leave the session or not participate in the session.
The best way to avoid over stimulation is to make sure they’re well rested, have eaten something nutritious, and leave the bribes for after the session. Distraction triggers are another thing we should be avoiding and this is why I have a list of my favourite locations to shoot in: they’re beautiful and have minimal distractions! You’ll want to avoid shooting near or in a park that has playground equipment and if you have anyone else joining your session (grand parents, etc.) make sure they’re present well in advance of the session so everyone can find their vibes together.
#6 – Plan on something fun as part of the session
I always like to end the session with something fun; bubbles is usually the best but if we’re shooting by water (always encouraged!) getting your feet wet is another great way to wrap up the session. Whatever your fun thing is, plan for it and have any necessary extras or supplies with you (bubble, towels, change of clothes, etc.) Going out with a bang is the best and really gets the kids pumped for those last few frames.