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Family Photo Sessions with Kids | 5 quick tips for a successful (& fun) photo shoot

Updated: Oct 20, 2021

Mom and dad with their two little boys sitting in a nature area while playing and hugging each other and smiling

If you are getting ready for a family photo session with your kids you may find yourself feeling a little trepidatious about it. Totally understandable as kids can be unpredictable and aren’t always easy to deal with, especially if it involves doing something that is not inherently a “kid” activity. No worries, the 5 following quick tips will help you get the most out of your photo session.

1. Choose a time of day when your kids are awake and in a good mood.

It’s no use planning a session during a time when they would normally be napping or eating a meal. They’re more likely to be cranky during these times and if you’ve ever tried to talk a 2-year-old (or any child) out of a “hangry” mood or cranky-needs-a-nap melt-down, well you know what I’m talking about. Choose a time when your little one’s energy is up and they can handle an hour session.

two little brothers holding hands while walking down a dirt trail.

2. Put them in clothes they are happy wearing.

No, you don’t have to let them wear Spider Man or Elsa PJs but do allow them to wear clothes they feel good in, both physically and emotionally. A family portrait session is not the time to force them to wear outfits that are ill-fitting or uncomfortable for them to wear. If their clothes fit well and they are happy to wear them, they are much more likely to proudly show them off for the camera, a win-win for everyone!

Family of four: Dad, Mom and two little boys sitting on a log smiling for a family portrait.

3. Bring a few healthy snacks (just in case).

Bring healthy snacks that keep them happy but not enough that they are more interested in the snack than being in the moment. Let’s face it, we live in a world where snacks rule the day. They incentivize as well as stave off hunger pangs. You know what I’m talking about here, just bear in mind choosing snacks that won’t stick to teeth or rub off on clothes or other surfaces. Purple lips and chocolate stains don’t photograph so well and no, they are not always 'Photoshop-able'.

Family of four Dad holding a toddler boy and Mom holding a small child's hand looking at each other and smiling while standing on a wooden foot bridge. The small child is laughing, looking at the camera.

4. Let them have fun.

Remember what it was like to be a kid? Basically, kids just want to be kids and have fun! So don’t be upset if they want to be silly at times. Kids are naturally unpredictable and your photographer will know how and when to get the important family portrait shots as well as the silly family fun shots in between. In my experience, the latter more candid shots often end up being client favorites. (A little inside secret: we always plan ahead and have a well-organized shot list so we've got you covered)

Family of four, Dad, Mom and two small boys are posing for a family portrait at Ojai Meadows preserve.

5. Let yourself relax and go with the flow.

This is huge as your kids take a cue from you whether you realize it or not. So, Mom and Dad, if you feel anxious and uptight or perturbed that your kids aren't acting the way you want them to, your kids will suss you out and act accordingly. The resulting behavior can manifest in different ways ranging from acting out negatively to shutting down completely. Neither is a good situation for creating beautiful happy family portraits. So just relax and go with the flow and leave all the smile wrangling and posing to your photographer. Your photo session will have a more successful outcome when you're relaxed and your kids are comfortable and just being their natural selves.

6. BONUS TIP: Consider booking a Mini Session.

Sometimes these shorter, fast-paced sessions are just the right size for some kidlettes, especially if they have exceptionally short attention spans. Mini Sessions are long enough to yield some lovely family portraits but not so long that your kids will get bored and lose interest. There won't be as many photos as a full session but your photographer will capture enough for a family portrait and your Holiday cards and gifts. Keep in mind that if your child is particularly shy and requires extra time to warm up, then a full portrait session may be a better option.


The Big Take Away...

A little thoughtful planning on your part in:

  1. choosing the time of your session

  2. the outfits your kids wear

  3. the snacks you bring, just in case

  4. allowing kids to be kids

  5. allowing yourself to relax and go with the flow

All help to ensure a much easier and successful family portrait session, one that is sure to yield photos of lovely, fun moments spent together as a family.

I hope you enjoyed these tips and that they help you feel more at ease when contemplating a family portrait session with your little ones. As a portrait and lifestyle photographer I’m here to help you achieve your family portrait goals. I’d love the opportunity to answer any questions you might have.

About the Author

Laurie "LoLo" Spencer is a lifestyle and portrait photographer based in Southern California specializing in emotive photography for families, couples, maternity and newborns.


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