Toddlers are crazy and you never know what you’re going to get with them! They can be downright tyrannical if you ask me. Babies too. We really lucked out on our family pics, they both hammed it up and loved being in front of the camera on our last two sessions. This did take a little bit of planning on my end, but mostly it was just dumb luck that day. You can do everything under the sun, but you can force genuine smiles if they don’t feel like it. So, I thought I’d share a few things I did that helped tilt the tables in my favor.
Oh my gosh this is so important with Eleanor with so many things we do. Frontloading is when you prepare someone for what’s going to happen so that they are ready and focused. A week or so before we take family pictures, we talk about how we’re going to take them, talk about how we want her to smile, look through our family albums from past sessions, etc. It’s crazy how well frontloading works with her and I bet it can work for you too!
2. Get excited
Excitement can be contagious! Show your kids how excited you are, build them up, show/talk to them about the pictures- where are you going? Will they be wearing anything special? Get them to be excited about having their picture taken. When I showed Ellie some clothing options I had thought about (we had a last minute wardrobe change for her a few days before), she was so pumped to be wearing her dress. She wanted to try it on and she waltzed all over the house in it. It wasn’t even a new dress, but one she’s had and worn for over a year, but because we were excited she was too.
Now, I don’t bribe my child to do every task that I ask or use it to negotiate everything, but I’m certainly not above it. With each photo session we’ve done, I’ve always made sure to bring a special treat for her in between shots. I tell her about the treat and give it to her freely throughout our session, praising her profusely. The first time she ever had an M&M was during a large family session with Matt’s parents and siblings. Goodness, I couldn’t feed them fast enough to her! This time we had gummy bears (and even let Emma have a half of one!), sometimes a little sugar can go a long ways.
Try and time your photos as best as you can to get great lighting with a time that your child won’t be hungry or tired. Plan your day around your photos so you can squeeze in feedings and naps so you have the best shot at having a happy and content little one. For our last session (LINK!!!!!!!!), we moved the pics up 30 minutes earlier so it wouldn’t be so close to Emma’s bedtime and made sure that we had a larger than usual and later than normal lunch to make sure to hold us all over. There’s no science behind it, but try and gauge what will be best for your little one so you can try and enjoy the session and not fret over a kid who is whiny or having a tantrum because they’re stomachs are growling and their lids are heavy.
5. Don’t Force ItJust let your child be themselves. Don’t worry or waste time trying to get them to smile if they’re just naturally not a big smiler. Back when Eleanor was just under one, we had our first formal family photo session and I told Dana and Nate (of Lovers of Love photography), to just take her picture and I didn’t care if she was smiling or not. They said that was awesome and so many parents try so hard to force a perfect picture from their children. For me, I think she’s beautiful just as she is and I didn’t want to ruin our time trying to force a smile from her. By the end of our session she had started smiling on her own and I love the shots they got! We probably wouldn’t have had so many great pics or maybe any of her smiling if we spent the entire time pulling out every trick we had trying for a smile for each photo.
I think these are pretty simple tips, but even in the best of circumstances, it can still be a crap shoot on how your child behaves during your photo session. All you can do sometimes is go with the flow and say a prayer. Some of my friends have had an extra person at their shoot to help get their child’s attention or hold them so they could get pics with their spouse and I think this is a great idea! If you have someone willing to give an extra hand, take advantage.
What are some of your family picture tips? Do you guys take family pics? Thanks for stopping by!