Documenting the milestones of your baby’s first year

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How to Prepare Kids for a Successful Family Photo Session

Tips for preparing young children for a family photo session | Nicole Watford Photography

If you have any experience with young kids, you know they are notoriously unpredictable. When you invest in a family photo session, it’s easy to worry about uncooperative kiddos getting in the way of the beautiful photos you want. But here’s a secret: the best photos don’t come down to the outfits, location, time of day, or even the photographer you work with. The BEST way to ensure a smooth session is what you do BEFORE your family photo session to make sure your kiddos know what to expect!

As a mom of two young kids, a former elementary school teacher, and a photographer here in Columbia, SC, I’ve got lots of experience with young kids, both behind and in front of the camera! Today, I’m sharing my five BEST tips to help prepare your kids for family photos before your next session!

1. Tell them exactly what to expect

The best thing you can do to prepare your kids is to explain EXACTLY what’s going to happen during your session. Kids love habit and routine, and they like to be in control… and, well, a family photo session isn’t any of those things. 😉

Tell them when and where your session is going to happen, and remind them of any previous experiences they’ve had. If it’s not your first time having professional photos taken, show them pictures from a previous session you did together!

It might sound something like this:

“In two weeks, we’re going to do something fun together as a family! You and mommy and daddy are going to get dressed up in these nice outfits. We’ll go to a BIG building called the State House! A photographer named Ms. Nicole is going to be there, and she’s going to take our pictures with her camera. She will tell us exactly what we need to do, and then she’ll show you some of the pictures on the screen—just like when we take your picture on our phone!”

If you’ve got really little kids (aged 2 and under), you can still do this! Even though they might not understand everything you’re saying, kids understand spoken language before they can verbally respond to what you say to them!

2. Keep it positive!

In addition to talking up your family photo session as a FUN experience (because it will be!!!), make sure you’re also intentional about setting positive expectations for your kids’ participation! I know from experience as a teacher AND as a parent that kids respond so much better when you tell them what you DO want them to do rather than what you DON’T want them to do.

For example, you can say something like this: “Since you are such a big boy, we know you are going to be a GREAT listener when Ms. Nicole tells you what she wants you to do for our pictures!” Then, if you need to re-direct them during the session, you can say, “Remember how we talked about being a good listener? Show us how you can do that!” It’s not always foolproof, but I promise it works better than scolding or threatening! 😊

3. Make sure they’re fed and well-rested

Whether you’re having photos taken first thing in the morning or at the end of the day, a hangry kiddo won’t be happy or cooperative! Make sure they’ve eaten ahead of time so their tummies are full, and bring plenty of snacks and water, just in case!

It’s also important to make sure that your kids are well-rested before your session. That might mean planning ahead for an earlier bedtime the night before, adjusting a nap schedule, etc. Trust me… I know we don’t always have control over when or how our kids sleep. 😂 But control what you can: bedtime, routine, preparation… and then if they have other plans… we’ll make the best of it! 

4. Bring another adult along

For many families, it works well to bring along another adult that your kids know well (who isn’t having their photos taken), such as a grandparent, babysitter, or friend of the family. Especially if you have multiple children, this can come in handy if someone needs a break. Plus, it’s a good way to make sure we get some photos of JUST you and your partner together, too!

5. Let them be little

If there’s anything I’ve learned in almost 6 years of parenting, it’s that sometimes things don’t go the way we hoped, no matter how well we prepare.

Let me reassure you that the behind the scenes of family photo sessions with kids is always at least a *little* chaotic. But the goal for your session isn’t for you to be the “perfect family” (because that’s not real life!). The goal of your family photo session is to capture your family just as you are right now and document the joy and sweet moments in the chaos. Many times, the things that make a session feel crazy in the moment are the ones that my clients treasure the most! 

I hope these tips help you the next time you’re preparing your kids for a family photo session!

Looking for a photographer in Columbia, SC? Be sure to check out 5 Tips for Choosing the Best Photographer for Your Family Photos

Nicole Watford, a newborn photographer in Columbia, SC

Hey, I’m Nicole!

Columbia, SC Newborn, Maternity, & Family Photographer

I’m a sentimental mom of two with a heart for helping moms like you have a stress-free photography experience. I’m here to help you feel comfortable and confident in front of the camera and capture beautiful photos to tell the story of this season of life.

Serving Columbia, SC & the surrounding areas