Last fall I did 38 Family Sessions, and about 90% of them involved young kids. I absolutely love having young kids at my sessions- they are the experts at authentic moments because that’s really all they’re capable of.
Kids are so real and so truly themselves and it is inspiring.
They make sessions so fun and exciting, and also so sweet and loving.
There are definitely ways we can set up kids for success at sessions and make it more enjoyable for them- which in turn makes it much more enjoyable for the parents.
Which also allows me as the photographer to do my job- documenting your love, your joy and playfulness, and your tender and affectionate moments.
I want this entire process to be as stress-free and and wonderful as possible, so here are a few guidelines that will really set you and your kids up for success.
1. Relax and enjoy this time with your family
Instead of seeing it as something to be anxious for, try to look at your session as a time when you get to feel beautiful and be present with your family.
A time to celebrate the love you have for each other.
2. Hold off on the special treats
I’d encourage you not to bribe your children or promise special treats before the photo session.
Depending on the age of the kid, they can become super fixated on the treats and that’s all they can think about and all they want to do is eat them (fair enough!). When we don’t promise treats beforehand or early on in the session, we can keep the focus on the fun of exploring and being outdoors, hugging mom and dad and getting a special moment with them, all cuddling together, and laughing and playing games. (Oh and a few smiling at the camera photos thrown in too if you’re looking for that as well!)
So I recommend saving any promises of a special treat for later in the session if we need them. Kids are usually excited by the promise of new reward, and this can work really well to get some last few shots that we otherwise may have missed.
So instead of promising things before, save the promises for when (and if) we need them. Feel free to bring them along in your bag if you think we might!
With that being said, you really know your kid best and you know the way their unique personality responds to things, so definitely feel free to do what you think is best!
3. Embrace the unposed and interactive style of photography
The beauty of the emotive, “unposed” style of photography is that you don’t have to spend the entire session telling your kids to “Say cheese!” and “Stand still! Come back here!” (haha).
There may be some of that for sure, but if you have only ever done a photography session with only stiffly posed portraits (and probably faded smiles), it’s nothing like that.
It’s really about loving your kids, enjoying them, letting your photographer guide you and just allowing yourself to relax and be present with your family.
It’s about letting your emotions and love for each other show so it can be documented beautifully forever.
It’s also about capturing your kids’ unique personalities because you’ll treasure those photos forever- and I find that thinking of it that way takes some pressure off hoping they will behave a certain way.
It’s totally natural to want a beautiful smiling photo of your family, and if you let me know you’re hoping to get that I will definitely do my best to capture some for you!
But embracing the unposed style will free your expectations and trust me- you’ll so treasure those genuine moments that make you feel something inside in the years to come.
4. Know that nothing your kids can do can make the session go badly
I have never had a session where we didn’t get beautiful, loving photos. I am simply patient with kids, adapt to their unique personalities, go at their pace, and we are always able to get wonderful photos no matter what happens!
A quick example of just rolling with kids’ personalities is a session I did recently where the ground was covered in snow in mud, but it was a maternity session so we wanted to make it work in a certain timeline and didn’t want to reschedule.
The sweet little boy fell in the snow getting his hands cold, and we had a few little difficulties but we truly managed to get beautifully loving, emotive, and joyful photos of the family together in the in-between moments.
I have to share the caption my friend (the lovely mama!) shared with her photos on Facebook to go along with this session:
“Oh Alicia… you certainly are one talented lady!! Behind the scenes was a total meltdown, yet you managed to capture the magic in between! Thank you x a million! If you’re looking for a great family photographer in the High River area, this girl gets my rave! Check out Alicia Mary Photography!”
Times like these are honestly super rare, but when they happen we still get amazing photos!
I never worry about the kids (the opposite- I’m genuinely excited to meet them and take in their uniqueness so I can capture that) and hope the parents don’t feel they need to either.
5. Choose a photographer who loves and understands kids
Choosing a photographer who you believe will be good with kids, and enjoys and loves being with kids, is definitely important!
As parents, I think we’ve all experienced someone who we could tell didn’t understand kids or what normal behaviour for kids is- you want a photographer who will be patient, understanding, and make it as enjoyable for your kids as possible!
I know this might be funny point to include being a photographer myself, but I had to include it since the photographers comfort level with kids definitely plays a big part!
6. Make it fun and special
Once we’re at the session, treating it as something fun and special for the kids (rather than expecting to be frustrated by them)- will make the entire experience more positive for everyone.
I mix in a combination of more playful moments and more sweet, affectionate moments based on what you are hoping for with your session and the ages of the kids (and their personalities once I meet them!)
I keep the session moving at a pace that keeps the kids occupied while still allowing me to capture all the photos we need to have a varied, beautiful, and meaningful gallery.
Adding in a few things kids find fun does wonders and I have had a lot of parents text me after their session telling me their kid asked if they could do it again, or that they got in the car and their kids said, “That was so fun!”- reading those messages is such an amazing affirmation and means so much!
7. Keep in mind that young kids might become unhappy if they’re cold
I say this with the caveat that snowy sessions can still be wonderful and beautiful! I’ll include some photos to prove that!
However, in general, when young kids get cold they’re a bit more likely to be unhappy.
So I would say that, if you have the choice, planning your session before it snows is probably the better bet.
With that being said, we can’t control the weather on the day we book our sessions, and Alberta is never, ever predictable!
We can roll with almost anything (and reschedule if we can’t) and we can make most weather work wonderfully for us by making slight tweaks (such as warmer clothes, cutting the session a little short if we got all the photos we need and kiddos are getting cold, etc.). We can definitely make it work!
A quick example of an ingenious tweak is layering clothes under your kiddos cute outfits. It’s a great way to keep them warm!
Bringing a blanket to wrap kids up in (preferably one you don’t mind being in some photos such as a neutral coloured one!) is another great option for keeping warm.
This session was still incredibly magical with the snow and this sweetheart was such a cheerful little trooper! So this is not a rule but just something to keep in mind.
8. Embrace the chaos
It’s often in the in-between moments that the real magic happens, and some chaos is inevitable and honestly- celebrated!
Kids keep things exciting and fun and I love that.
The only message I really want to get across through this blog post is- please don’t feel you need to stress about your kids.
They will be wonderfully themselves and we will capture the emotions and love in your family for you to have as forever keepsakes.