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Preparing Kids for Session

Do you love the outcome of your family photos but loathe the process? Grumpy husband, cranky kids, sweat rolling down your back while you try to smile and keep your cool? You’re not alone! I send a huge guide to my clients to help them prepare their kids for their photo session so I’m going to share some of my best tips for you, too!

1. Plan Ahead

The absolute best thing you can do to set yourself up for photo day success is to plan ahead. One of my favorite sayings ever is “A failure to plan is a plan to fail.” Yikes. But it’s true. Make sure you map out your timeline correctly and allow for lots of wiggle room in your schedule for the unexpected things that come up. Think it’ll take you 20 minutes to drive to your shooting location? Plan for double. Think it’ll take 90 minutes to do your hair and makeup? Plan for at least two hours. Make sure you also check for traffic and road closures before you leave your house. Pack your bag of goodies the night before. Extra water for everyone, healthy snacks for the kids, and little treats for bribery–hey, it works! Fruit snacks are great because they’re small and don’t melt in your hands or pockets. Just say no to M&M’s–at least until the session is done.

If your kids are still of napping age, you’ll also need to plan your day around naps so you don’t have to wake your kid up right before you have to leave the house. That’s almost a guarantee that you’ll end up with a cranky kid during photos. You may have to move the nap earlier in the day, which means your kids may need to wake up earlier that day, which means they may need to get to bed earlier the night before…you get the idea.

2. Have a Hearty Snack

A small and/or unhealthy snack will leave your kids still feeling hungry or could even lead to a sugar crash in the middle of your session. A healthy, hearty snack will give them the energy they need so “hangry” doesn’t happen. Banana with almond butter, string cheese and grapes…just make sure they eat before they get dressed.

3. No Screen Time

It’s well known that screens affect kids’ moods and temperament, so make sure your kids avoid all screen time (phones, tablets, TV, etc.) at the very least, a few hours leading up to your session.

4. Tell Your Kids What Your Expectations Are

Kids just want to make their grown-ups happy. If you’re clear about your expectations with your kids, then the entire experience will be more smooth and enjoyable. Use phrases like, “We’re getting ready to meet with Mr./Miss __________ (your photographer’s name) to take updated pictures of our family. We will be there for _______ minutes and I expect you to be a great listener, have a good attitude, and follow directions. If you do these things then it will be a fun and easy time! If you’re having a hard time, just let me know and I can take a break to snuggle with you. These pictures mean a lot to Mommy and Daddy because, before we know it, you’ll be all grown up!”

5. Give Necessary Information to Your Photographer

If you have a child with special needs, a sensory processing disorder, developmental or cognitive delays, please let your photographer know several days before your session. Be as specific as needed to help your photographer feel prepared to meet your child.

For example, if your child takes instruction very literally then saying a joke like, “Don’t smile,” in an attempt to get him/her to smile, it’s important that your photographer knows that this won’t work. Or if your child gets easily overwhelmed around people with high energy, it would be best for your photographer to be as calm and gentle as possible. Another thing that may be helpful for your photographer to know is if you are a blended family. If little Joey’s dad is married to Sarah, and Joey calls her by her name and not “Mom,” then this is helpful for the photographer to know when giving direction to the family. We want to try our best to avoid uncomfortable situations for everyone.

6. Plan a Special Treat or Event

Maybe everyone goes out to dinner or dessert after your session, or you organize a fun outing like bowling, miniature golf, or a trampoline park the next day. Think of it as a reward for a job well done!

7. Have Realistic Expectations

It won’t go perfectly. Give your family grace. Give yourself grace. Meet your kids where they are that day. You’re not in a great mood every single day. Neither are they. Love your kids for who they are in that moment. Even if they don’t want to smile or be held. Put yourself in their shoes...Everyone is getting dressed up, rushing around the house, hurrying to get in the car, there’s tension during the drive because Mom and Dad are stressed, now they’re rushing to get you out of the car because they’re running late, you’re at a place you’ve never been before and someone you’ve never seen before is trying to make you smile and laugh while holding a big black camera in front of his/her face, it’s hot/cold/windy/sunny….sheesh! I don’t know about you but I would feel incredibly overwhelmed in that moment, too. You see where planning ahead and trying to stay calm will really help, right? YES!

Kids feed off their parents’ energy. If you’re stressed and anxious, your kids will be too. Do your best to relax and enjoy the moment. The whole point of getting portraits taken is to cherish these memories.

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