What could go wrong? How to make the most out of your family portrait session.

When clients view our online photography galleries and see peaceful photos of sleeping newborn babies and happily smiling children, they could be forgiven for thinking that sessions are always a relaxing peaceful experience.  They can become frustrated at wilful, cranky children, and wonder what happened to their normally agreeable angel.

I can tell you without it is very very rare for a session involving young children to go off without a hitch.  Most issues are surmountable, most are shortlived, but it’s part of working with kids to expect these hiccups and find strategies for dealing with them.


So, what can you do to make sure you and your kids get the most out of your session?  The following tips might help:

1.   First and foremost, try to have no expectations.  This is the biggest blunder of all.  Coming into a child photography session with a shot list of must have shots, having a clear picture in your minds eye of what you want because a friend has a similar thing on her wall, and drilling best behaviour into the children before hand is a recipe for disaster.  The truth is, even the most well behaved child can be shy of strangers, have an off day, or simply feel pressured that they are not quite sure what is expected of them.   The best moments spring from a developing relationship between your photographer and your children, and we are skilled at bringing out the best in them.  So, your shots might be a little more ‘candid’ than you expected, or the kids might not all be looking at the camera at the same time.  But they will be more relaxed, and more authentic, if you can also relax your expectations and enjoy the surprise of what might come.

2.   Make sure kid are well fed and rested.  It goes without saying that kids who are hungry, thirsty or tired are more likely to grizzle and become distracted.

3.   Promising a reward for good behaviour can work well during a difficult session, but please, do not make this reward food oriented!  Handing a child a chocolate biscuit half way through a shoot is not only time consuming, but very messy!  Offering that we can play with a ball at the end, use some bubbles, or listen to some music, works just as well.

4.   Give careful consideration to your kids’ clothes.  If they are not clothes they are used to wearing, they won’t behave like themselves.  Button down shirts tucked in with belts and shoes/socks don’t really make kids feel relaxed as this is not their usual play gear.  Even if you are after more formal shots than play shots, it’s still a better idea to dress young kids in clothes they can relax and be comfortable in.  Simple solid colours in soft fabrics will help take the attention away from the clothes and back on the kids.

5.  Expect your child to act a little differently than normal.  In the case of babies, they are out of their routine, and with younger children, they struggle to understand exactly what is expected of them.  A normally smiley child may be a little more reserved.  A sleepy baby may be a little more awake.  We are used to this.

6.  Be prepared to be surprised.  A great deal of the shooting happens while we are mid song/dance routine, or waving a toy above our heads, or hanging out of a tree.  It’s common for us to hear from parents ‘oh my goodness, they are being a bit feral’ but we know what we are doing, and it’s completely rare that we don’t capture some great images in amongst what the parents may feel is chaos!

Of course, if your child is ill, or unhappy, please reschedule your session.  We want them at their very best, but accepting that nobody is on their best behaviour full time, and that sometimes the unexpected brings the best results, is the key to really relaxing and letting the session unfold with the energy of your children.  It’s really just all in a days’ work.

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