Ask The Expert: What Should I do to Get my Kids Ready for a Family Portrait Session?

Hello! My name is Sarah Mavro and today I’m going to share with you some of my top tips for prepping to have a successful (and maybe even enjoyable!?) family photo session. I’ve been photographing families for a number of years and here is what I’ve come to learn and suggest to my clients:

Plan outfits ahead of time 

This one probably seems like a no-brain for a lot of people, it’s a good idea to plan what everyone (parents included!) is going to wear for the session. You want to be matching, but not TOO matching. There is a ton of inspiration for outfits online, I even have a blog post that includes a Pinterest board for my clients to draw from. Ensure the items you have chosen are washed, set aside, and ready to go!

Try to set up for success

Depending on the age of your family, this looks different for everyone. For those will smaller children who still nap, try to plan around when your little ones will be well rested. A golden hour session in the summer at 9:30pm is probably not the best plan for little ones. Do whatever you need to that day to sneak a nap in, a car ride with Starbucks and tunes is always a good last resort. It’s also a good idea to talk to kids beforehand, regardless of their age to give them a warning of what you’re going to be doing and what is expected.

Roll with the punches

The kids RUN the show for family sessions. A good photographer knows this is and is able to work with your kids to gently guide them. If something isn’t working, we move onto the next thing or change our location. As parents, just know that photographers don’t expect your kids to be 100% behaving themselves the entire session. 1 hour (or longer depending on your photographer) is a long time for little humans and we don’t expect them to be smiling posed angels the entire time. Candid shots of kids exploring and playing are often some of the best shots. 

Now is the time for incentives

If I call it an incentive, it sounds less like a bribe right? Seriously though, we aren’t judging and if it helps get everyone focused and participating in the session- that’s a win (this includes husbands). Starbucks cake-pops and ice cream are the top incentives I hear, but they also don’t have to be food. For our last family session I brought my three year old a $1.50 glow in the dark dinosaur from Superstore. Worked like a charm.

Don’t be afraid to get messy, but leave it for the end

 I am always very open to clients ideas for fun things they want to incorporate into their family sessions. Bubbles, water fights, popsicles, I’ve even seen a few smoke bombs. These are all great ideas to spice up your photos AND get kids excited about creating them. That said, these are usually best left until the end and everyone can get as crazy and dirty as they like.

Well those are just a few tips to hopefully get you on the right track for a successful family session! I will also mention that though mini sessions are growing in popularity, you will never get the same calibre of shots out of a mini. Do yourself a favor and invest in a full session which really gives your family a chance to relax into the process and give your photographer the time to capture those extra creative shots. Don’t forget to print your photos!