You’re wanting that picture perfect image of your family, smiling and happy, right? But how do you make sure you can get there?

Here are my 3 non-negotiable “rules” to a successful photoshoot with young kids.

Years ago I had a client who desperately wanted snow photos of her, her husband and their 2 year old son for her holiday cards. We set a time on the calendar for the beginning of December. Boise snow is always kind of a crapshoot, but we figured we would just play it by ear and see what happened.

Well, come time for the photoshoot it definitely was snowy. It was also incredibly cold. Like in the single digits cold.

A few days before the photoshoot I called the mom and suggested we reschedule the session. We talked it over and she felt incredibly strongly that we proceed despite the weather.

I let her know that it was suuuper important to prepare her son for the cold. I recommended he have gloves, a hat, a coat, a scarf; all the things. And I also let her know that it was going to be a very fast session, because she didn’t want to keep her son out in the cold for too long.

We get to the beautiful snowy location and her son hops out of the car… with no coat, no gloves and no hat. When I suggested that we really should put his coat on she said that she didn’t want to, because it didn’t go with the look that she had planned for her photos.

 

Guess how well that session went? 

I think in the client’s mind she thought they could quickly get out of the car, snap a few picture-perfect smiling photos and be back in the car before he ever realized it was cold. And you might be able to get away with that for an adult or even a teenager… but you can’t do that with a toddler.

I’m not telling you this to throw that mom under the bus. I’m telling you this because I learned something really important that day.

You can’t set your kids up for failure and think that it’s all going to be okay. You can’t put your own desires above their basic needs. 

So here they are the 3 basic needs that absolutely under no circumstances can be ignored for a successful photoshoot with young children:

01. Sleep

Don’t plan a session after their normal bedtime or during their normal naptime. While many photographers will tell you that the light will be best an hour before sunset, what good is great light if your kid is in the middle of a major meltdown because they’re exhausted?

If you have an early riser, consider a sunrise session instead.

Or choose a location that offers midday shade so you can get the outdoor photos you desire at a time that is appropriate for your children. If you absolutely must have those sunset photos, consider a later than usual nap.

02. Food

Don’t show up to a session without feeding your family dinner, thinking you’ll just eat after. Heck, even if you’ve just had dinner, you best have a pocket full of (non-messy) treats to dole out throughout the session.

(Hint, this is a vitally important basic need for husbands’ moods and cooperation as well.)

If you can, find a food or snack that can be incorporated into your photoshoot as a prop!

Ice cream, popcorn, hot chocolate, even a full picnic on a blanket makes for awesome props that double to keep everyone’s energy up. 

03. Warmth

When considering what everyone should wear for your next family photoshoot, make sure you have OPTIONS. Especially if you’re having pictures taken during a transitional season and you’re not sure if it’s going to be 80 degrees out or 40.

Give your children lots of layers that can be piled on or taken off. 

Don’t want their coat in your photos? Go buy a cute coat if you have to and keep the tags on to return it if you don’t end up needing it. But be prepared to have your baby or your toddler photographed in their coat, if necessary.

And finally after all these basics are met, the last thing that so often is forgotten in photoshoots: LOVE.

 

Yes, your kids need your love and understanding.

An acceptance of them being them, even if that means they’re a little wild or not smiling for the camera. A good photographer doesn’t need your kid to sit still and “say cheese” in order to capture your family.

Trust your photographer. 

Play with your kids, tickle them, toss them in the air, love on them like no one is watching.

That’s the absolute best way to get genuine interaction out of your kids and those big smiles you love.

 

The way to success in a photoshoot is not in the perfect outfit. It’s in being prepared.