6 Simple Steps to a Great Family Photo Session (with Little Kids) | Family Photographer Kansas City
6 Simple Steps to a Great Family Photo Session (with Little Kids)
1. Choose the right photographer for your family.
As you look for the best family photographer for you, remember that every photographer is not right for every family. It’s worth your time to do your homework and find a match who will deliver exceptional photos and service you can feel good about.
If you’ve ever attempted a google search or put out a call on social media for referrals, you quickly discovered there are hundreds, if not thousands of photographers in your area. Your task is to find a photographer who genuinely loves families and children, and who excels at interacting with little ones. You’ll know you’re on the right track when their website is loaded with images that make you smile and laugh. Call and speak to them on the phone, or better yet, meet for coffee before your session. Your ideal family photographer should be professional, produce consistent work that you love, and understand what you are after in your session. You should feel comfortable being yourself with them, and they should be someone whose company you actually enjoy.
Some photographers stick to more posed photography, while others lean into more emotive, natural moments. There are many photographers who photograph everything from newborns to weddings, but you’ll thank yourself later if you put in the legwork to find someone who specializes in family photography. Kansas City, which is where I call home, is chock full of many incredible options. It can be overwhelming to narrow down the list, so I recommend to start with what style of family photography you want for this specific photo session.
Really think about what you will do with your photos. Do you want to make prints and products to decorate your home? Will you use them for gifts? Do you want to make a special photo album for your children? Think about all of these things and really flesh out what you need and want, because different photography styles lend to different finished products, and most established photographers stay pretty solidly within their lane.
***Remember, there are many photographers who are just beginning their career, so a good rule of thumb to remember is that price point and experience are almost always directly correlated. There is nothing wrong with hiring someone newer to the industry in order to stay on budget. At the same time, it wouldn’t be fair to them - or yourself - to enter into an agreement without fully understanding that you simply can not expect high end final images and service from a beginner.
2. Choose the right location for your family at this stage of life.
think about your family dynamic and where you and your people will be most comfortable, then choose the photo location that makes the most sense for your crew as they are in this stage.
I know, Mama. This is a hard one. But can we be real for a minute? I’m a mama of three little ones, five and under. The studio is so not our jam right now. I LOVE a good studio sesh, but that’s just not where we are right now. Now, our home, coloring or playing games, or even playing outside in the sprinkler? Yeppp. We’d be on board for that. Or even out at the lake, skipping rocks or exploring the path through the forest? Sign us up. Making breakfast together one lazy Saturday? Absolutely.
Think about your family and your happiest places. Do your little ones just LOVE the movie theater? Girl, let’s make THAT happen! What a cute session that would be! Do they adore Build-A-Bear, or maybe Sea Life Kansas City? Or maybe they are obsessed with the Kansas City Street Car, or the Rivermarket. Think about your happiest places, and do your best to hire a photographer who can roll with that and capture some real joy of you and your people living your best lives.
3. Plan your session with nap time in mind.
If your little ones still nap, consider choosing an early morning sunrise session time, or perhaps even an early evening time. Whichever you choose, try to leave a wide berth around regular nap times to allow for late naps or routine struggles.
No one enjoys being cranky…so save yourself the headache and plan around it! If you have planned an outdoor session, most photographers prefer to schedule in the softer sunlight hours just after sunrise or just before sunset. Do your best to give plenty of space around nap time, and go for an earlier morning session or mid-afternoon. My own children seem to struggle in those hours just between afternoon and evening, from around 4 to 6, so if that’s true for you as well, steer clear of that timeframe.
It can be tempting to throw all routine out the window on the day of your photo session, but honestly that is the absolute last thing you should do. Stick to routine if possible, and consider getting them ready on site or before the car ride if it will allow them to sleep in the car en route and get that all-important nap in! Trust me, your photographer would rather you stick to routine when you can - we would always rather work with rested little people, when possible!
4. Feed your people first.
Ya’ll, “hangry” is a real thing. Littles get it. Daddies get it. Even Mamas get it. So let’s be smart and just avoid it altogether, okay?
Repeat after me: I will not make my family attend a photo session on an empty stomach. I will not make my family attend a photo session on an empty stomach. I will not… You get the picture. For the love of photographers everywhere, please do not make everyone skip lunch or snacks because they are dressed nicely with the promise of a good dinner in a restaurant after your photo session. There are several reasons why this never works.
1. I am fairly convinced that when Littles get hungry, they literally feel as though they have never eaten before in their entire lives. They become panicked, fussy, and they absolutely will NOT have anything to do with your friendly neighborhood family photographer at that point.
2. I’m sorry to tell you this, Mama, but sometimes, it’s not the Littles who won’t cooperate. Feed your significant other, too! It’s hard work to smile and interact in an unusual location with a camera in your face, but a little something in your belly does make it easier.
3. Suffering your way through a family photo session on empty stomachs is a surefire way to pick all the fights, get on one another’s last nerve and ensure that no one even wants to talk to each other at dinner.
I could go on, but let’s just not do it, okay? If you absolutely MUST wait to have dinner/lunch until after your photo session, at a bare minimum through some dry snacks like Cheerios, crackers or even fruit snacks in your bag for an emergency. Some photographers keep an emergency stash of candy in their bags, but with food allergies and dietary restrictions for little ones, that is increasingly rare.
5. Choose comfortable clothing in complimentary shades or patterns - and try to avoid matching unless you just have a hankering for the look.
Think about where your photos will be displayed, and examine paint colors and the general decorating scheme in that area of your home. then (shock, awe), choose a color palette that compliments that area.
This is so simple, but many times we skip over this step and find ourselves paying for it the week of our family photos. Rather than choosing a matching scheme, think about choosing a neutral palette, either warm or cool, and in shades that compliment the decorating scheme. This will ensure you have timeless images and prints you can display for years to come.
6. Focus on the fun, not the photos.
in the weeks and days leading up to your session, try to avoid talking about how important it is to get “just ONE good photo” and instead talk about how much fun this will be.
When Mama is stressed, everyone is stressed. So loosen up, Mama! Instead of focusing on how important it is to get “one GOOD photo,” talk about what a fun family outing this will be. Plan to include a fun surprise during your photo session, like bubbles, donuts or even a fun game.
During your session, work to clear your mind and just be present to enjoy your family. Point out things you think the Littles might enjoy seeing or exploring, and bring up funny memories unique to your family. Instead of using words and language to try to get your people to comply, talk about things that have nothing to do with your photo session. Ask them about school, or a funny joke they told the other day, or what they think about Dad’s new socks. Put them at ease by making your photo session just another day, and you’ll be rewarded with photos of a comfortable, happy family.
Follow these tips and let me know how your family photo session goes! In the comments below, let me know which tried and true tricks are your go-to’s when it comes to family photos?