Tips for a successful photo session with little kids

Client Guides

One of the challenges of family photography (and one of the main reasons why I love it so much) is that it’s unpredictable and always keeps me on my toes. Kids, and especially toddlers, can be a tough crowd – I would know, I have three! As a parent, knowing what to expect and how to prepare for the session can make a huge difference, so I wanted to offer some tried and true tips for making your family photo session successful.

It is a well-known fact that toddlers and little kids want nothing to do with us telling them to sit still, pose and smile, and that’s totally ok and is expected. It is best to give them time and space to relax, settle down and capture them in their natural element, doing what they do best. Whether it is smelling the flowers, looking for bugs, running or exploring, I will capture your kiddo just as they are in this season of life. Through gently prompting and games, we will get natural and joyful photos that you are sure to cherish.

Below you’ll find some tips, tricks and ideas for getting the most out of your session with a toddler.

1. Naps and rest

Our session will likely be in the evening to take advantage of the beautiful golden hour light. Making sure that your little one is well rested prior to your session is very important. If your kiddo still naps, giving them a late nap can usually make a huge difference.

2. Snacks and water

Longer sessions can wear younger kids out, so snacks and water are a great way to refuel and take a break. Dry snacks are best to avoid messes and bonus points if a snack can double as a bribe (never underestimate a good bribe ;)) For bribes, things like mini-marshmallows are great as they are discreet and don’t make a mess.

3. Talk to them in advance

A few days before the session, start preparing your kids by talking to them about what’s going to happen. Tell them a friend with a camera is going to join them in the park and they’re going to take some family photos. Tell them about all the fun we’re going to have, and spend some time showing them pictures from previous photo sessions. Take them for a fun treat or dinner after the photoshoot to turn it into a special family experience they will look forward to every year. We love taking our kids out for ice-cream as a little treat afterwards.

4. Try on outfits

Make sure all the outfits fit well before the session. This will help kids (and you) feel comfortable. I like to get my kids involved in helping get their outfits and accessories ready for the session. I usually have 2 ‘preapproved’ options for them to choose from and they love getting to contribute.

5. Bring a favorite toy or activity

Bring an activity your kiddo enjoys. Maybe it’s a favorite book or bubbles – getting them engaged in something they love always gets authentic smiles. A favorite toy or stuffy can also be a great tool when I’m taking solo portraits.

6. Do not stress!

Kids can pick up on the nervous/stressful energy, which will make them even more agitated. Constantly telling them to look at the camera and smile will usually get the opposite reaction. As a lifestyle photographer, my goal is to capture your family just as they are, which sometimes means embracing the chaos. Don’t worry, I’ll get them sitting still for the “look at the camera” shots and we’ll also get lots of photos of them running around, having fun and being silly. Let loose, play with your kids, get lost in the moment.

7. Book a full session

Parents often tell me that their little ones won’t last longer than 20 minutes in front of the camera. While mini sessions are short and sweet, it’s important to keep in mind that even most outgoing/extraverted toddlers may need time to warm up to a photographer, especially when it is someone they’re meeting for the first time. Booking a full session allows your kids to get comfortable in front the the camera, to open up and will usually lead to a more relaxed, stress-free session. We’ll go at your toddler’s pace, we’ll explore, play games and get silly, taking off the pressure for sitting still and smiling. Booking a full session will get you a lot more variety in your gallery, more genuine moments and will allow me to capture the true essence of your family.

And lastly, before the session, I will send out a questionnaire, where you can share a little bit about your family, including some of your kids’ favorite things. Whether it’s riding on dad’s shoulders, being swung or tossed in the air, we’ll be sure to incorporate those into our session to get them giggling.

If you have any questions or would like to chat about booking a session, send me a note.

Tanya Zagumenov | Seattle family photographer | Magnuson Park Family Session

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