If your little guy or girl is under 5, I highly recommend parents bring toys to the session. They don't have to be in the photos, but it doesn't always hurt if they are. Toys -- especially a favorite one -- are a great way to help a little one who is shy feel comforted.
2. Don't worry about matching.
Family photos are often seen as formal occasions -- and that can often lead to new clothes and matching outfits. For little tykes, sometimes it's just too much. The new clothes, the camera and the stranger (me) making weird faces and giving art direction can feel like pressure to perform. My goal is to make everyone -- no matter their age -- feel relaxed and confident. I'm going for authentic smiles and happy laughs. Clothing has a lot to do with that, which is why I always encourage parents to let their kids take a small lead when it comes to family photo wear.
For toddlers, that might mean letting them dress themselves -- yup, pink cowboy hat, tutu, striped socks and all -- for the day. For 7- and 8-year-olds, that might mean letting them choose a favorite shirt, skirt, or hair piece to wear.
3. Choose a distraction-free location.
If you're interested in photos with me, then you probably already know that I do most of my work in Sligo Creek Parkway. It's peaceful, quiet, and a great place for kids and family to explore.
If you're reading this just looking for advice, that's okay, too. One of the most frequent questions I get asked is about location. When kids are involved, the answer is simple: a place that's quiet and without distractions. This can be a small park, an open field, a backyard, or walking trail. It should not be a fair, outdoor market, sports stadium, or party.
As enticing as they might sound, the aforementioned locations (and other places like them) can be overstimulating for kids. They can also make it difficult for communication -- which is key when it comes to any kind of photography. Places that are quiet and distraction-free give clear signals to kids that family photos are the priority. They can also foster creativity in children, which can lend itself nicely to those beautifully unexpected candid moments.
Family photos don't always have to be formal. Sure, it's great to get a few grip-and-grin shots for the family holiday card, but stiff poses and cheesy smiles aren't always authentic. To capture truly fun-filled, joyful moments, I always encourage families to have fun and yes, even play, during photo sessions. Engaging your kids to partake in activities they enjoy doing will help put them at ease, bring out their true personalities, and can make for some really unique shots. Check out the image below of 5-year-old Mickey playing restaurant with his mom, Jen. There's no way I could have captured this if Jen wasn't open to foregoing traditional photo formalities!