Kids, especially infants and toddlers, get sick. It happens -- a lot. My tip to parents: It's okay to reschedule. The last thing a sick kid wants is a camera in his or her face. The last thing parents want is for their little tyke to become more ill. And the last thing I want are unhappy clients. It's much better to photograph a little one when they're feeling happy than when they're under the weather. If that means pushing a photo session back by a few days or weeks, then so be it. I promise everyone will be happier for it.
2. Bring toys!
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.
3. 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.
I always offer families the option for two outfits per person, so worry not moms who feel horrified right now. We can always start with the formals, and end with less formal attire.
4. Choose a distraction-free location.
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.
I keep a running list of favorite family photo locations, so if you're stumped about where to get photos taken, don't worry. I'm here to help!
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!