How to actually ENJOY a family photo shoot with young children!

One of the benefits of being a photographer with two small children myself is that I already know what most children are going to do during a photo session.  Making silly faces? Of course.  Staring off into space?  Yep!  Picking their nose?  Oh sure.  Breaking wind and then laughing hysterically?  You bet.  I think I’ve seen it all.  (No wait…..  No one has mooned me yet.  That’ll probably be my son that takes that honor.)

I also know what it’s like to be a parent who WANTS a beautiful family portrait with their children, yet knows that “beautiful family portrait” and “children” can sometimes seem mutually exclusive.  And even though it can be a lot of work to “wrangle” kids during a family session…

I still love it.

I love the way kids look at everything and see only what is good, and funny, and awesome.  I love how they can laugh at nearly everything.  (When was the last time you laughed hysterically because you burped, or because someone said the word “pickle”??  I wish I could laugh more often like that!)  I love how much they love their parents.  And how they look at their big brother or sister.  It makes my heart happy.

I was so excited to make some long-overdue portraits for this sweet, silly, loving family.  What’s so interesting to me is how we as parents approach something like a photo shoot with young children.  Trust me, It is SO different from how your photographer sees it.  Now that I’ve been on both sides of the camera, I can say that for sure.

sisters laughing and jumping

When I got these two adorable sisters in front of my lens, it was nothing but giggles. Can’t you tell?? And I absolutely LOVED it. But I have a feeling that mom and dad were a little worried that they were being TOO silly, and that their one chance for a great family picture would be lost if they didn’t settle down. Can you relate?  (I totally can!)  The funny thing is, though, that their silliness- which I think made mom and dad a bit nervous about getting good photos- was the very thing that LET me capture some beautiful moments.  I loved being able to tell their parents not to worry about the giggles and goofiness, because it was JUST what I wanted to capture!  And i think it worked.  🙂

This family and these girls were a total blast to photograph- it was SO MUCH FUN.  But it got me thinking of how often we as parents worry about our children “acting up” during family photos, and this this made me realize a super important tip that can ensure parents have a FUN photo session instead of a stressful one.

Ready for it?

Here it is.  

My my super-secret tip for parents wanting to have great family photos…

Don’t discipline your children for that one hour of your session.  

That’s right!  Take an hour off of parenting and disciplining!  Let your photographer do it. It’s part of their job, in a way!  Since your photographer is an adult that trust (just like teachers and coaches) kids will automatically be ready to follow their lead.

As parents, let’s not worry about our children “acting up” or misbehaving during family photos- remember, if they can’t stop laughing and smiling, that means they are having fun!

So have fun with them. Be silly with them.  Enjoy them. And relish how sweet and loving and silly they are at this age.  What could be a better memory that that?!

(And I should clarify. I’ve never had ANY children “misbehave” during any of my sessions.  Act like goofballs, sure!  But misbehave? Nope. Not one. Maybe its because I’ve been lucky, but I have a feeling it’s because every family I’ve ever photographed has been a loving family with good, capable parents. If they weren’t, then I’d probably see kids that are screaming at me, hitting, cursing- who knows what! 😉  Remember, misbehavior during family photos is more of a parents’ FEAR than an actual reality.  Trust me, you parents rock.  🙂

Family posing for photo on brick wall

So, feel free to let your photographer be the “boss” and direct the kids– This should be your hour off from parenting and discipline! (And no, I don’t mean important parenting like teaching things like respect, manners, and kindness. I mean the typical child-wrangling that we do on a day-to-day basis.)  Your photographer can direct your kids where to stand, how to be still when needed, how to settle down, how to be silly, how to be quiet.  Let them worry about it and take a little breather for yourself!   Ask your photographer if you and your spouse/partner can stand off on the sidelines, so to speak, and let them work one-on-one with the kids for some great photos.  You don’t have to be far away- just going off 20 or 30 feet to have a conversation (or just pretend to) can be a game-changer with your children’s behavior!  Also, if your children see that you’re not really paying attention to them, they won’t feel the need to “show off” in front of you, and will be more likely to focus on what the photographer is asking them to do.  Also, it conveys to them that Mom and Dad trust this person, and expect them to follow their directions.  (Just think of how well your children act for other trusted adults- like their teacher! Because really, any parent knows that their children can behave monstrously at home, but like obedient angels at school. Take advantage of this! And as a former teacher, I can attest to this as well!!  😉  Let your photographer be the mom/dad/teacher/principal/coach/boss for that hour.  They can handle it.  Then sit back, relax and let the gorgeous images happen.

little girls with their dad, family

I recently acquired some new props (though this is really an ongoing  habit and not just an occasional event!) and have been so excited to use them for a newborn session!  A friend just also happened to have the most gorgeous baby boy recently… 🙂  I love when I can ask moms if I can “borrow” their wee ones for some shots!

The thing I’ve been most excited to incorporate into my custom-designed newborn photo sessions is my Great-Grandmother’s antique butter bowl.  A wooden bowl that my mother actually remembers helping her make butter in as a child!  I asked her if I could foster the bowl for a while in my studio.  😉 It’s kinda cool that I’m able to put a little piece of my own family into these images that I absolutely love to create.

baby in wooden bowl

Sweet baby River was an absolute dream to photograph!  He snoozed the whole time and was totally content to curl up in these sweet poses for me.  Even through his little grimaces and scowls, he was perfectly adorable!  The little rolls, crinkled brow, pouty lips, peach fuzz… perfection.  Special thanks to his sweet momma for making this such a fun morning!  sleeping baby making faces beautiful sleeping baby

This session was all about soft, muted, earth tones.  Although I love incorporating color into sessions, there is something about these soft, beautiful images that seems so soothing and peaceful.  So excited to get to use these props and photograph this little guy.  What an absolute doll.  Enjoy!

newborn in bonnet and pants

I am by nature a creative, detail-obsessed, master procrastinator.  S0, it is a tremendous accomplishment that I managed to do something I promised myself (and all of you!) that I would do….  I CREATED MY FAMILY’S FIRST ANNUAL YEARBOOK!  Last fall, in this post, I recounted some rather painful instances of losing some precious digital pictures when some image files corrupted.  I then knew that I had to finally live by my own motto I share with clients and PRINT MY PHOTOS before I lost any others.  I had always hoped to take all the photos taken of our kids, print them, and put them in a painstakingly hand-crafted scrapbook, complete with overpriced embellishments, fancy patterned paper- the works.  (The key word here being hoped).  Upon taking a realistic look at our lives with two small children (and a growing business of my own) I knew I would never really have the time I’d wanted to take on such an endeavor.  So, I decided to settle for the less-personalized, yet far quicker option of paying an album-printing lab make my scrapbook for me.

print your family

Man, am I ever glad I took that easy way out.

I used some album-building software I recently purchased and had created a 60-some page album in a matter of just a couple hours.  I used all those photos I’ve taken over the past year- most of them on my phone- and created the most beautiful family keepsake I could ever have hoped to make!  Now, as you can see, these pictures weren’t anything really special.  They weren’t necessarily wall-worthy portraits, or anything I’d brag about taking, but they were special to ME.  They all happened at those sweet, funny moments that made my heart melt, and made me go grab my camera in the first place.  I mean, WHY do we bother to grab our phones and cameras and take pictures of things anyway?  Especially pictures of our kids??  Hopefully it’s not just to have something to post on Facebook…  I think for most of us, it’s because there was something in that moment that we never wanted to forget.  Well, the only way you’ll truly NOT forget that moment is turn that electronic data into a real, tangible photo and print it.

family pictures printed in photo album

I managed to surprise myself again and place the order the first week of December and receive it a week before Christmas- so that I could give it to my husband as a surprise Christmas gift.

Ask anyone in my family- I am a HUGE procrastinator.  So if I can do something like this- you can too!  I mean it.  Even though the album building software I used made it extra-easy, there are half a dozen web-based services that can do this “designing ” for you!  In fact, one of them even calls theirs “automagic” layouts.  And that’s pretty much the truth! Upload the pictures you want to use, choose a handful, drag and drop them on the page, then click that magic button to have the app miraculously mix up the arrangement until you see the one you love.  If you want to choose one of these websites, to finally print your own photos, I’ve mentioned a few here.

For all of you who’ve had a digital picture “scare” and had fire lit under your heinie to somehow print your pictures so you won’t lose them forever, I hope this is another spark to that fire that will motivate you to finally do it!  My kids have LOVED looking at our first family “yearbook” and I know that in the years to come, it will be even more special to them.  And me too.

What are you waiting for??  😉

Newborn Photography Slideshow

This sweet newborn boy has an sweet look-alike big brother (and an adorable big sister who didn’t want to be photographed that day!)  I have fallen in love with these images of sweet baby “Z.”  See the slideshow of this newborn boy’s session here!  Enjoy!

See more gorgeous newborn images here.

What a wonderful fall we had for family portraits!  One of the most rewarding things for me is to have past clients return for family sessions in the fall.  These families are amazing and nothing but F-U-N to photograph.  Each of these sessions truly was a great time!  Families like these make my job an absolute joy!  Of course, there is a lot more work behind-the-scenes for every family portrait session (culling, professional retouching and editing, client management, order fulfillment, bookkeeping, yada yada…) but I have to reveal a secret- these families made creating beautiful images the easy part!  I love seeing the love, giggles, silliness, cuddles, smiles, and the sense of belonging that is part of being a family.  That is what family portraits celebrate!  And that’s what I hope these moms, dads, and kiddos will see in the decades to come when they look at their family pictures.

brother and sister hugging
parents snuggling daughters for family portraits
S i g n   U p !