Plan everyone’s outfits days ahead of time. Make sure everything is clean and set aside somewhere. You do NOT want to wait until an hour or two before you are about to show up to try and throw something together. There is a high probability for stress here! What if your favorite dress, or pants for your son, etc. is in the hamper? Or is hanging in the closet but has a dirty spot on it? There are so many things that go into picking outfits. Will everyone be happy and comfortable in what they are wearing? Lay everything out together ahead of time to make sure colors/patterns/textures all flow together. I always send my clients a style guide when they book to help with choosing everyone’s outfits and then encourage them to send me a photo of everything laid out if they want any thoughts or advice on whether everything works. My sessions include a lot of movement, so I will advise you accordingly.
2. Make sure everyone is well fed before the session. I know many parents of young kids like to have a reward to offer their kids if they are good during the session (great idea!) but make sure it isn’t DINNER unless you know your kids well enough to know that they will not be hangry during the session. To go along with this, don’t let your family eat said pre-session dinner with their photo clothes on. Have everyone change into their clothes right before you are getting into your car. Also— if you have young kids— bring snacks for during the session (but do NOT tell your kids that you have those snacks beforehand). These snacks can be a lifesaver, but speaking for my own kids, if they *know* that there are snacks available, they do not. stop. asking. for. snacks. Better to save them for a special surprise SOS if need be.
3. Have a sense of timing for the whole day of the photo session. Again, this is most relevant to parents of little kids. If your kids really need a nap, don’t plan a shopping trip for late that morning where your kids will probably fall asleep for 10 minutes in the car on the way home and then won’t nap. Make sure you follow your regular routines that day, if possible! And then also be prepared to give yourself enough time to get ready. When I know that I want to go somewhere and look nice at night, it is an all-day affair because #momlife. I have to take a shower in the morning, then when the kids go in for naps, I can curl my hair. Then when they are eating a snack, I might have the time to do my makeup. I need to be pretty much ready hours ahead of time so that I can then help everyone else who will inevitably need help. Can’t just decide to go somewhere and get ready in a half hour like I used to be able to do! Then, make sure you know how long it will take you to get to your photo location (and exactly how to get there). Give yourself extra time so that you aren’t late and stressed at the beginning of the session.
4. Relax. You are choosing a photographer who you believe will give you beautiful photos of your family. This doesn’t JUST include the ability to click the shutter. Oh no, it includes sooooo much more. At times, parents come to my sessions with very high expectations of their kids and end up stressing everyone out by yelling at them. I always try to get everyone to just relax and have fun together! I am big on candid photos of families interacting together. Once everyone is comfortable, the natural smiles will come and it will be easier to get those “smiling and looking at the camera” photos. Trust your photographer (especially if it is me hahaha) to be able to capture your family’s beautiful (and realistic) story for you.
5. Bring “props” if you are nervous about how everyone will behave. This can include snacks (please no chocolate or anything super messy!), as mentioned above, or your kids’ favorite toys/stuffed animals, or an activity that you love to do together. Be ok with those items being in the photos in a worst case scenario. If you think that might happen, make sure the items you bring are timeless looking so as not to distract from the people in the photos (for example, a small wooden car or train, a rag doll or plain stuffed animal). I ask my clients ahead of time how everyone feels about photos and if there are any tricks I should know about. You should think about this ahead of time too. What always makes everyone smile? Piggy back rides? Tickles? Fart jokes? Whatever works!
Do not feel bad working with your photographer ahead of time to really plan out the session so that you are comfortable. I make myself available to my clients as part of the experience I provide because I want them to feel 100% prepared. Some people take me up on this and we email back and forth many times before the session. Some do not (which is also totally fine!). Hopefully these tips help you feel better and more prepared for your next family photography session 🙂