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Since I started working as a professional photographer, I’ve gathered several tips and tricks for ensuring a successful photo shoot with kids. If your kids cooperate and have fun during the shoot, you’ll feel much more relaxed, and your family’s experience will be positive. So without further ado, here are my top tips for a stress-free photo shoot with kids!

TIP #1: Feed Your Child Before the Shoot

No matter what time of the day your photo shoot is, make sure your child eats a good meal or healthy snack beforehand. I suggest feeding your child BEFORE you get them dressed and BEFORE you leave home. That way, they don’t get their clothes dirty and the food has time to settle by the time you arrive. When it comes to kids, a full stomach is a happy stomach, which means happier kids for the photo shoot!

TIP #2: Dress Your Child in Something Comfortable and Fun

When choosing something for your child to wear to the photo shoot, make sure it’s cute, of course! But also make sure it’s comfortable and fun. Here’s the long and short of it. Your child will be more relaxed and more cooperative during the shoot if he’s comfortable. Your child will be happier during the shoot if there’s something fun about what she’s wearing! Perhaps you need to buy some fun boots, a super cute hat or simple hair bow. Perhaps there’s a tutu skirt she’d like to twirl in?! Maybe you’re torn between a stiff cotton dress or a knit cotton dress? Pick the knit dress. Perhaps your child hates button downs? Pick a polo instead. Hates polos? Pick a button down. And I only recommend vests and scarves unless it’s late fall or your child is cooperative and doesn’t fuss much about what they’re wearing. The key to dressing kids for photo shoots is to make sure their clothing isn’t going to distract or annoy them. P.S. Keep the shoes cute, but comfy, and have your child wear them once or twice before the shoot.

TIP #3: Bring Snacks and a Water Bottle

This is a big tip, and one often overlooked. Bring a couple of clean, highly-preferred snacks for your child to eat DURING the photo shoot IF necessary. Also bring a bottle of water for your child. It’s especially important to bring a bottle of cold water when it’s hot outside. When I say “clean” snacks, I mean something that won’t get your child’s clothes dirty in the middle of the shoot – things like goldfish crackers, grapes, apple slices, jelly beans or any enticing, bite-sized snack or treat. Please don’t bring anything that will drip or stain your child’s skin or clothes. I suggest water because it is the best hydrator and won’t get your child’s shirt dirty in the middle of the shoot. A snack isn’t something that HAS to happen during a photo shoot, but it’s best to come prepared. Snacks and drinks can be used during breaks. They can also be used as motivators and rewards for good behavior. If things go unexpectedly well, then you’ll have a snack for after the shoot!

TIP #4: Bring a Special Toy, Book or Lovey

This tip is more for little kids, but feel free to bring a special toy, book or lovey to the photo shoot. Of course, we don’t want EVERY photo with that toy, book or lovey, but if it makes your child more comfortable or helps them transition, that’s great! Another benefit of bringing these items to a photo shoot is that if they hold a place of significance in your child’s life, later down the road when you look at the photos, they will bring back positive memories for both you and your child. Ragged stuffed bunnies and loveys can be super cute in photos! And pictures of you reading a book to your child are precious. My only restrictions and suggestions are as follows: keep toys, books and loveys to a minimum; bring them in a bag; and don’t tell your child you’re bringing them. Let the photographer know you have the items along, but ONLY get them out if you have to or want them featured at a special time during the shoot.

TIP #5: Do NOT Rush the Photographer

The worst thing you can do during a photo shoot is rush the photographer. This is especially true during photo shoots with kids. Photographers know their style and best pacing for getting great photos. If you tell the photographer “Let’s just get this done as quick as possible,” “Let’s cut this short,” or “I think we should just be done now,” I can almost guarantee you’re not going to get great results. Similarly, if you’re rushing the photographer from one spot to another, you’re not going to see the photographer’s best work. I know it’s hard and photo shoots with kids can be stressful, but try your best to go with the flow. Let the photographer take the lead. USE all the time allotted for the photo shoot (unless the photographer tells you they have everything they need)! I can tell you from experience that if you come into the photo shoot wanting to get this done as quickly as possible, you will not get awesome results. Similarly, if you’re stressed out and decide it would be better to bail half way through the shoot, you will not get the photos you were hoping for. Photographers love their work. They know when they have the shots they need. They know when they have the shots you will love. Let them take the time they need. Don’t rush them. Sometimes the best photos come at the end of the session, when you’ve given up, or when you just decided to let the kids run and have fun!

TIP #6: Relax, Reset your Expectations and Be Yourself.

My biggest tip for a successful photo shoot with kids is to relax as much as possible. I know photo shoots are stressful. Getting kids fed, cleaned up, dressed, transported and on their best behavior, while keeping a strict timeline in an unfamiliar location with a new person can be very stressful. But if you can stay relaxed, that will impact your whole family positively and will make your photos turn out a lot better! Reset your expectations. Your kid isn’t going to stand still and smile for every single photo. We’ll get some sitting and smiling pictures, for sure. But we might get just as many, if not MORE photos of them moving and behaving like they would any other day! Action photos show lots of personality, and your kids will have a LOT more fun if they’re moving. So reset your expectations about what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable during a photo shoot. As the photographer, I actually prefer if we have a mix of posed shots AND action shots. Sometimes the best photos are when I let the family go about their business exploring and having fun and just photograph them along the way, stopping for posed shots here and there. No matter how it plays out, just know that it’s best to be yourself. Same goes for your child. The more relaxed everyone feels, the more fun your shoot will be, and the better your photos will be!

Remember, the ultimate goal is to get beautiful, natural photos of your children and family as they are RIGHT NOW. If they cry, oh well. If they fuss a little, it’s okay. If they’re reserved, no worries. If they get a little wild and crazy, it doesn’t bother me. If they need to move, no problem. If they smile, awesome! If they don’t smile much, it’s okay! If their smile is cheesy or they won’t ever look at the camera, it’s all good. If they’re bratty and woke up on the wrong side of the bed, relax. We’ll figure it out. We’ll make it work. We’ll get photos of your kids just as they are – right here, right now – and years from now, you’ll think they’re absolutely precious, absolutely beautiful, absolutely perfect.

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