How to have an awesome photo session…with kids!


I have two little ones who, depending on the day, the amount of candy we’ve eaten, and the phase of the moon can be perfect angels or perfect hellions. Add to these constantly shifting moods their absolute intolerance about having their picture taken (it doesn’t help that I drag them to each new location and make them be models to help me practice!), and you could say that I’ve experienced ALL the chaos of a photo session gone awry. In this case, the best defense is a good offense. So make like a good Boy Scout and be prepared. Here are a few tricks to make your session go smoothly:


  • To prepare for an awesome family photo session with kids, act beforehand to avoid the “trifecta of grumpiness” (what my husband calls the combo of hungry, tired, and uncomfortable that sends me into grump-mode). Make sure kids are well-rested and fed. This might mean a snack right before or even during the shoot.  During the session, snacks should be clean and crumbs should be easy to wipe away.  I love Nutella as much as the next person (okay, a lot more than the next person), but mid-photo session isn’t the time.  Think snacks like apple slices and pretzels. 


  • Clothing should be comfy and let them move and run. We will play and be silly and take breaks whenever they need them!  Pick out the clothing before the session and let your kids get used to the idea of the outfits you chose.  I have personally made the mistake of revealing the perfect outfit to my son minutes before we left for a photoshoot only to have him MELTDOWN completely, making us arrive late and frazzled. Needless to say, the photos did not go well. Trust me, a little prep goes a long way here. 

  • Bring the favorite stuffed animal or the paci or other comfort item.  Don’t worry about these ending up in some of the photographs–these artifacts speak to what this moment in time is like for your family and can lend authenticity to the session.


  • For some kids, a carrot (or a cookie!) works wonders.  Perhaps you’d like to reward them for an awesome session with a family outing to get ice cream or enjoy a movie.  But avoid the threats (“if you don’t smile for this photo, you’ll lose the ice cream”). Again, I’ve been there and it doesn’t go well.  I have the grumpy photos of my own kids to prove it.  Instead, make the session and the treat part of your day.  You can announce: “Today is going to be awesome! We’re going to go play at the park and take some fun family pictures, and afterwards, we’ll get ice cream!”  This is a totally different message for kids than a threat, and it will show in their in-front-of-camera attitude. 

  • Like all new things, kids will follow your lead. So RELAX and get ready for fun, for snuggles, and for play.  Arrive a few minutes early and set the tone for an awesome session!


  1. Jaime says:

    You’d never know these kids were pre- or post- meltdown! Beautiful shots!

  2. Lauren Reusch says:

    Great advice! Will definitely stock this away for future photo sessions!

  3. Molly Buehler says:

    Great tips. Thank you!

  4. Shannan Cremeens says:

    Great advice, Erin! Your pictures capture the moment beautifully.

  5. Joy says:

    Gah! I needed this list for the last time we did a big family shoot with the in-laws and cousins. . I feel like I did everything you said not to do: Chocolate, brand-new never worn outfits, and a less than well-rested toddler. Live and learn!! Thanks!

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