Family portrait photography is not for the faint of heart, especially when working with children ages 7 and under. I do everything that I can to make family portrait photography comfortable and easy – I come to the home or to a location that is familiar and I engage with little ones while taking their pictures, rather than asking them to sit still for long periods of time. Still, even for the most patient parents with the most well-behaved children, there are some do’s and don’ts of family portraits – and some general tips for family portrait photography – that are good to keep in mind.
- Accept that your session will go as well as it can go based on your children’s moods. I have seen the happiest babies not crack one smile during a whole hour; the shyest kids exuberant and open; and the most well-behaved kids fight with their parents for the better part of a session.
- Plan your session for the time of day when your kids are most alert, happy, and agreeable. I find a good time to be mid-morning, after breakfast and before nap time.
- Understand that for a toddler or a baby, portrait sessions are incredibly over stimulating. The lights, the camera, the strangers, the sitting still, and the smiling are exhausting and foreign. Be patient.
- Imagine the whole experience from the eyes of your 4-year old: here comes a stranger with lots of equipment and then grownups start being bossy and not letting you play. Doesn’t sound like very much fun – at least not for long.
- Expect at least a few tears, a fight or two and maybe even a breakdown.
- Plan a break somewhere within the session. Family portraits are exhausting for all of us and the children may need to run and play to let out some steam during the session.
- Have ideas for 4-5 different poses and groupings, but be flexible! Trust your photographer to get great photos throughout.
- Consider bringing one change of clothing so that you have a variety in your pictures. More than one change of clothing is too much.
- Get angry with your toddlers for not cooperating. They are only toddlers!
- Force the kids to do more than they are emotionally able to. There comes a time to end every family or baby portrait session, and it may be before you got the shot you were hoping for.
- Plan a session longer than an hour and a half, lest you want some very cranky toddlers on your hands.
- Expect more than 2-3 posed photos with the whole family. We’re lucky to get toddlers to sit still for 10 minutes, let alone for a whole hour.
- Apologize for cranky, misbehaving kids – know that they are NORMAL! As a professional photographer, I assure you, your toddler’s behavior is 100% expected.