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  • Writer's pictureKindred Spirits Photography

5 Tips for a Stress-Free Photo Session With Kids

Updated: Jul 14, 2021

Family photos.

That phrase seems to create a feeling of dread in the pit of every mother's stomach. The coordinating of schedules, (sometimes) having to coax a reluctant husband to be on board with spending the money, the time, and the outfits. Planning what to wear, and getting the perfect outfits for everyone. And most of all, after all that preparation, and effort, the biggest question:

"Will my children even behave?"

Well, here are my 5 top tips for ensuring a smooth and relaxed photo session with your children!


Start talking about the pictures well ahead of time! We all take photos with our phones, when you're snapping a picture, encourage them, "That's such a pretty smile! I can't wait to see you smile like that for our family pictures in X days!". For the older kids, show them other photos your photographer has done, talk about where you will hang your own photos in your home. It can help the less enthusiastic pre-teens/teens to feel more involved, and help little ones be excited about it when it comes time for your session.


My children are 7, 6, 2, & 10mos. The older 2, I will talk with them ahead of time, "We are going to do pictures on Sunday. We're going to go to the beach to do them. It may be a little windy and chilly. We will be doing photos for about 1 hour. We are going to take a couple of nice family photos, where everyone is looking and smiling at the camera, and then we're going to take some silly ones, I want you to listen when I say to smile though! After that hour, you may swim, and play, but we have to do pictures first so our outfits stay nice." In here, I have managed their expectations by not showing up to a fun place, and THEN they're told they can't play. They have been told the time frame to expect, what type of behavior I expect, that the weather may be a little cold, and what to look forward to when they're completed. Now just keep repeating this. Kids need to be told things several times for it to sink in, they may have questions, so talk it out ahead of time. For the little ones, keep talking about it, and telling them where you will go, what will happen, "We're going to the beach, and we're all going to smile and then a lady will take our picture!" Repetition will help them recognize the situation once they're there, and will help with your expectation of a smile ;)

I love to let the children play, and encourage parents to take a moment together during family sessions.

Outfit Prep

Some children are great about putting on whatever outfits their parents choose. Others may have sensory issues about fabrics or the fit of the outfit. Some may not like it because of something we're not picking up on. To ease the day of preparations, make sure that you have your outfits picked out ahead of time, and you have either tried them on, or shown photos of what you will wear to your children. Especially in the summer time, kids can grow so fast, and that dress shirt from Easter you were sure would fit, may be too small for autumn photos. For my clients that use my client wardrobe, this is why I usually try to coordinate to drop off outfits ahead of time, or bring back ups just in case!

One of these outfits was not originally planned, yet the end result is still stunning!


When it comes to the day before, do all you can to ensure they get a good night's sleep, going to bed at their normal time. Try to refrain from overloading them on sugar before the session. Make sure they still get their naps in if at all possible. Manage your own stress as best you can. (so much easier said than done, I know!) These little people pick up on our mood though, and the calmer we can attempt to be, the better it will be for them. If you know you have a bit of a drive, and toddler likes to munch in the car, wait to get them dressed until you arrive at your session location. Be flexible about the little things that you can let go. For the actual session, try to have mess-free snacks available, (goldfish, cheese sticks, graham crackers, maybe fruit snacks, depending on the age) and a package of baby wipes for last minute face scrubs.

Let go

Finally, the best advice I can give you, is to let everything go. Let go of that photo that has 10million likes on Instagram with everyone perfect, in the ideal location, and you are convinced those kids must be angels to cooperate with a photo like that. Let go of all the anxiety you have had preparing for this moment. Let go of your need to micro manage your children, I have been there, and I have hissed, and glared, and threatened with my eyes, and they just behave worse, and I get angrier, and more frustrated.

But when I let go of needing everyone to look at the camera and smile, the magic happens. When I let go of what I expect things to be, I find something I didn't even know I was hoping for.

You did your best, Mama, now, relax, and love those beautiful little humans, and create memories that you all will be able to look back on as a time of happiness.

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