How To Have a Low Stress Photo Session With Your Children

4 tips to ease the stress of your family photo session

Family photos, especially with little ones (or the occasional uncooperative husband) can be stressful. There is clothing to coordinate, a location to choose, not to mention all the heads of hair to comb and matching shoes to find. But these aren’t just photos. They’re memories captured. So, let’s make them good memories. Here are four simple things to keep in mind to relieve some of the stress of your next family session.

Tonya Edwards | Oroville Family Photographer | young boy with glasses and little girl in a dress black and white
Tonya Edwards | Oroville Family Photographer | little girl with red bow at sunset in a golden field

Tip #1: Feed your people. Including yourself.

Chances are, your photographer has scheduled your session for “golden hour.” That blessed time frame where the light is soft and magical, AND that likely falls during or just prior to your usual dinner time.  Want to know who hates being posed for pictures? Hungry people. Or “hangry”, depending on the severity. I am currently raising a small army of hangry-prone humans, so I can relate.

So, what do you do? Feed them. Make sure there is good food in their bellies that will keep them full for a long time.  So what if your kid only wants to eat chicken nuggets but you think veggies are necessary.  I will gently nudge you to let your little person eat as many nuggets as his or her heart desires. You can catch up on veggies tomorrow. A full child (and mother or father) is ready to play, have fun, and maybe even cooperate for a photo.

Tonya Edwards | Oroville Family Photographer | Baby girl with red hair blue eyes and headband holding mom and dad hands

Tip #2: Let kids be kids.

You are probably well aware already, but do you know what kids do? They spill. They kick up dust. They wipe their noses on their sleeves. They run and get sweaty.  They are definitely not concerned with tucked in shirts and smooth hair, and that is OOOOOh-kay.  They are just kids and isn’t that what you want captured anyway? This fleeting childhood that is so challenging and magical at the same time. Scolding them for acting like the children they are never works and will only add to your stress. 

To set your mind at ease, I would unscientifically guess that 90% of those “smudges” you see in real life won’t be picked up by the camera. 5% can be easily edited out. And that remaining 5%? Well, that’s real life shining through and I truly believe with all my heart that smudges are proof of your child’s personality. They deserve to be photographed too, and someday down the road, those are the images you’ll cherish most. So, let them be free to be themselves. 

Tonya Edwards | Oroville Photographer | kids swinging on a swing hanging from big oak tree pushed by grandpa
Tonya Edwards | Oroville Family Photographer | brothers jumping off a hay bale with fall leaves

Tip #3: Play with your kids.

Sometimes your children will be difficult.  He doesn’t want to stand with his sister, she doesn’t want to hold your hand, nobody wants to sit on the blanket. What do you do? Play with them. Sing to them. Tell them a story. Tell a joke. Play tag. Hug them. Chase them. Hold them. Swing them.  You know your child better than anyone, so whatever brings your child to life…do that. Maybe your child is shy and needs a snuggle. Maybe your child is wild and needs to run. Make it about them and the things they enjoy, not about taking the photo. It’s my job to worry about the photo. My job is to see those moments you’ll want to remember, your job is to live them. If you focus on making the experience fun, it will be.

Tonya Edwards | Oroville Family Photographer | play with your children at your photo session mother and father with baby girl
Tonya Edwards | Oroville Photographer | father and son and daughter playing laughing in black and white at golden hour

Tip #4: Relax your expectations.

High expectations of “perfect” family photos set the stage for disaster. Nobody is perfect, nor do I want to photograph “perfect” people. I don’t want you to confuse low expectations with “giving up,” but I do want to stress that you should have reasonable expectations for your session. Is everyone going to be perfectly cooperative, follow directions, and smile naturally at the camera? No. Not in a million years. But who really does that anyway? Maybe paid people in a magazine, but you are not paid people in a magazine. You are real people with personalities and a thousand expressions that are better than whatever happens when you tell your children to “say cheese.”   Beautiful photographs don’t require perfectly cooperative families and I am confident that we will create something beautiful together. Not perfection. Something better.

Can you think of anything else that has helped you in past photo sessions? I would love to hear and share your stories of making family photos less stressful and more fun.

Tonya Edwards | Oroville Photographer | baby girl and little boy being kids
Tonya Edwards | Oroville Family Photographer | shy boy being held by his mama
Tonya Edwards | Oroville Family Photographer | Mother and son laughing playing low stress family session