How to Prepare kids for your Family Photoshoot

How to Prepare kids for your family Photoshoot

So you’ve booked your photo shoot and the excitement starts building for all the ways you will display, share and stare at these images for the rest of time, and then…the anxiety sets in – choosing outfits, dragging spouses out and kids…can be..unpredictable.

“What if they don’t crack a smile?”

“What if they are just goofing around instead of looking at the camera?” 

“What if my kids meltdown and I’ve invested in this session?”

Trust me, as a mama of 4 wildly different kiddos, I understand how this can scare parents away from even attempting a photoshoot for YEARS! As a family photographer for the last 20+ years, having met so many different family dynamics, I can tell you that this experience can be fulfilling, fun, heart-warming and yes…even stress free giving you cherished memories for generations to come.

SO here are my tips for preparing those wild thangs for a successful photoshoot. 


Chat with your kids before the photoshoot. Rather than springing it on them at the last minute, mention it over the coming week to two weeks before and let them know what you’ll be doing and how much fun it will be! If the kids are really young, avoid stressing them out with too much detail and instead, show them a picture of their photographer, share your excitement about hanging with “Jody” at the park and some fun games and surprises we will have! This will help them feel like they aren’t performing for a total stranger and alleviate some anxiety/shyness.

If the kids are old enough, you can set expectations like sharing how long we’ll be together, what this session means to you and what their willingness and openness to be photographed will earn them!

Breaks are allowed! It’s totally ok to take a quick snack or smile break. My own kiddos have adhd and that means, for them, they need frequent breaks to refuel and regulate. 

I generally keep my end time for sessions pretty flexible for 2 reasons. 

One- because some kiddos need time to warm up to me and check things out around them before they are ready to start shooting. That little bit of extra time before your session with no camera can help ease them into the session so that by the end they are hamming it up for the camera. 

Two-Because I already have you here all dolled up, so I shoot until the sun is gone or you are sick of me! 😛 Sometimes the best moment captured is the last in that blue hour light.


I am a firm believer that a good bribe can make magic! As much as I think they are an excellent way to entice kids to cooperate on even the toughest of days, bribes should be used sparingly and wisely! Let kids know they have a special reward like a lollipop or bag of smarties for a successful shoot and we can even take a break to have a few m&m’s along the way BUT avoid using it as a crutch. When we start begging the children to behave “so that they can have a cookie” or to “smile for the camera one more time so we can go get ice cream.” We inevitably spend our time with kids consumed with finishing so that they can get the treat. 

Instead I suggest that we only make mention at the session when needed and I also have a treasure box (with toys and candy) for the kids that I share as a secret between us. Kids love finding out about it! I like to think of kids’ cooperation as layers and I pull out certain layers as we go!


Plan your shoot on a day you’re expecting to have little on the calendar, not a day you are doing a million things. If you’ve got a ton of errands with kids in tow or appointments on the books – adding a photo shoot on top of everything else can cause you AND the kids unnecessary stress. Our family sessions are always scheduled two hours before sunset so a little downtime beforehand will help improve energy levels for everyone.


Family sessions occur 2 hours before sunset (and Calgary sunset’s can be later than 10pm in the middle of the summer!) This is how we get away from harsh shadows and squinty looks from kids and create stunning, creamy, dreamy, golden backlit images but for young kids that have early bedtimes and still nap, that can be harrrd. 

What I suggest and have every client with young kiddos try to do, is bring nap time and dinner forward to just before your shoot so that your child is well rested and well fed beforehand. If possible, try a practice run a few days or the week before. Of course, the best laid plans can go awry and that’s why we also have lots of snacks, games, jokes, snuggles and songs to get us through!

This advice goes for everyone in the family, not just the youngest. Hangry kids and grown ups alike are hard to appease. Make sure they’ve had plenty to eat beforehand and bring lots of extra snacks and water. It can be pretty hot and dry here in the summer so bring those water bottles!


This one is hard for us grown ups as we can’t always see from the photographer’s angle. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to just let your kids be kids during a family photo session. Let your child smile naturally and resist the urge to say things like “cheese!” or “give me a real smile!” The best way to elicit real smiles is to actually make your child smile or laugh. That’s why we have tricks and games I use to engage them, and focus on finding the in-between moments when you are sharing a laugh, snuggle, secret or tickle. 

When capturing kids on their own, it can sometimes be more helpful for you to step out of your child’s sight; without an audience children are often a lot more focused and engaged, especially with new people.

If you have a young baby or toddler then they may need a little more support from you to stay engaged. This could be anything from singing a favorite song, making goofy noises or giving the photographer one of their favorite teddies to hold. 

As much information you can give in our “getting to know you” questionnaire about the current likes and loves of your children, the better! It often comes into play especially when earning their trust at the beginning of the session. 


Stay positive, have fun and let go! Your kids will pick up on your mood (this goes for dad’s too!) When you are both on the same page that this is an experience that will bring your family together in these memories, the more your children will feel that. Take a deep breath, relax and remember I am there to capture the “moments” that make your family dynamic unique. 

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