Preparing Kids for Family Pictures

Family pictures can be a stressful event – especially if young kids are involved!

Photographer Kristen Wilkerson shares tips for preparing children for a photo shoot.

We all want family pictures, but with young children sometimes we dread them. There are a few things we can do both before the shoot and during the shoot to make it go a little smoother:


1) Talk positive about getting pictures taken.

Avoid saying we are getting family pictures taken and if you behave we will get ice cream. When we present the idea like this our children immediately process it as a negative thing they have to do in order to get a treat. Instead trying saying “I’m so excited we get to go get family pictures taken and celebrate with treats after.

2) Do not practice smiling.

Kids don’t know how to smile on command. When we practice or worse give them the dreaded “say cheese” it tends to pull out fake expressions. If you have hired a photographer that works well with kids trust them to pull the natural smiles out during the shoot.

3) Include them in the process.

Ask your child what they want to wear for pictures. This could include a few shots in a batman cape, a mask, a stinky old hat. When your child gets to help make decisions they are more likely to be invested in the picture taking process.

4) Research your photographer.

Make sure that you have hired a photographer who has a solid portfolio, works well with children, and presents pictures that are the style of photography you like. If you’ve hired someone that has poised photo’s in her portfolio trust that they can deliver that. If you have hired someone who shoots lifestyle shots trust that they can deliver. You see only candid shots in my portfolio. I always give mom a few posed look at the camera smile shots, but the rest of the session is fun and light. By researching your photographer you know what to expect going in.


1)Bring a bottle of water and snacks. (like crackers, not chocolate bars)
If you can keep your child happy in between shots it will help them cooperate more when it’s their turn.

2)Stay relaxed.

The most common thing I hear is “I’m so sorry, you’ve probably never had kids this crazy.” I’m a family photographer I work with busy bodies EVERY shoot. Don’t worry about your photographer being stressed and go heavy on the discipline. Stay relaxed and at times even let the photographer take the child off to the side. Sometimes our children interact differently with someone they aren’t used to seeing everyday.

3) Focus attention on cooperative children.

Famous photographer Jean Smith gave me some great advice about not giving attention to the uncooperative child. It changed my sessions. If you have a child that refuses to cooperate don’t get mad, don’t threaten, just divert your attention to the children that are. Encourage them, tell them how fun it will be to celebrate with ice cream, but don’t mention the uncooperative child. This method hasn’t failed me yet. It always turns the frowny face into a smile.

4) Make it fun.

Sometimes making the shoot fun is the magic trick. Bring out the cape, the mask, the stuffed animal that your child picked before hand and let them be free. Lay on the ground, tickle and laugh. Whether or not these are the shots that make it on the wall they are almost guaranteed to be the ones that you’ll treasure down the road.

You can see more work from Kristin Wilkerson by visiting her blog and you can also find her on Facebook:

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