Stress Free Family Photo Sessions


Preparing for Family PortraitsNothing spells stressful like holiday family portraits. We recently took our family photos at the Kimbell Art Musuem. And while my dear friend and talented photographer, Amanda at Amanda Lynn Photography, worked to make it all a breeze, there was still a tense moment or two. After talking through some things with Amanda, I came up with a few suggestions to make things go a bit smoother. Some of them I did this year; and some of them, I wish I had and will do next year. By the way, all of the beautiful photographs featured here are Amanda’s pictures of either my family or hers.

Plan, plan, plan. Just setting the date for the photography session was quite a feat; but once that was settled, I wish I had put a bit more work into adequately preparing for the big event.

For example, I had our outfits picked out weeks in advance, sitting in a giant, wrinkled pile on the floor in my closet. I intended to take them to the cleaners, but didn’t get around to it till two days before the session. Long story short, the cleaners sent off my son’s shirt, and it wasn’t ready when needed; so we had to borrow a shirt. I should have taken the clothes to the cleaner’s a week ahead of time.

Because our children are all still very young and take naps, we planned the session for first thing that day. We were at the Kimbell, ready to be photographed at 8:30 a.m. This was early, but really paid off. Cranky children do not photograph well. Plan the session time around your children’s naps and happiest times of day.

What to bring to the session. If your children are ages three and under, find a few classic toys that you won’t mind having in the photograph if necessary. Think wooden stacking rings, silver rattle, or maybe even Matchbox cars. Do not under any circumstances bring toys you do not want in the image as your children will naturally fixate on those. IMG_6391

Do bring a non-messy fun food treat. We used dried banana chips to bribe my babies during the shoot. In retrospect, I wish I had told our oldest child that if he was quick to cooperate, then he would get a special treat at the end of the session too (probably something from the dollar bin at Target or a small pack of Legos). Since he’s four years old, he is slightly motivated by delayed gratification.

Talk, talk, talk about it. This was Amanda’s suggestion, and I think it’s golden. Put the session in bold on the calendar several days before hand, and start talking it up to your kiddos. Explain what will happen and explain your expectations. Even explain details. For example, if your children are going to be barefoot for the session, mention this. If y’all are doing a fun pic in Christmas pajamas, bring that up too. Little ones like to know what the plan is as much as we do.

Do you have any tried-and-true suggestions for making family portraits a little less stressful? 


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Emma is the wife of Ford and mother to four: Lewis (2010), Teddy (2011), Archibald (2013), and Addie Cate (2013). She is both a biological and adoptive mom and wouldn’t have it any other way. Emma and Ford tied the knot in 2009, and quickly went from a family of two to six. Before Texas was home, she spent her college years in Mississippi; and her childhood in St. Petersburg, Russia where her parents serve as Protestant missionaries. Though she is fluent in Russian, she doesn’t find much use for it on playdates in the metroplex. When she is not buying diapers in bulk, Emma enjoys re-reading Austen and Bronte novels, napping, and the occasional visit to the Kimbell Art Museum. She dreams of one day sleeping in, but till then she is enjoying the long, lovely days at home with her crew of toddlers and babies.


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