Every fall my family takes a picture for our Christmas card. That means I’ve been practicing doing a family photo with children for the last nine years as we slowly added more and more to our family.
Last month we took our family picture with our four children, and I wanted to share some of the tricks I’ve learned to get my kids to be at their best for these sometimes torturous photo shoots.
Two Hour Pre-Picture Plan
I like to finish my makeup and hair at least an hour and a half to two hours before it’s time to leave for our photos. I want to be as ready as I can besides putting on my outfit so I have time to help everyone else.
Around an hour or so before we need to leave, I like my kids to have a low-sugar, healthy meal so they wont be too hyper or have a sugar crash. Eating at this time means they don’t have to rush as they eat and that there is some time for their food to settle but hopefully not enough for them to be hungry during pictures.
When they finish eating, I let them watch a show they enjoy while I get my outfit on. I’ll also fix their hair while they are distracted with TV.
Then about 10 to 20 minutes before we need to leave our house, I have them use the bathroom and put on the clothes they will wear for the pictures. For little babies — especially those prone to spitting up or having blow out diapers — I prefer to dress them once we arrive at our photo location.
Finally, I like to leave the house 10 minutes before we need to so we aren’t stressed about getting to our photo session on time. The last thing that can ruin a peaceful tone for family pictures are parents who feel overly rushed.
Choose a photographer who is really comfortable with kids. Taking pictures of small children is not for the faint of heart. It helps to have a photographer that can work with kids who are frustrated and uncooperative.
This is big. Schedule pictures at a time when your kids are usually awake and happy. For us currently this is around 9:00 or 10:00 a.m. I know it may not be the best time for sunlight, but if your kids are going to be crying in every picture that twilight shot may not be worth it . . .
I prefer to take pictures near a place we live or that I can park close to so we can have back up outfits or other necessities nearby. It’s also easier if we don’t lose the kids mentally in a longer hike out to a beautiful spot. If you have to walk a bit to get to the location, consider taking a wagon to carry whatever you may need and any fussy kids.
This is the time to pull out some exciting toys and snacks. If someone starts to struggle during pictures, I am ready with bribes at hand. For younger kids who can’t easily wait to receive their bribe after the pictures are taken, I give small toys that are friendly colors with our outfits they can hold without being a distraction in our photos.
I also often give my kids one small marshmallow or a single gummy at a time during the pictures to keep them still and happy.
I remind my older kids about the photo shoot a few days before and again the day of, and I explain that these pictures are important to me and ask them to please have a positive attitude.
It also helps to guarantee directly after the pictures we will celebrate by doing something fun, like getting donuts, doing an activity they enjoy, going to a park they like, etc. This gives them something to look forward to and helps good memories to be associated with family pictures.
I’ve also learned with my older kids that it’s important they like their outfits for our photos. I choose a color scheme each year and then allow my big kids to help me choose what they will wear. If I force my older kids to wear things they don’t like, it’s obvious in their expressions and it takes any joy out of family pictures.
My older girls also get more excited about our pictures if I let them borrow some of my jewelry to wear, purchase some new hair accessories, and if we paint their nails the night before.
If your kids are anything like my middle daughter, they will be fake happy for five minutes and then they are done.
So I’ve learned we need to have a specific plan of what pictures we want taken and take the pictures that are most important to us first.
If you have a really great family friend, ask him or her to come along to help you keep people happy and interact with props, such as blowing bubbles or by telling goofy little kid jokes.
Remember to bring water. You know one of your kids will get thirsty . . .
If your kids get tired of standing, considering bringing something that will be cute, or at least wont be a distraction for your family to sit on during some of your pictures.
Don’t worry if all of these tips fail and your family pictures turn out crazy. In 20 years the craziest pictures will be your favorite! Or there’s also always photoshop . . .
Remember, family pictures aren’t about perfection, but capturing a sweet (or at least memorable) moment of your family to remind you of this particular season of life.