As a mom, I understand the stress that can come with planning a family photo session. Will my kids cooperate? Will my husband look bored? Will I look tired and stressed? Will we actually look like the loving and happy family we are??? I get it! Over the years of photographing families, I’ve come up wit these tips to ensure you have a fun and successful family photo session.
Okay. I know that sounds obvious, but this is so critical, especially with younger kids. If your child still naps, make sure you put her down with plenty of time to allow a full nap AND extra time to get her fed and ready. We all know that hungry and/or tired kids are cranky and not likely to smile happily for family photos.
I recommend that you bring along a small snack (one that isn’t messy please), and water, just in case your child does get hungry or thirsty in the middle of your session.
Clothing choices can have a huge impact on how much you love your family photos. Don’t wait until a few days before to choose clothing or have your kids try on and outfit or shoes, only to discover it doesn’t fit.
When you book a session with me, I’ll provide guidance in choosing clothing that will photograph well and reflect your personality. I’ll also share my Wardrobe Inspire Guide with lots of great do’s and don’ts.
Most important, I recommend moms choose an outfit they feel comfortable and beautiful in since when you feel good, you look your best.
Need a little inspiration? You can also check out my Pinterest Board Here.
If you have a baby or toddler, I also recommend bringing along a back up outfit, just in case! Occasionally things happen, so if your spirited son takes a small spill in the dirt, you’ll be thankful you brought a back-up pair of pants.
I always recommend you talk to your kids in advance to prepare them for your session. For younger kids, tell them you are going meet a friend at the park who will take your pictures.
If you have a child who is especially shy or anxious around strangers, it can be helpful to meet your photographer before your session. When possible, I love being able to meet children during the pre-session consult that I provide families with before their session. If this isn’t possible, take a look at my About page with your child to see a few photos of me and my family.
I love to incorporate images of families doing what they love to do. It not only gives them something to do, which helps them relax and forget about the camera, but it also helps tell a story, their family story. For parents with young kids, bringing along a favorite book and blanket to sit on can be a great option. Activities help engage little ones, and bring out authentic smiles.
For older kids, playing catch, piggy back rides, races, hiking, twirling, are great activities that allow children to enjoy and be themselves. I can capture some beautiful and authentic photos when kids are doing what they love..
Every child is different. Some are slower to warm up, while others are a ball of energy. However your child shows up is OK!. I promise.
I find sessions go best when parents allow me to direct their kids and follow my prompts and directions. When parents focus on interacting with their kids, rather than telling them what to do or not do, kids are happier and more relaxed.
As parents, we all want those joyful images of our children with their best smile. I make every effort to elicit those smiles and capture that for you. But, I also believe that authentic expressions, whether serious or sad, are beautiful and meaningful. My goal is to capture a variety of images of your child and family, so that I can more fully tell your family’s authentic story.
I love capturing children just as they are, while wandering, and perhaps picking up a pretty leaf off the ground. But if your child just wants to be in your arms then I’lll capture her sweet cuddles with you.
This may be the hardest tip to embrace. I get it. You want everything to be perfect. Believe me, I do too! But the truth is that no matter how carefully we plan, we can’t control how everything will go. Kids have off days, even when they are fed and rested. Even when we promise them ice cream or another treat after the session. Maybe little Jack just doesn’t feel like looking and smiling at the camera at the moment. When this happens, some parents get overly anxious and start to issue commands to their kids to “smile, or else….” Kids pick up on this so quickly. I’m guilty of this too and learned the hard way with my son. I’ve also seen it happen with other families I’ve photographed over the years and it NEVER leads to happy smiles.
The best thing you can do when this happens is to take a deep breath and trust me to see and capture the beauty in the moment.
Why did you book your family photo session? Was it just to get that perfect family photo for a holiday card? Sure, that might be one reason. But if you’ve chosen me to photograph your family, chances are that you are after images that capture more than how your family looks at this moment in time. You want images that truly capture your family’s love and connection. You want images that will evoke emotion, trigger a memory of how life in that moment felt. You want photos that will become family heirlooms. If not, I may not be the right photographer for your family, and that’s ok too!
Yes. I mean really look at them. Breathe them in like the first time your baby was placed in your arms. Hug them and kiss them.
Remember, not everyone has to be looking at the camera at the same time in every image. In fact, my favorite photos are always the ones where families are engaged with and loving on each other.
I’ve noticed when parents’ eyes are on their children, they give the most natural, relaxed and beautiful smiles. As a mom, I cherish these types of images the most and I hope you will too because they portray your family connection and your love.
Most of us have grown up being wired to look at the camera and smile. With the rise of social media and trendy family photo cards, we often become so focused on getting a picture of the perfectly posed and blissful family.
But there is so much beauty in other emotions. My job as a photographer is to see and capture the beauty in front of me, whether it is a joyful moment of you and your family giggling or a mama comforting a crying baby. Those images of the real moments are the ones that make my heart melt. And I believe those are the photographs you will come to truly treasure.
You got your family dressed and ready and arrived on time for your session. Congratulations! I know it isn’t easy. Now it’s time to relax, have fun and enjoy spending time with your loved ones for the next hour. Let me do all the work. Hey, that’s why you hired me. 🥰
I’ll handle all the directing and if little Jack needs some time to run around and regroup, I’ll capture you and your husband alone for some snuggling shots. I find that giving kids a few moments to explore, while I focus on other family members, often makes them want to be part of the picture and more willing to smile.
We’ll play games and I’ll guide you into genuine interactions with your family. You’ll snuggle, hold hands, laugh, play, give hugs and kisses, and tickle your children. I’ll show you that your children and your family are beautiful, just as you are!
Did you find my tips for a successful family photo session helpful? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
Want to learn more about a family portrait session with me, send me a quick note and we will schedule a time to chat.
Ready to book your family portrait session? Get in touch HERE!
Winner of the 2020 and 2019 Most Loved Family Photographer award by Hulafrog, Debbie Camba Photography is a New Jersey Family Photographer based in Scotch Plains. She specializes in natural light, authentic and timeless child and family photography.
She photographs outdoors and in homes throughout Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Westfield, Mountainside, Cranford, Summit, Springfield, Madison and the surrounding area, including Union County, Morris County, Middlesex County, and is available in other locations upon request.