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How to Prepare Your Little Ones for Photos


Family photographers in Maryland | Family lays down in field during their family photo session

Being a family photographer is the BEST job. After all, I get to play with little ones while documenting their relationship with their parents! Over the years, I have had many parents express worry about their children during sessions. They are worried their kids will be grumpy, they won’t listen, etc. As a mother to two little ones, I am the first person to understand these worries. Once babies are on the move, it can be tricky to stop them, and we all know toddlers have their days (or years!). I wrote a post about how to prepare your whole family for photos, but this post will focus just on your little ones.

However, this does not mean you cannot have beautiful photos. I have learned many tricks up my sleeve over the years from both photographing families and my own children, and all it takes is a little preparation. Below are my favorite tips to prepare your little ones for their photo session.

1. Ensure they are well rested.

This first tip may sound obvious, but it is the MOST important piece of advice I can give. All other strategies rely on this step to be successful!

To ensure your baby or toddler is well-rested, you first want to schedule your session around a time frame that you know they will not be running on low fuel. Like many photographers, I typically photograph solely in the early morning or right before sunset for all outdoor sessions due to the light. You know your little one the best, but I find that morning time tends to be the most agreeable time with kids. They are the closest they’ll be to a long rest at any point in the day, and they’re ready to go!

If you do happen to have a later session, you want to make sure their nap time is sacred. If you know it will work with your child, you can try to push back the nap ever so slightly so they sleep a little later (again, this only works for some kids!). You can always practice beforehand.

2. SNACKS. So many snacks.

Snacks should be their own food group when it comes to toddlers, am I right? Not only do you want your baby or child to have a full belly when they arrive for their session, but you also want to bring many snacks for the session.

Snacks serve as a great break if needed. Sometimes we use a lot of snacks during a session, sometimes we don’t need them at all. I recommend having them on standby for when things start to go south.

3. Carry your little one FIRST.

This is a trick I have learned over the years that really rings true. If your baby or toddler is on the move, they likely love their independence. When you first arrive for your session, it is a good idea to hold your child for as long as possible. Once many little ones start moving, they don’t want to be held again.

I always will begin photographing small children being held first, and once I have all of the shots, it is then they they can be put down. Then we can capture them doing fun things, like running or smelling flowers.

Parents hold twin girls by a floral arch at Brookside Gardens

4. Be ready to play their favorite song.

This is a great tactic to get the energy going and let the smiles start rolling. I’m often able to capture beautiful, authentic interaction with you and your little one when they are dancing to their favorite tune.

5. Talk to your child in the days leading up to your session.

Let your little one know that you will be taking pictures and that it will be fun! Toddlers get frustrated when they have no control over a situation or don’t understand what’s happening. Explain that everyone in the family will be getting their pictures taken and everyone will need to listen to directions. I think it’s also extremely valuable to involve your toddler with the getting ready process. For example – many photographers give wardrobe guidelines, so using those guidelines, you can give your toddler two choices for what sweater to wear. He or she can also do the same with a piece of your wardrobe. Your toddler will enjoy being part of the process and having some control over the situation.

6. Trust your photographer.

This can often feel like the hardest tip, especially if your kids are feeling extra rambunctious. Don’t worry – I have seen it all and will still be able to document beautiful images for your family. I have photographed colic newborns who have cried for the whole session and toddlers who have wanted to be super independent, and I am still able to provide authentic, gorgeous photos. It is often when kids are their most independent when I am able to capture the small details, such as the way the parents look at one another, or a tiny hand wrapped around your finger. These are always some of the most cherished images.

Mother holds her daughter and smiles

As a photographer and a mother, I am happy to go with the flow to capture the best possible images for you and your family. Do you have any tricks that work with your kids? I’d love to hear!

Marie Elizabeth Photography | Northern VA Family Photographer

Marie Elizabeth Photography specializes in fine art Maternity, Newborn, and Family Photography based out of Washington, D.C. She also serves the areas of Arlington, Alexandria, McLean, Falls Church, Vienna, Bethesda, Potomac, Chevy Chase, Kensington, Silver Spring, College Park, and Riverdale Park. 

It is always an honor to serve as your DC and Northern VA Family Photographer I provide a custom, luxurious experience to lead you every step of the way, beginning with a planning guide to make you feel confident and prepared, a consultation to achieve your portrait goals, a client wardrobe, hair and make-up artists, and finally, artwork to adorn your walls and preserve your memories forever. Let me be a part of your story today.

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