As a photographer, I just finished up busy season. Doing so many sessions in such a short amount of time brings quite a bit to light. One thing I noticed was the images of the families who were stressed out- with kids that didn't want to be there or parents that were yelling at them to "smile bigger" or "stop playing with their dress" the whole time- those images didn't come out nearly as well as the same exact image of a family who was relaxed and having fun. Don't get me wrong- none of them are bad- but I can definitely tell which I would prefer.

I get it though. You're paying money for this. You want to memorialize this moment in time. You want to blow up these prints and put them on the walls of your home. They need to be PERFECT, right? And lets be honest, as a mother and a former preschool teacher, I know well that children aren't always the easiest to deal with. Well, I'm gonna fill you in on a little secret. The less you stress, the better your images will be!

But HOW do you get in that mindset, you ask? Let me help. Here are the top 6 things you can do to make a photo session with your kids easier!

#1 make it a family fun day!!

A few years ago, my kids coined the term "Family Funday". When they ask for a Family Funday, that means they want to go do something fun as a family. It doesn't always have to cost a lot of money or take all day but it is us doing something special together.

My biggest suggestion for planning family photos is to make a day out of it! Some kids love pictures but not all do. So instead of stressing out about the perfect outfits and the perfect hair for the perfect photo, pick out your coordinating outfits and schedule your day together! It can be something along the lines of "Hey kids! This Saturday, we are going to get our photos taken as a family! I picked out these outfits for us to all match and look great together and, since we will be all stylish and looking good, lets decide on something else to do that day afterward!" You could go to lunch and a movie, you could go to a local festival or a park. Having family photos at the beach? Plan a picnic and swimming after! Really the choices are endless- you already had your pictures taken so it doesn't matter if one of your kids gets chocolate on their shirt or messes up their hair. But when you talk about the day coming up, your children won't dread the photo shoot, they will look forward to do multiple things as a family that day!

Want to REALLY make your kids look forward to family photos? (This holds especially true if you have any older children). Schedule on a school day and let them skip. (OH- I can just hear my kids' school cursing me out right now) Seriously, though, if you child is doing well in school and hasn't missed too many days already, I would talk to their teachers and find a day when they won't miss anything big then take them out for the day. They will be so excited to not be at school they will be willing to do whatever you want them to! Bonus- most public places will be less crowded on weekday mornings so less people in the background of your photos!

#2 don't make a big deal out of it

If you are stressed out and cranky, your kids will usually pick up on it and act accordingly. Their behavior will usually be better if you are relaxed and having fun too. Remember, you are excited for your big family day- first stop: PHOTOS!!! YAY!!! Keep in mind that you may have to make some compromises to keep the peace, such as letting your energetic daughter's hair stay straight and adding a bow because she won't sit still for you to curl it that morning. Focus on the big picture and don't sweat the small stuff!

make it fun

Let the kids have a couple fun pictures where they get to pick their own pose or props. You get to keep the more serious and traditional photos while they get to keep their silly photos. This way everyone wins! If you and your photographer are struggling to get your kids to sit still for a specific pose, turn the session into a game. Simon Says usually works like a charm!

be prepared

If you're going to be out for several hours, ensure that your children are well rested and have had their nap. I prefer doing photo shoots first thing in the morning for many reasons but one of which is that is the time of day when small children are usually the happiest. Bringing some snacks and activities along is also a great idea. HOWEVER, I do not recommend bringing a tablet or electronic device (anything your child may get upset about when you take it away for a photo). Coloring books and crayons, books, or small stuffies are great. If you are planning on having your own photos taken as well as the family and kids, you might want to bring along a babysitter to sit with the kids while you are preoccupied.

Beginning of Photo Shoot

Beginning of Photo Shoot

End of Photo Shoot

be patient

Save your sanity by trying not to control the photo session too much. I literally had a mother a couple months ago who kept stepping IN FRONT OF THE CAMERA to tell her kids everything they were doing "wrong". I missed some great shots because of that.

Sometimes the best photos come from kids just doing their own thing. The photos above are from a family photo shoot. My family photo shoot. My daughter looked so pretty in her little dress and her gorgeous curls blowing in the wind with matching bow- my little doll. At the end of the session, after having a splash fight with her brother, she sat down in the sand and started playing. I literally cringed. But you know what? This is one of my absolute favorite pictures from the session!

have a chat

I am often surprised at how many people don't want to talk at a photo session! I love to get to know my clients and want them to talk to me like a friend! Get your children talking to both you and the photographer about topics such as school or their favorite songs. Let them sing if they want! This allows them to feel more comfortable around your photographer and will also give your photographer a chance to capture a few candid and cute expressions!

in conclusion

Basically, making the day fun and memorable for your entire family will ease the stress of any family photo shoot! Think of it this way, when you see those photos on your wall, or in an album, or when they pop up in your memories on facebook, do you want to remember that day when you fought with your kids all morning and they cried for the first 15 minutes of the session until you bribed them with chocolate but then they still weren't doing as you asked and you finished the session, got in the car, went home, changed, and were angry the rest of the day? Or do you want to remember that day you had photos at the beach, then had a picnic lunch before you went swimming and got ice cream at the pier? Or maybe it was that day that you went to the downtown area of a quaint little town and had your photos, then went for a walk in the park, stopping so the kids could feed the ducks in the pond, and then you went to lunch at the cute little diner with the 50's theme where the kids got to play retro games and eat hamburgers before you walked to the little cupcake place down the street. There are SO many things you could do on your photo day to make it a happy memory. Make sure you do what works for YOUR family and make your kids WANT to be there!