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7 Tips to Prepare Your Children for Your Family Photo Session

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  • Post last modified:March 16, 2022

7 Tips to Prepare Your Children for an Awesome Photo Session 

As a Pittsburgh family photographer, I have run across a theme far too often: a grumpy child who has just received a stern talking-to in the car before the start of the session. This will likely yield to more tension, stressed parents, and a few forced smiles from the children. But my goal is to create a fun family experience that results in genuine smiles. So, today on the blog I’ve decided to share seven tips for a successful photo shoot that is enjoyable for all involved.

Please remember, children want to understand what is expected of them and what a “family photo shoot” even entails. By being straight forward and explaining that the upcoming photo shoot will be a fun experience that they should look forward to! That soon they will have the chance to meet a new friend that is a photographer named Laura. 🙂 Expressing your expectations will limit many anxieties for your kids and yourself. 

1. Find a Comfortable Outfit 

Some of the greatest stresses for children are often ill-fitting clothes. Trust me. Sometimes that adorable head band or set of jean overalls are not worth family photos that are flooded with tears and pained looks of exasperation on your children’s faces. Additionally, always dress for the weather! Check the weather forecast before the scheduled photo shoot, and try to abide by it. An investment in a cute and practical winter coat is always a good move in my opinion. I try to address this issue by suggesting the incorporation of layers. This way you can add or take off layers according to the ever-changing and rather unpredictable Pittsburgh weather! If children are hot or cold, they will not shy away from letting us know it!

2. Keep Your Children Well Fed + Consider Bringing Snacks! 

Hey, if adults can get hungry, kids can too! I recommend Cheerios, yogurt puffs, and any other small and clean snacks. Try to stay away from any snack that can stain or make a mess. The best option though is making sure your children have plenty to eat prior to the session. 

3. Hydrate!

Bring plenty of reusable water bottles not only for the children, but parents too! My main priority is to keep the whole family hydrated and safe during the session because Pittsburgh weather can heat up unpredictably, and we strive to be prepared. Make sure to encourage your kids to drink water before and during the session, and along those lines, always try to have a bathroom break before the family photo session begins! 

4. Have a Conversation with Your Child Prior to the Photo Shoot

Try not to spring this upon your child hours before hand. Bring up the fact that the whole family is going to be asking a photographer to take some pictures of them at (insert location) and explain what will take place. If your child is old enough, you might want to lay out the foundation for how you expect them to act during the photo shoot and the expectations that are expected of them. Of course, try to maintain a calm atmosphere and inform your child that this will be a FUN family bonding experience that they are sure to enjoy 😉 

5. Natural Smiles are Preferred 

Now for parents, this can be a big one! I understand the unnecessary stress we often place upon ourselves as parents. But I promise, telling your child “that’s not your real smile” or “smile how you did before” or “don’t smile like that”, while it may seem like a logical solution to your child’s uncomfortable grimace, will only stress your child more. If you are yearning for a genuine smile for your family photos, you’ll need a genuine smile and laugh! So instead, as photographer, I focus on acting silly and cheerful to elicit joyful expressions from your children. 

6. Reward Systems

Lollipops, toys, and ice cream afterwards are all great ways to incentivize your children. Specifically related to Pittsburgh, a trip to Sarris, Betsie’s, or Scoops are all great locations that excite children and elicit attitudes to comply with your expectations and hopes for the photo session. Substitute any of these recommendations with little toys and trinkets that your child may enjoy right now, and you have a recipe for a great attitude! 

7. Positivity is Your Greatest Tool 

You children will pick up on your attitude and can sense your anxieties. Take a deep breath and allow yourself to relax. I’ve dealt with hundreds of families, and every. single. family. has ended up with timeless images that reflect their family at the beautiful stage in life they are at right now. Don’t worry and just enjoy the moment and the photos will reflect the unique love your family holds for each other.

I hope these tips help soothe your uncertainties and I can’t wait to see you soon! 


Hi, I'm Laura Mares! I'm thankful to be a wife, mother and Pittsburgh lifestyle photographer. I photograph because I believe that life is simply beautiful and every person has a story worth telling. I'd love to tell yours.

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