How to prep your kids for family photos - Sydney family photography

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You have booked the family photographer, you have chosen the outfits, you are imagining how the photos will look framed as the centre piece of your living room. Now, how do you get your kids to co-operate to make your dreams a reality?

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As a family photographer in Sydney, I’ve photographed A LOT of kids over the years and each one is different but I have found some tried and tested tricks that help me get the best photos for mum and dad.

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Tip 1: communicate with your family photographer

This helps your photographer understand the type of photos you are looking for. Do you want photos of the family looking into the camera? Do you want natural photos where you are playing with your kids? Do you want action photos of your kids?

You wouldn’t be happy if you expected classic portraits of your kids smiling into the camera and received cross eyed silly images (because your kids were in a silly mood on shoot day). By giving this info to your family photographer they will be able to work with your kids to achieve these images for your gallery.

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Tip 2: dress your kids in something they are comfortable in

We all want our kids to look super cute in their professional family photos but keep in mind their comfort levels when choosing their outfits.

Babies who can’t sit up unassisted will often be held by an adult during the shoot or doing tummy time for their solo photos. If they are wearing little denim jeans or are in a complicated dress they may not look comfortable and can even look tangled up in that dress when they are doing tummy time for their solo photos. I would recommend simple cotton or linen rompers. They look uber cute because you can see their little arms and legs. I like the rompers from With Love 4 Kids, they have a nice texture to them so will photograph well and the colours are on trend with the season.

For toddlers and older kids, the less they fidget with their clothes the better the photos you will get. If they are pulling on an uncomfortable collar or if your little girl prefers to be in shorts rather than a dress this will show on their faces. Maybe ask them to try on their clothes before the shoot to see how they feel in them.

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Tip 3: bring toys that make your kids smile

Sometimes kids have security blankets in the form of blankets or toys. It can be very daunting to meet a new adult with a big camera pointing at your face (I don’t do this btw, just trying to paint the picture from their perspective ). If they have their favourite toy with them this gives them a sense of comfort and its always sweet to get a photo of your child with their favourite toy as a momento of their childhood.

I had a baby client who was always curious about me and gave me the cutest faces but it was when mum pulled out Miss Piggy (a toy that makes the sound of a pig) when her face would break out in the biggest gummy smiles and giggles.

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Tip 4: lets play a game

At the start of a family photo shoot it is not uncommon that everyone is a little conscious and shy. I like to break the ice by playing some games. Popular games are races and tickle mum or dad. I’ve gone on “bear hunts” and we have looked for insects in the garden. Toddlers love to be tossed up in the air by mum or dad or go dinosaur stomping around the park. If there are any games you like to play with your kids tell your family photographer about them. Its often during game play that I get the best natural smiles.

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Tip 5: dealing with your tween or teen who is too cool for school

Playing peek-a-boo with a teen will not get us any where. They will probably think I’m a weirdo and cross their arms for the rest of the shoot. Your teen is old enough for you to reason with them. Maybe explain to them what this family photo shoot means to you and how important it is to you.

Some teens are used to being in front of the camera (thank you social media) so maybe let them use some of the photos from the shoot for their socials, you will probably find an increase in the willingness to participate if they know all their friends will see the photo.

I like to talk to my tween / teen clients about school and their interests. I am genuinely interested in how kids these days think and often find the conversation very educational. Once I’m able to build some rapport with them I see them relax and engage with their family more naturally.

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Tip 6: bring out the heavy artillery

If we have played games, tickled, sang “Baby shark”, danced like the Wiggles and still no smiles I am armed with bribes in the form of lollipops (pending your permission of course). If you are happy with this tactic maybe mention the prospect of this reward in the car on the way over to your family photo shoot if you can sense resistance. Lollipops are only awarded to kids who give big smiles and are nice to mum and dad.

If you prefer to not give sweets as a treat please let me know, I find that bubbles or balloons also work for the younger kids.

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Tip 7: MOST IMPORTANT TIP, try to relax and let your kids be kids

Sometimes we get better photos if you let your kids run out their energy. If they need comfort we can always stop for cuddles with mum and dad. I have a fast camera and my eye is trained to watch for those moments that you don’t see.

I had a shoot once where the kids were young (3 and 16 months). Both kids at one point didn’t want anything to do with the family photo shoot. Then when we finally got the family together the 3 year old touched the 16 month old and there were waterworks for most of the shoot. We played games and had snacks and moved around. All mum remembered was the crying and I delivered a gallery where the kids were smiling and snuggling up to mum and dad and beautiful close up portraits.

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Its your interactions with your kids that will give you the best photos. Spend this time to be in the moment with them and your photos will reflect your family’s true personality.

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Want to see these tips in action? I would love to capture your family’s story, please get in contact via the button below.

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