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Five Tips for a Successful Photo Session with Small Kids | Family Photographer in Walnut Creek

You've booked the photo session, picked out the outfits, have had everyone's hair freshly cut, and are ready to meet up with your photographer for the big day! But the thought that keeps looming and making you worry and wonder is: what if my kids don't behave?! This is one of the most common topics I get asked about by clients, and I totally get it. Kids can be so unpredictable as it is. Throw in a new and unfamiliar environment with a stranger, and parents often start to stress! After years of photographing families, I have several tips to help you prepare your kids (and yourself!) for a successful photo session where we capture the unique beauty that is your family.

Let's dive in and explore my 5 tips for a successful photo session with small kids!

1. Tell them what to expect

Kids love to know what is happening and what they should expect. Explain to them that you'll be meeting up with a photographer to take some pretty family pictures outdoors. Give them as much or as little detail as you feel they'd like or need based on their age and personality. It's a good idea to start talking about it well in advance and then mention it a few more times. When you tell them about the photo session, keep it positive! If you let them know that you think it's going to be a fun experience, this sets the tone for how they will feel about it.

Bonus tip- pull up my website and show them my picture so they know who they'll be meeting!

2. Come well-rested and fed + bring snacks and water

If your child still naps, be sure to get their usual nap in on session day so they are well-rested. A lot of parents are concerned because the session time is close to their child's usual bedtime. I have found that the excitement and newness of the session are almost always enough to distract them from getting sleepy. If we keep the mood fun and upbeat, there is little chance for kids to lose interest and become bored or melt down. If you are extra concerned about sleepiness, you may want to consider a later nap on session day.

Make sure they have a full tummy before the session. Full kids are happy kids! It's a great idea to also bring some non-messy snacks that they enjoy- such as crackers, raisins, popcorn, pretzels, etc. Bite-sized is best, if possible! We will have time for small breaks if they need a quick bite. Be sure to bring water, as we'll be doing some walking, and little ones might need a drink.

3. Keep it Positive

Are you noticing a theme, here? As adults, we have the power to really set the tone for the whole photo session. Try to remain calm, cool, and upbeat so your child will pick up on that. I know this can be difficult during a photo session when you have invested a lot of time and money, and really want things to go well. But it's so important to help your kids feel at ease so we can capture those genuine smiles, laughs, and even the quiet moments in between. If your child is upset, shy, unsure, or just wants to be held, we go with the flow. Beautiful images of mom or dad cuddling or comforting a child are some of my absolute favorites! If your child wants to run or seems a little wild, we go with that, too! Playing ring around the rosie, tickling each other, or family dog piles make for amazing photos! I will try to learn your child's mood and style early on so we know which direction we should go in. With family photo sessions, it's to our benefit to go at the child's pace in order to get the shots. Some children like some time to explore and play, which makes for some beautiful shots, too. I love to give silly or playful prompts to get some adorable reactions and smiles from the entire family. There will be time built into the session for small breaks if needed, as well. It's best for you to use positive reinforcement during the session rather than yell or punish.

Bonus tip- Try to avoid pointing at the camera. Just keep engaging with your child so that when they are ready, I can capture the moment. And no scowling! Be ready for the moment.

4. Comfortable and weather-appropriate clothing

As you may know from my Welcome Guide and my Style Guide, I feel that wardrobe is important for a beautiful photo session! But comfort is always key, especially for children! Make sure your child can move and walk in the clothing and shoes you have selected for them. A cold child is a miserable child. So be sure you have warm enough clothing for them, and layers you can remove in case they get too warm. Even during the Summer, once the sun starts to go down, it can become chilly. Plan for the weather and bring layers just to be sure.

5. Rewards

We are not above a bit of bribery here! Photo sessions can be overwhelming for little ones. A reward such as dinner at their favorite burger joint after the session, a small toy, or extra screen time are some good ideas. Or, simply some jelly beans throughout the session to encourage them to keep participating can work wonders and be fun, too! Think about something that your child might like and have fun with it! It can be something totally simple. But most kids respond very well to the promise of a treat or reward for a job well done!

Staying positive and coming prepared will help ensure that things go as smoothly as possible. In the end, the goal is to capture your beautiful family just as you are in this moment in time. As a family photographer in Walnut Creek, I aim to capture all of the playfulness, connection, and joy. The moments full of energy, and the quiet moments in between. All of the love.

Now, let's go capture some memories!

Ready to book? Visit my booking link to see my availability. Or feel free to email me at with any questions! I'd love to chat.


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