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10 tips for a stress-free family session

I’m a HUGE advocate for family photography, for documenting childhood before it slips away, and for capturing all the things, not just the perfect moments, but the pouts, the growls and maybe even a few tears if they make an appearance.  Having older kids myself, I LOVE the realness of both their angelic smiles, the “how can you say no to this face” looks, and those less-than-perfect captures.  And, for me, shooting family sessions with littles now brings a lot of joy.  Running around keeping up to toddlers who just want to run, coaxing smiles out of them, capturing belly laughs, and, in general, documenting all the chaos that is life with littles is SO MUCH FUN!!!!

However, it’s pretty common for parents of toddlers to feel  anxious about whether or not their kiddos are going to perform well, and this can quickly become more stressful and chaotic when #1 is melting down, #2 keeps running away and #3 just pooped in their diaper!!!!  Kids are pretty in tune with their parent’s energy, so when you’re relaxed and having fun, THEY’RE relaxed and having fun.  And when you’re stressed out, well, the session can start going sideways in a hurry, lol.

Below are a few of my favourite tips to help you have a stress-free family photography session with your little ones.


Truly, this is the most important one. Your toddler is going to do what they’re going to do. Just know that, as your photographer, I totally expect the unexpected when photographing littles. I have a loose plan on what I’d like to shoot, but I have pretty realistic expectations that the plan most likely isn’t going to happen. Which is FINE. Because we’re going to roll with it and have fun with whatever they dish out. To date, I haven’t had a session where there were not good photos. But I HAVE had super surprised parents when they get their gallery and see a whole lot of great photos they weren’t expecting!!!

2. Choose the right time of day

Try to schedule your session for a time when your toddler is well-rested and fed. This will help the odds of them being in a good mood and more cooperative during the shoot. There are times of day when the light may be better, but happy kids always trump the best light. And really, we’ll find a location that has good light regardless of the time of day, so it’s all good!

3. Keep it Short

Toddlers have short attention spans, so keep the session brief. Plan for a 30-60 minute “happiness window”, depending on your toddler’s age and temperament. If they give us more we’ll take it and keep adventuring, but honestly,  anything over about an hour is total bonus time!

4. Dress comfortably

Dress your toddler in comfortable clothing that they can move around in easily. Avoid itchy fabrics or clothes that are too tight, as these can make your child irritable and fussy.

5. Bring snacks + Toys (aka distractions)

Pack some snacks and drinks to keep your toddler happy and hydrated during the session. This will help prevent hunger-induced meltdowns and keep them energized.

Bring along a few of your child’s favorite toys and books to keep them entertained during the session.

It also takes their mind off the fact that they’re objecting to the photos and gives them something else to focus on.  Let’s call it “incentive”!

6. Embrace the Chaos

Because, if we’re being honest, life with toddlers involves a certain amount of chaos. Everything is big with toddlers…emotions…discoveries..  belly laughs…  tears… messes… love.  And in all those big things there will be some chaos. And that’s great!  Let’s document all of it!!!!  And let it all be okay during the session.  Because it is.

7. Involve them in the process

Toddlers love to feel like they are part of the action, so, depending on their age, involve them in the photography process. Let them pick their favourite toys or books to bring along. And let them lead the shoot to some degree. If we’re trying to sit for a quick portrait but they just want to explore, there’s usually not much you can do to convince them to sit. So we’ll explore and work in a tickle session/sitting portrait a bit later.  If there’s a direction they insist on going, well, let’s GO!

8. Use positive reinforcement

Use positive reinforcement to encourage good behavior during the session. They are so incredibly tuned in to positive and negative reinforcement and will react to which ever they receive.  Praise your child when they cooperate or follow directions, let’s high five or fist bump, or have a celebration dance, whatever keeps the positive energy rolling!!

9. Take breaks

If your toddler starts to get restless or fussy, we’ll take a break. Allow them to run around or play for a few minutes to burn off some energy before returning to the shoot.  I am always happy to take the time needed for a reset!!

10. Relax and have fun

Finally, remember to relax and have fun! Think of this as an adventure!! Your toddler will pick up on your energy, so if you are stressed or anxious, they will be too. Enjoy the experience and make some memories with your family.

I totally understand that from a parent’s point of view, family photography session with toddlers can be a challenge, but know that between being a mom of 3 kids who were rowdy littles, and 14 plus years of photographing families, I’ve pretty much seen it all. Family sessions are a judgement-free zone, haha!!!! With some preparation and planning, your session will be a fun and rewarding experience. Keep these tips in mind and remember to stay calm, patient, and positive. With a little bit of effort and a lot of love, we will capture some beautiful memories that will last a lifetime and beyond!

Ready to find out what this could look like for you?

Drop me a line through the  form below and let’s talk!!

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