Let's face it - often photo sessions with our kids don't go nearly as smoothly as we hope the resulting photos will make it look like. *wink*
We can't MAKE our kids behave the way we desperately hope they will. There's never a guarantee they will look at the photographer and smile that... angelic... smile we know is buried down deep inside. We can only do our best to prepare our kids for the session, and then control OUR response to their chaos, should it emerge!
Use these tips to prepare for your next session with your family, and maybe, just MAYBE, a miracle will happen. :)
I think it's safe to say that almost anyone feels grumpy or even just "off" if we don't get a good night's sleep. Encouraging your kids to get to bed on time and sleep well will do SO much to improve their temperament at your session! If your children are young and still napping, the same principle applies. If you need to adjust nap times to accommodate your session time, be sure to plan ahead the day before even so they will sleep as well as possible! Do your best to avoid the inevitable falling-asleep-in-the-car ordeal as that can result in VERY grumpy littles upon arrival.
Have you ever seen your kid hyped up on sugar? I have... mine goes from zero to Hammie the Squirrel in about 2.5 seconds (Over the Hedge, anyone?). Same goes for caffeine. These will give kids a temporary rush that will send them spiraling on the razor's edge of Out of Control before crashing and burning into a sobbing emotional heap. Photo sessions are a lot of stimulation and pressure on a kid anyway. I'd steer clear of caffeine and sugar the day of the session. Focus on satisfying snacks like fruits, nuts, cheese, and veggies. A good balance of protein, healthy fats, and the many nutrients in these foods will keep your kids going through the entire session and likely in a better mood to boot.
Most of us parents have used screens to maintain our sanity at one time or another. I know I'm guilty! However, the day of your session is the day to avoid this if at ALL possible. At the very least, minimize it as much as you can. Avoiding TV screens, tablets, and phones will help keep your kiddo from arriving in that zombie-like state so easily induced by screen time. (By the time I finish this blog post, I'll be well on my way to that state myself. Great time for a walk.) I know in the chaos of getting ready it may be tempting to use these devices to keep your kids from driving you insane, but I recommend avoiding them if you can. This also goes for the hour or two before bed the night before - it's been shown that the blue light from screens can negatively impact sleep cycles and quality. If you must use them, use them sparingly as possible.
Use age-appropriate language and detail to explain to your child that you will be having photos done. Let your child(ren) know how important this session is to you, and that if they do their best and cooperate, it will be done very quickly. Show your kids a photo of your photographer (most of us have a photo on our website!). Tell them his/her name, and that they can be trusted and will help them know what to do, and probably will try to make them laugh. You can even have them practice posing and smiling in front of a mirror, so they know what a good smile looks and feels like! You can even offer your child(ren) an incentive for after the session - a special treat or an outing to their favorite activity or restaurant!
Sometimes a small something sweet can be a great tool at a session - just be sure to choose the right ones! Definitely avoid anything that will create sticky hands and messy faces - chocolate is absolutely out, along with most coated candies. I recommend things like animal crackers, teddy grahams, goldfish, or mini marshmallows.
Especially with very young children, bringing a favorite toy or comfort item, like a small blanket, can be key to gaining their trust and cooperation. If the chosen toy makes noise, even better! Give it to your photographer and let him/her bond with your child - they will know how to use the item(s) to help your child be more comfortable and hopefully even smile WHILE looking at the camera!
Just like us, kids have off days. And unlike (most of) us, they often lack the self-control to swallow their emotions and just get. it. done. Haha. With little ones it's best to just go with the flow. Trust your photographer to capture all of the sweet, funny, and crazy moments, and try your best not to fret over what your kids are doing and just enjoy being with them. Try to avoid taking control of the situation and just go with the flow. One day, way too soon, your kids won't be so little anymore and you'll look back fondly on their precious little-ness and all the chaos that can go with that stage of life. And you'll probably laugh heartily about it as you give your grown kids a hard time for all they put you through as littles. *wink*